Madhava, Vidyaranya, Sringeri, and Kulke

Venkatraman Iyer venkatraman_iyer at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun May 14 15:25:41 UTC 2000

>1. The stories of the Sangama brothers' Telugu origin and conversion to
>Islam etc. are not supported by epigraphic evidence.
>2. While there is epigraphic evidence of a Jaina establishment at Sringeri
>in 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 Sankara was not the founder of Sringeri's
>famous matha.

>I would very much like to know if there have been any scholarly arguments
>challenging Kulke's findings?

Don't know any academic works challenging Hacker & Kulke;
On the other hand, the discipline of Indology seems to
be totally unaware of the Tamil legends upon which zaGkara's
life myths are spun: many zaGkaran myths emanate
from tamil saivaism. Hacker says that it is likely
that zaGkara is a Vaishnavaite and the saivaite Vidyaranya
created the life legends of zaGkara in the 14th century.

p.190, Kulke and Rothermund, A history of India, 1986
"Vidyaranya (whose name was Madhava before his initiation
as an ascetic) and his brother Sayana pursued a deliberate
policy of a religious and cultural revival in Southern India
after the impact of Islamic invasion. They wanted to highlight
the importance of the old Vedic texts and Brahminical codes.
Sayana's commentary on the Rigveda is regarded as the most
authoritative intrpretation of this Veda, even today.
His brother Vidyaranya emphasized Shankara's philosophy
which provided a unified ideology of Hinduism (see p. 139).
It may be that he invented the story of Shankara's great
tour of India and of the establishment of the four great
monasteries in the four corners of the country (see p. 139).
If he did not invent it, he at least saw to it would gain
universal currency ..."

Paul Hacker's papers originally in German are conveniently available
in English translation by Halbfass.(Philology and Confrontation,
Paul Hacker on traditional and modern Vedanta). P. Hacker, p.29
"These dates, taken together with the absence of epigraphic
evidence for zaGkara maThas before the fourteenth century, I
explain as follows: After Vijayanagara was devastated by
Muslims and a general reconstruction was required, Vidyaranya,
who was minister of the king of that empire, attempted a sort
of deliberate Hindu cultural politics [14] together with his
brother Sayana. [...] By means of legends which he
created, he [Vidyaranya] made of zaGkara, whose philosophy he
followed but who could never become popular with his elevated,
exacting thoughts, a divine folk-hero who spread his teaching
through his digvijaya ("universal conquest") all over India
like a victorious conqueror, and whom therefore the Hindu,
in his struggles with the powerful drive of Islam, could
look up to. That this teaching was the crown of all "ways
of seeing" (darzana) of the Aryas and Nastikas- so that all
other systems could at least represent partial truths, and hint
at that peak of knowledge-this too was exhibited by him: in
his "Summary of All Views"(SarvadarzanasaMgraha). Then he
went on to establish an institution.: the zaGkara maTha.
He created fictions which could hardly be contradicted, the
country having been totally devastated by Muslims. He announced
that the MaTha was established by zaGkara himself and had
continuously existed since then. ..."

Hacker continues:
"If my description of the figure of VidyAraNya is correct, he
might be considered in some sense a predecessor of Vivekananda.
For he, too, has made of ZaGkara something quite different
from what he was earlier, and that again for purposes of
defence, this time against Christianity." (p.30)

V. Iyer

Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list