Madhava, Vidyaranya, Sringeri, and Kulke

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun May 14 08:02:34 UTC 2000

>1. The stories of the Sangama brothers' Telugu origin and conversion to
>etc. are not supported by epigraphic evidence.

Nor is there much epigraphical evidence for the Kannada origin of the
Sangama brothers. There has been a pretty long history of debate over
Kannada vs. Telugu origins. Linguistic pride in the post-Independence period
has added to it. Whether the first dynasty of Vijayanagara is of Kakatiya
origin or Hoysala origin remains an issue on which much can be said on both
sides. Warangal university keeps producing people who say they were Telugu
and Dharwad university has people arguing for Kannada origins. The funny
thing is that such a linguistic dichotomy was probably not even significant
for the people who actually lived in the 14th century.

>2. While there is epigraphic evidence of a Jaina establishment at Sringeri
>the 12th century, there is no evidence of a Sankara monastey at Sringeri
>prior to 1346 when the vijayotsava of Vijayanagara was celebrated. The
>hitherto known epigraphical evidence allows only the conclusion that
>was not the founder of Sringeri's famous matha.

Well, there is a small Jain settlement in Sringeri even today, and the
Sankara matha actually helps maintain a Jain Tirthankara temple there. And
arguments from absence of evidence have to be carefully made.

Kulke's statements are based on an acceptance of Hacker's statements
regarding Vidyaranya's "Kultur-politik" after the invasion of south India by
the Khilji armies. Sadly though, if you read Hacker's original paper in his
Kleine Schriften collection, you will find that the most unbridled
speculations are presented as if they are careful conclusions. Hacker does
not hedge his statements, or even use words like "probably" or "seems like"
or "may be". He simply claims, "Er (= Vidyaranya) schuf Fiktionen." He is
remarkably silent about what evidence he has for what the fiction is and
what Vidyaranya is supposed to have propagated. He thinks Vidyaranya used
his political connections to install Vidyasankara, his guru, as the head of
a newly established matha, and pretended that the monastery was an old one.
Kulke simply modifies this a bit, and thinks Vidyasankara himself was
probably more responsible than Vidyaranya. Anyone who has a little bit of
familiarity with the workings of guru-shishya lineages should know that this
is not how things work. And Sringeri is so far away from both the old
Hoysala capital and the new Vijayanagara capital, that one wonders why these
people had to go and establish their new monastery there. Why not put up an
establishment in Hampi itself, and pretend that that was the old matha?

Both Hacker and Kulke have also ignored other available evidence. There are
pre-Vijayanagara inscriptions available from the vicinity of Sringeri, that
mention Vidyasankara. For example, Antonio Rigopoulos's 1998 book on
Dattatreya (SUNY press) describes a seal from the early 13th century found
in Shimoga, that also salutes Gaudapada, Govinda and Sankara. To say that
Vidyaranya or Vidyasankara simply pretended that their matha had been
established by Sankara, simply in order to legitimate a new Hindu empire, is
to ignore some available data, and rely for the rest on speculation. I'm
actually surprised that Kulke does not seem to have gone through the
Epigraphica Carnatica more thoroughly.

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