Unveiling the Mystique: Exploring the Essence of Shankaracharyas and Adi Shankara’s Legacy

Unveiling the Mystique: Exploring the Essence of Shankaracharyas and Adi Shankara’s Legacy

The inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22 will not see the presence of the four shankaracharyas, who lead the Hindu mathas in Dwarka (Gujarat), Joshimath (Uttarakhand), Puri (Odisha), and Sringeri (Karnataka). These mathas are traditionally associated with Adi Shankara, the eighth-century religious scholar and philosopher.

While the seers from Dwarka and Sringeri have not provided reasons for their absence, the shankaracharya of Puri matha, Nischalananda Saraswati, has openly voiced his concerns. He questioned his role at the inauguration, stating, “Prime Minister Modi will inaugurate the temple, he will touch the idol, then what am I supposed to do? Stand and clap?”

The term “Shankaracharya” refers to the heads of the four cardinal mathas or peeths believed to be established by Adi Shankara. However, historical evidence for these mathas is limited before the 14th century, suggesting a retrospective establishment to legitimize these monasteries. Today, these mathas serve as religious centers, housing shrines, temples, libraries, and residences.

Adi Shankara, credited with founding these mathas, is a key figure in Hinduism. Born in Kalady, Kerala, he is renowned for his scholarly pursuits and ascetic life. Adi Shankara traveled extensively, spreading Advaita Vedanta, a school of Hindu philosophy emphasizing radical nondualism. His legacy extends beyond philosophy to encompass a vision of a united Hindu India, symbolized by his four mathas spread across the country.

The philosophical core of Advaita Vedanta, as articulated by Shankara, emphasizes the illusory nature of perceived reality (maya) and the supremacy of the brahman, the ultimate reality. Shankara’s contributions also include commentaries on Upanishads, the Brahmasutra, and the Bhagavad Gita, although authorship of some works remains disputed.

The refusal of the shankaracharyas to attend the Ayodhya temple inauguration holds significance, given the symbolic role of their mathas as guardians of Hindu faith and traditions. This decision reflects a complex intersection of religious, philosophical, and political considerations surrounding the event.