Showing posts with label Sringeri. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sringeri. Show all posts

Myths of Kanchi kamakoti Peetam

If you have ever gone to to websites of Kanchi Komakoti Peetam or Wiki or websites related to Kanchi Mutt you will come across the following claims and much more. We will see the following claims.

Claims made
  • Shankara established the Kanchi mutt
  • Kumbakonam mutt is branch of Kanchi mutt
  • Kanchi Mutt is 2500 years old
  • Adi Shankara spent last days of his life in Kanchi mutt He is buried in the premises of the mutt
  • Kanchi mutt was established as the controlling centre of other mutts.
  • Suresvara was appointed as the successor to Shankara at Kanchi mutt.
  • Kanchi mutt was shifted to Kumbakonam in 18th century AD due to opposition from the Local kings in Kanchi
Is Kanchi Mutt 2500 years old?
First we have to fix the date of Adi Shankara to know the date of Kanchi mutt as it is claimed to have been established by him. Date of Shankara , We have already seen in another article about dating Shri Adi Shankara. His date is fixed to 8th century AD not 500BC as claimed by Kanchi Mutt. So the question of Kanchi Mutt being 2500 years old do not arise.

No Tamil or Sanskrit literature before 19th century Speaks of Kanchi Mutt , which shows there was no mutt during that period.

Did Adi Shankara established Kanchi Mutt?
Every other Mutt or religious work mentioning Shankara have told there are only four mutts established by Shankara , independent of the other. Each mutt was allotted Upanishads to focus on

Saraswati, Bharati and Puri -------------Shringeri (South)
Tirtha and Ashrama-----------------------Dwarka (West)

Giri, Parvata and Sagara-----------------Jyotir (North)

Vanam and Aranyam----------------------Govardhan (East)

Except Kanchi Mutt and its associates all the Other mutts say that Shankara died in Himalayas. His final days are said like this: Setting off from the Jyotir Ashram (Badrinath) in the Himalayan he headed toward the nearby Mountainous region of Kedarnath, the place that was destined to be his final resting place. His four chief disciples accompanied him part of the way, but then Shankara insisted they go no further as the final part of his journey was to be completed alone.

Kanchi Mutt Chronicles , claim that Adi Sankaracharya had spent the last days of his life in Kanchipuram where he attained samadhi, and not in the Himalayas as is generally believed. A mandapam named after the father of the school of advaita philosophy, seen in the Kamakshi temple premises, is cited as his samadhi. It was originally called `Sankaracharya samadhi', but when it was pointed out there could not be a samadhi inside a Devi temple, the mandapam was renamed `Sankaracharya sannidhi' - sanctum, not a tomb.

So we can see that the Shankara cannot have come to kanchi in the final moments of his life and established the Kanchi mutt.

Kumbakonam mutt is branch of Kanchi mutt
According to the Kanchi chronicles, the math in Kanchipuram had to be shifted in the 18th century AD, in the face of opposition from local kings and hence the shift to Kumbhakonam. (One does not know of any Hindu-hating king near Kanchipuram from the 18th century.)

"Historians, however, hold that the Kumbhakonam math is a branch of the Sringeri math established in 1821 AD by the famous Maratha monarch of Tanjore, Pratap Singh Tuljaji. It is the date of the oldest inscription found in the Kumbhakonam math building. The Inscription is in Kannada. The math refers itself as sarada math. The diety of Sringeri mutt. If the mutt has anything to do with kanchi, it should have been diety kamakshi , the goddess of kanchi not sarada. Kumbakonam Mutt Independence Kumbhakonam math proclaimed independence from Sringeri and established itself as the " Kamakoti peetham.". In addition to denying the historical truth of its origin as a branch of the Sringeri math, the story propagated was that it was originally established by Adi Sankaracharya himself at Kanchipuram, with control over the recognized four maths. Worse, a wholly fictitious story that Adi Sankaracharya ascended a sarvagna-pitha at Kanchi and attained samadhi at Kanchi is propagated as "tradition." The real problem though was that in the course of this campaign, someone with more enthusiasm than scholarship, "fixed" the date of Adi Sankaracharya as 477 B.C. and wrote up a continuous list of gurus of the math from 477 B.C. to the present! This guru parampara is filled with names of sannyasis taken at random, with no thought to chronology.

Kanchi Mutt origin
In 1839 AD, the head of the Kumbhakonam math applied for permission to the English Collector to perform the kumbhabhishekam of the Kamakshi temple in Kanchipuram. In 1842 AD, he was appointed sole trustee of the Kamakshi temple by the English East India Company Government. This is well documented because the original priests of the Kamakshi temple, who were thereby deprived of their rights, complained to whomever they could possibly complain to. Numerous petitions, counter petitions, letters, and other suchdocuments are available from this period.

Thus the Kanchi math as an institution dates from 1842 AD. The headquarters continued to be at Kumbhakonam but the sannyasi head would periodically visit Kanchipuram to assert his rights over the Kamakshi temple.This math originally had a limited following in the Tanjore and Kanchipuram areas, but soon embarked on a massive propaganda campaign that ensured it prominence. The Kumbhakonam math shifted to Kanchipuram in accordance with its new story.
Suresvara was appointed as the successor to Shankara at Kanchi mutt. The Kanchi chronicles explain that before his demise, Shankaracharya established a fifth math at Kanchi which he intended to be a controlling centre of all the other maths. Sri Sureswaracharya, Sankara's prime disciple was placed in charge of it. Interestingly, the Sringeri math also claims Sureswaracharya as their first pontiff. If Sankaracharya did not establish the Kanchi math at all, where was the need to appoint a successor there?!! It is the Kanchi math that "claims" Sureswara. The Sringeri math does not "claim" so. In fact, a very old structure that is reputed to be Sureswara's samadhi is still preserved outside the Sarada temple at Sringeri.

We can see that the Mutt is anything but lies one after another. Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, who lifted a math disintegrating in Kumbhakonam and re-established it in Kanchipuram, according it a position of pre-eminence. But the chronicles are just out of this world. So many lies left, right and centre. Not surprising that the math has such scandalous history. The Mutt is known for More political connections then spirtual quests. To conclude Here is an institution
  • A mutt Not even 200 years old claiming as 2500 years old.
  • Kanchi Mutt is a branch of kumbakonam mutt, which inturn is the branch of Sringeri Mutt. What kanchi mutt claims is the other way around, brushing aside all the historical facts.
Real History of Kanchi Mutt by Vidyasankar Sundaresan

The Truth about the Kumbhakonam Math, Sri R. Krishnaswamy Aiyar and Sri K. R. Venkatraman, Sri Ramakrishna Press, Madurai,1977.

Kanchi Kamakoti Math - a Myth - Sri Varanasi Raj Gopal Sarma, Ganga Tunga Prakashan, Varanasi, 1987.

The Illustrated Weekly of India, "The Weekly Cover Story" - K. P. Sunil, September 13, 1987.

Related Posts 
Date of Shankara
Is Gautama Buddha Avatar of Vishnu 
Date of Devaram Trio

Date of Shankara

Date of Shankara the great saint of Hinduism is always been controversial. Dates ranging from 5th century BC to 9th century AD. Let us analyze the dates.

Internal Evidence
The most important internal evidence comes from Sankara's verbatim quotation of Dharmakirti, the buddhist logician. Hsuan Tsang , the Chinese pilgrim, who visited India in the time of Harshavardhana, king of Thanesar (606 - 647 CE), gives clues to Dharmakirti's date. He also mentions Bhartrhari , but not of Sankara. It follows that Sankara is post-Dharmakirti, and possibly post-Hsuan-Tsang also.

Astronomical Details
Various Sankara-vijaya texts are not of much use. The details in one work contradict those in another. Dates ranging from the 5th cent BCE to 8th cent CE have been calculated on the basis of such astronomical details. One further complication is that some astronomical information is said to have been obtained from works which are not available anywhere in India. So no firm conclusion can be drawn based on this.

Records of Mutts
Whether Sankara established any Mutts at all has been questioned. Paul Hacker attributes the tradition of four amnaya-maths at Sringeri, Puri, Dvaraka and Joshimath to Vidyaranyasvamin. The native oral tradition, takes the history of these four Mutts,each associated with one of the four geographical directions and one of the four vedas, to Sankaracarya himself. The dasanami sannyasi-sampradaya, with its various akhadas in northern India, accepts affiliation only with these four mutts. There historical evidence for the existence of the oldest dasanami akhadas as early as the 9th cent. CE. It is immaterial whether Sankara established them himself or whether these four mutts developed naturally at the places where the four famous disciples of Sankara lived and taught. Of these four mutts, the Joshimath title had long been vacant, till it was revived in 1940 CE. So, it does not have many ancient records. The Dvaraka and Puri mutts have, in the past, claimed a date of 5th century BCE for Sankara. This is partly based upon a dating of a grant by a king named Sudhanva who is supposed to have been a contemporary of Sankara. Nothing else is known about this king, and the grant itself has not been dated with any accuracy.And Dvaraka and puri mutts have patchy histories, with periods when there were no presiding Sankaracaryas.

Sringeri Mutt
Sringeri mutt in karnataka has been the only mutt of the original four which has had an unbroken succession of mathadhipatis, as southern India has not experienced as many political upheavals as the north. The Sringeri mutts record states that Sankara was born in the 14th year of the reign of Vikramaditya. The record does not give any clue about the identity of this king. Some 19th century researchers identified this king with the famous Vikramaditya of the Gupta dynasty, thereby postulating a date of 44 BCE for Sankara. Gap of 700 years was then assigned to Suresvara. The later successors in the Sringeri list can all be dated reasonably accurately from the 8th century downwards. If one identifies the Vikramaditya as a member of the Western Chalukya dynasty, which ruled from Badami in Karnataka. The Chalukya dynasty reached its greatest fame in the time of Pulakesin II, who defeated Harshavardhana. There were two kings named Vikramaditya in this Chalukya dynasty - Vikramaditya I ruled in the late 7th century CE, while Vikramaditya II ruled in the early 8th century. It is more reasonable to identify the Vikramaditya of the Sringeri record with one of these two Chalukyan kings, who ruled from Karnataka, rather than the northern gupta king, whose empire did not include southern India. This interpretation of the Sringeri record is also consistent with the internal evidence from Sankara's works.

Mutt Politics
In addition to these four original mutts, a number of other advaita mutts have come into being over the centuries, some of which are quite well-known. These mutts either started out as branches of the original institutions, or were set up as independent monasteries by notable sannyasis of the dasa-nami order. With the proliferation of such mutts came a number of "traditions," many of them conflicting with one another in details. some of these mutts also claim to have been established by Sankara himself., Some of them also claim 5th century BCE to be the date of Sankara.

The intimate connection of the founders of the Vijayanagara empire with the Sringeri mutt, and the competition by other mathadhipatis in the south for similar honors as traditionally accorded to the Sringeri Mutt. Every southern Mutt with a claim to be the "original" one wants to deny Sringeri's chronological primacy. This denial only has the effect of reinforcing the fact that Sringeri has been the most important advaita mutt for centuries. As such, their conflicting claims about Sankara's date have to be evaluated in the context of their political motivations in putting forth such dates.

Kanchi Mutt
Fifth advaita mutt at Kanchipuram is very active today, does not mean that it has always been so, nor does such activity lend any special credibility to its claims to antiquity. The political influence and prestige that a Mutt enjoys today also do not confer any legitimacy to such claims. It is inconceivable that the dasa-nami-sampradaya would have overlooked a fifth mutt in choosing its affiliations. Claims to historicity that are made in a spirit of political one-upmanship seldom stand up to serious scrutiny. There is no necessary correlation between the modern activity of an advaita mutt and its claimed antiquity.


Gaudapada is ParamaGuru of Shankara. Guru Govinda was Shankara's guru. So if we find the date of Guru, we can arrive at the date of Shishya. Gaudapada lived after the major Buddhist writers especially, Vasubhandhu, Nagarjuna, aryadeva (disciple of Nagarjuna) whose work he clearly reflects. In the 6th century work of Bhavaviveka, there is a direct quotations from Guadapada. Bhavaviveka was junior contemproary of Dharmapala whose date is confirmed by Chinese travellers in 5th century AD. So he has to be earlier than that, that is 5th century AD.  Traditional advaitha list Gaudapada is student of Shukdeva who in turn was student of Ved Vyasa of Mahabharata. We can even argue bhavaviveka and Gaudapada are arguing from same source. Many also argue that Gaudapada is a institution not a person. To cut short the discussion, we can say that Gaudapada lived around 5th century AD. When shankara says Gaudapada to be his paramaguru, we have to take the context. Guru Govinda padacharya was shankara's guru and his guru greatest Guru is Guru Gaudapada. In this context we can see shankara comes around 800 AD date.

The official date accepted currently is 788-820 CE, and the Government of India celebrated the 1200th anniversary of Sankara's birth in 1988. This date is largely based upon one traditional view prevalent in India.