On the history of Kanchi Sankara Matha

Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Wed Jan 5 19:00:06 UTC 2005

That explains it, then.  Sort of like the yuvaraja in the secular
kingship (and note Ron Inden's notion that the monks take over the
kingly role of head of Hindu society under Muslim rule).  Or a
vanaprasthya or second sannyasa for a sannyasi.


>>> dean_anderson at SACARI.ORG 1/5/2005 1:47:29 PM >>>
The tradition at the Kanchi Math, as it was explained to me by the
assistant to the 'younger' Shankaracarya when I visited, is that the
'older' Shankaracarya chooses his successor at a young age and raises
him. When he reaches adulthood, they both officiate although the older
usually has precedence.

The tradition there is that after founding the other four Maths under
his four main disciples, Shankara retired to Kanchi and took one more
young disciple who later became the Shankaracarya of Kanchi which is
origin of their tradition of two Shankaracaryas at the 'fifth' Math
which is not always included in the lists of Maths.

There are certainly many examples of Indian celibates living to very
ages although there are, of course, many counterexamples as well.
Longevity is hardly surprising since they are expected to eat
moderately, practice exercises such as yoga asanas and meditation and
knowledge of herbal and preventative medicine were also common. All of
these have been shown by western medicine to contribute to health.
Dominik can probably speak more authoritatively on some of this.

In any case, the combination of a long life with an early accession to
the Shankaracarya's seat might help explain your observation.


Dean Anderson

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk] On Behalf Of
>Allen W Thrasher
>Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2005 11:06 AM
>To: INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
>Subject: Re: On the history of Kanchi Sankara Matha
>The lengths of reigns seem extraordinarily long.  Are they,
>and the number of generations from the founder to the present,
>comparable to what are claimed for other maths in the Shankara
>and other traditions? Religious celibates to seem to live long
>in the West (at least to judge from the 19th and 20th c.
>tombstones in the graveyards of various male and female
>religious communities I've wandered through).  But are the
>Kanchi Acharyas traditionally appointed as quite young men?
>If not, and they were appointed as mature or middle-aged men,
>some of the lengths of tenure would get them to truly
>astounding ages.  A quick and not careful count of the kings of
from almost the same date ><http://www.scotlandroyalty.org/kings.html>
gets >73 kings,
>queens, and lords protector, double the number of
>Shankaracharyas.  Of course, the former probably often ate and
>drank too much, sometimes spent too much time exposed to the
>elements on campaigns, and often died in war or by
>assasination.  So I'm interested in the length of acharyas of
>other monastic institutions.
>Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
>Senior Reference Librarian
>Southern Asia Section
>Asian Division
>Library of Congress
>Jefferson Building 150
>101 Independence Ave., S.E.
>Washington, DC 20540-4810
>tel. 202-707-3732
>fax 202-707-1724
>athr at loc.gov
>The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the
>Library of Congress.

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