Madhava, Vidyaranya, Sringeri, and Kulke

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at GMX.LI
Fri May 19 22:09:47 UTC 2000

Dear VS,

Thank you for numerous interesting thoughts and bits of
information, which inspire one to read Hacker and Kulke again,
along with things you have mentioned. But for the moment I would
like to send these few sentences in return:

Am 16 May 2000, um 00:45 schrieb Vidyasankar Sundaresan:

[Basava, Allama, sunyasimhasana]

<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> But Basava did not go further and claim that this was an

> institution that had existed for many centuries before him. Also,

> note that in  the earliest Vijayanagara inscriptions, Vidyasankara

> > does not seem  to be a living person at all. He is already a

> "devaru," for whom a temple is being built and worship is being

> instituted.

</color>I do not think that his being referred to as "devaru" necessarily
means that he was no longer among the living. Allama /
Allamaprabhu was also referred to as "Prabhudevaru" very early, if I
remember correctly.


<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> And let's not forget that Madhva from Udipi, who broke away from

> the Sankaran monastic tradition, was also pre-Vijayanagara. There

> had to have been a substantial  presence of the Sankaran tradition

> in that part of the country, before  someone could break away from

> it.

</color>That is clear, and nobody in the Maadhva tradition will deny it. A
good deal of the narrative of the Madhvavijaya is precisely about
this; but I don't believe that in the older Maadhva records (like the
Madhvavijaya; unfortunately I do not have a copy at hand right now)
  there is mention of a _matha_ at Sringeri, although Sringeri was
not far from Madhva's home ground. [Is Shrisha Rao reading this?
Do you know, SR?] Since the role of Sankarites in the
Madhvavijaya is so prominent, we could consider it highly
meaningful for the dating of the Sringeri matha whether a matha is
mentioned there or not.


<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> For example, take Kulke's view of the legitimation of

> Vijayanagara. It is not clear to me why Sankara needs to be

> invoked for this. [...] Why should Sankara become important only

> in the 14th century, and not earlier? To suggest that Vidyaranya

> invoked  Sankara's name primarily for this purpose does not seem

> legitimate at all.

</color>We also need to look at what that "legitimation" signifies. Is it a
legitimation of Vijayanagara as just another big empire, or as a
bulwark of pre-Mughal traditions and values that also wants to push
back the influence of Delhi? I think only the second possibility
would favour the Sankarite imagery. The other prominent religious
traditions, like the Maadhva and Virasaiva (also politically influential
in Vijayanagara) would at the time have been less useful in
appealing to northern India, where, on the other hand, the Sankarite
 tradition had  already spread.

[Padmavati / Sarada]

<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> It seems to me that it would have been easier to Brahminize the

> Jaina Padmavati into a form of Sri/Lakshmi, through an association

> with the lotus. The Sankaravijaya legend of Sankara's composition

> of the Kanakadhara hymn to  Lakshmi would have also come in handy.

> Not to mention that there already was a Padmavati as a consort of

> Vishnu in south India, as at Tirupati. Why Brahminize her as

> Sarada, a form of Sarasvati, who is traditionally impoverished and

> at loggerheads with Lakshmi?!!  Iconographically also, it does not

> seem to make much sense.

</color>It makes more sense when viewed from the Jaina angle. On the
one hand, yes, Padmavati is a goddess of prosperity, like Lakshmi;
but she is also associated with learning. There is such a thing as
a  Sahasranama of Padmavati, and one of her epithets actually is
"Sarasvati". She is also known as a ;saasanadevataa or "divinity of
 the doctrine", a protectress of higher learning. Seen in this light, a
 switch from Padmavati to Sarada is less puzzling.

[Buddha / Gommatesvara]

<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> Why is substitution of Gommatesvara for Buddha as part of the

> Dasavataras a sign of opposition? Because of the ninth  avatara

> being described as one that purposely misleads people?

</color>And because, if the ninth 'slot' is actually meant for the Buddha,
there must have been a special reason for putting Gommatesvara


<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> Again it is not clear what sort of strategic alliances with other

> parts of India can be ascribed to Vidyaranya and the Vijayanagara

> rulers. We do know that more often than not, Vijayanagara emperors

> and the Gajapatis of Orissa were fighting each other for control

> of the Krishna and Godavari deltas.

</color>To give a possible latter-day parallel: the USSR and USA were
allies until the end of World War II, when other concerns became
more prominent. The idea of the "four mathas founded by Sankara"
might have been part of an attempt at creating a geopolitical
solidarity which failed or was too weak or shortlived to be politically
effective at the time but was maintained in religious circles.


<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> As for a Chandramoulisvara linga at Sringeri, the above is not

> just a Virasaiva claim. Sringeri's own Guruvamsakavya, probably an

> 18th century text, itself says that Renukacharya/Revana-siddha

> gave a Sivalinga to one of the Sringeri mathadhipatis. The poet

> does not seem to have seen this as an indication of Sringeri

> recognizing Rambhapuri as superior.

</color>Some Virasaivas see the gifting of the Chandramoulisvara as a kind
of lingadiksa, which would make Renukacharya the diksaguru (and
 thereby a superior, in a sense) of his Sringeri contemporary who
accepted it. Personally I think this is an exaggerated view. But the
 episode is interesting as an illustration of what seem to have been
 more relaxed times of friendly relations between different

[matha / hermitage]

I get the impression that at least part of this discussion hinges on
the question when something is / becomes a "matha". As
Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan also asked: must lineages have
mathas? To give two other parallels from Karnataka: Madhva gave
eight pupils the responsibility of continuing the worship of Krishna
at Udupi, and these pupils had their own pupils, and this was the
beginning of lineages; but mathas? These appear to have been
formed a bit later. Or: the Jaina presence at Shravanabelagola is
ancient, tradition placing its beginning in the 3rd cent. BC, but it
seems that it was only in the 10th century that a matha was
established with support from the Ganga dynasty.

Similarly, the rulers of Vijayanagara could have lent their support
towards establishing a Sankarite matha at Sringeri, on the basis of
an earlier, more humble settlement. From what you say about the
other texts:

<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> 1. they are attested in pre-Vidyaranya times, and

> 2. they are attributed to Sankaracharya, a probable reference to a

> holder of the title.

> Therefore, it follows that either there were titular

> Sankaracharyas before Vidyaranya, or all these pre-Vidyaranya

> texts are authentic.

</color>it looks as if a not entirely warranted jump is made from "probable
reference" to "therefore... titular Sankaracharyas". Is every
Sankaracharya a titular head of a matha? (Cf. all the Nagarjunas
among the Buddhists.)

Hacker's and Kulke's view still does not look unreasonable. By
which I of course do not mean that it should be considered
unquestionable; but it does offer an answer to the question why it
is only so long after Sankara that we have a clear statement about
a "matha". The argument ex silencio can work in both ways, but
the parallels in other traditions suggest that H. and K. could be

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