Madhava, Vidyaranya, Sringeri, and Kulke

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Thu May 18 06:26:09 UTC 2000

Given that advaitin ascetics had a history of receiving donations, the fact
that the widow of the Hoysala king Ballala III donated land to Bharatitirtha
during the Vijayotsava at Sringeri in 1346 becomes significant. Kulke says
that epigraphic evidence points to tremendous increase in land donations to
Sringeri after 1346. If the maTha had existed prior to 1346, there should
have been some grants issued to it by the Hoysala king Ballala III or his
predecessors as was done by his queen. The reason for the absence of such
epigraphic evidence is probably due to the absence of an institution at
Sringeri to receive such endowments. Otherwise, I do not see any need for a
sudden spike in need for land grants felt by a long-established Sringeri

As for tracing the founding of the maTha to Sankara, one does not have to
base it on any legitimation of the Vijayanagara kings. Glorification of one's
heritage is reason enough. In the Indian setting, tracing one's lineage to
sun and moon and hoary antiquity has always been there. When Tamil zaivas
created the myth of ziva participating in the first Tamil academy for 4440
years, they did it not for legitimizing any political dynasties but as rivals
of Jains. And that myth is possibly even older than Sankara. If, as
Vidyasankar points out, the recent schism of dvaita was an important event,
the myth of Sankara founding the maTha may have been done in an atmosphere of
rivalry with the new dvaita school.

The absence of such a permanent establishment would also match the
Srivaishnava tradition that mentions not a maTha at Sringeri but only that
both Vedantadesika and Vidyaranya met on the banks of Tungabhadra as
travelers. (I do not know how old this Srivaishnava tradition is. According
to N. Jagadeesan, AcArya campu/zrI vedAntAcArya vijaya is the authentic
biography of Vedantadesika.)  The specific choice of Sringeri for a maTha may
have been due to any number of factors such as relative seclusion, natural
beauty, pre-existing reputation as a pilgrimage spot, etc., as felt by the
founder or founders.

S. Palaniappan

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