Sri Sankara Bhagavadpada : The Shanmata Sthapanacharya

Sri Sankara Bhagavadpada : The Shanmata Sthapanacharya – Shankara And Shanmata

“The celestial wish-yielding tree of Sankara taking its root in the Vedas, and spreading for branches the Shanmatas, gave out to the world at large a rich yield of the fruits of Illumination” thus says Anandagireeya.

“Those who came to scoff remained to pray” said Goldsmith. Those who came as disputants.. the leaders of the various sub-faiths became His disciples.

When Sri Sankara Bhavadpacharya took His abode in Kanchipuram in His last days, He sent out these disciples to propagate the worship of the six divinities within the Vedic framework. They did accordingly and reported back the success of their mission to the Great Acharya.

The 67th and succeeding prakaranas of Anandagiri’s Sankaravijaya, give an account of this. Paramata Kalanala, Lakshmana, Hastamalaka, Divakara, Tripura Kumara and Girijakumara were the disciples who spread the faiths in the different parts of Bharat,

Thus it is clear that Sri Bhagavadpada was Shanmata Sthapaka. He shed off His mortal coils in Kanchi only after the leaders of the six faiths, who were His disciples, reported to Him that the faiths had been stabilised throughout the nation in the new form given by the Achrya which really was their original form.


It is significant that Sri Sankaracharya (like Dakshinamurti) is usually represented in sculptures with His four disciples who spread the philosophy of advaita. But, only in Sri Kamakshi Temple (Kamakoshta) and Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Srimatha (old Puja-griha)- His most important shrines

in Kanchipuram, six disciples are shown in the pedestal/ panel. They are the expounders of the Shanmatas. Two of them are not Sannyasins, their head not covered with cloth. But since they do not have the upavita they could not be brahmacharins or grhastas either. One may conclude they had been tantrics, newly won over to the Smarta tradition.


Shodasa Ganapati Shrine in the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Jagadguru Pujyashri Shankaracharya Swami Srimatha, Rameswaram :

Ganapati being the embodied Primordial Sound of Pranava, all the letters 51 in number-are His manifestations; and we have 51 forms of Him (अकारादिक्षकारान्त महा सरस्वतीमय – Sahasranama).

Here we have very close affinity with the Sakti-Religion which also speaks of all varnas as the Divine Mother’s manifestations, in fact their very name is Matrka.

Out of these 51 forms, 32 are singled out for special worship: namely,

1. Bala Gana pati,

2. Taruna Ganapati,

3, Bhakta Ganapati,

4. Vira Ganapati,

5. Sakti Ganapati,

6. Dhvaja Ganapati,

7. Siddhi Ganapati otherwise called Pingala Ganapati,

8. Ucchishta Ganapati,

9. Vighnaraja Ganapati,

10. Kshipra Ganapati,

11. Heramba Gana pati,

12. Lakshmi Ganapati,

13. Maha Ganapati,

14. Vijaya Ganapati also called Bhuvanesa Ganapati,

15. Nrtta Ganapati,

16. Urdhva Ganapati,

17. Ekakshara Ganapati,

18. Vara Ganapati,

19. Tryakshara Ganapati,

20. Khsipra Prasada Ganapati,

21. Haridra Ganapati,

22. Eka Danta Gana pati,

23. Srshiti Ganapati,

24. Uddhanda Ganapati,

25. Rna-mochaka Ganapati,

26 Dundi Ganapati,

27. Dvimukha Ganapati,

28. Trimukha Ganapati,

29. Simha Ganapati,

30. Yoga Ganapati,

31. Durga Ganapati and

32. Sankatahara Ganapati.

Even among these 32 forms, the first 16 are said to confer the highest bounties and they collectively go by the name “Shodasa Ganapatis.”

It speaks volumes of the Grace of Jagadguru His Holiness Sri Chandra sekharendra Sarasvati Sri Padah, that he has installed these sixteen Ganapatis, two in each corner of an octogonal mantapa of chariot shape, in the Ramesvara Sankara Mandapa, which is an epitome of all the wealth that our Vedas and Puranas contain.

In the vimana of this mandapa are also depicted sages deeply devoted to Vignesvara, like Ganaka, Mudgala, who are the Rshis for Ganapati mantras. Here there is also a replica of the Gavaksha (window) of Tiruvalanchuzhi, which is spoken of as one of the four inimitables of our temple archi tecture. Centrally amidst the Shodasa Ganapatis is

installed a Ganapati who faces the seas-Thus a ‘gana’ of Ganapatis (a Host of the Lord of Hosts) is installed here!

– Sankarakinkara – Sankara And Shanmata (1959)


“Anandagiriya Sankara Vijayam” unmistakably dwells on the fact that Sankara re-established Ganapatya as one of the Shan-matas.

In the 71st prakarana, it is stated that when Sankara once for all took his abode in Kanchi, he sent out Girijakumara to spread Ganapatyam throughout the land; and that Girijakumara did accordingly and reported to Sankara the success of his mission.

Ganapati again, is one of the five deities worshipped in the Panchayatana Puja prescribed by Sankara.

The great Ganapati Pitha of Morgaon-Shri Yogindra

math-considers Shri Sankara Bhagavadpada as one of the Yugacharyas of Ganapatyam along with

Ganaka (Krta of Yuga),

Mudgala (Treta Yuga),

Bhrgu and Veda Vyasa (Dvapara Yuga).

Sri Sankara Bhagavadpada is referred to as Ganesa Acharya of Kali Yuga.

– Sankara Kinkara, Sankara And Shanmata (1969)


Ucchishtha Ganapati Sahasranama and Shankarabhagavatpada

Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada who was immersed in the realization of Oneness with the Supreme, was a great devotee of all the various manifestations of God-head. We see him as the great Ganesh-Bhakta in his Pancha-ratna and Bhujanga on Vinayaka…

In the Sahasranama of Ucchishta Ganapati (also referred to as Guhyanama Sahasraka or the thousand esoteric names) we see Ganapati referred to as the custodian of all the six amnayas of the six maths of Sankara, five of them established in the ter restrial plane, while the sixth belongs to the domain of pure spirit.

The five maths and amnayas are referred to in the following namas (328-337):

कामकोटीपीठवासः, शङ्करार्चितपादुकः, ऋश्यशृङ्गपुरस्थः, सुरेशार्चितवैभवः, द्वारकापीठसंवासः, पद्मपादार्चिताङ्घ्रिकः , जगन्नाथपुरस्थः, तोटकाचार्यसेवितः, ज्योतिर्मठालयस्थः, हस्तामलकपूजितः । and again namas (776-780):

तोटकाचार्यसन्दिष्टपूर्वाम्नायकमन्त्रकः ।

सुरेशसमुपादिष्टदक्षिणाम्नायमन्त्रकः ।

पद्मपादसमादिष्टपश्चिमाम्नायमन्त्रकः ।

हस्तामलक सन्दिष्टोत्तराम्नायकमन्त्रकः ।

शङ्कराचार्यसन्दिष्टोर्ध्वाम्नायाखिलमन्त्रकः ।

– Names which very clearly record that Sri Bhagavatpada established Maths at Kanchi, Sringagiri, Dvaraka, Jagannathapuri and Badari, putting them respectively in charge of himself and his disciples, Suresvara, Padmapada, Totaka and Hastamalaka.

It is also of significance that Ganapati is said to be extolled by all the mantras (Akhila mantrakah) in the Kamakoti Peetham. While each of the other Mathas has one of the four Mahavakyas, Kamakoti has all the four of them.

Later in this Sahasranama, the five pithas are said to signify the five acts of the Lord and Kamakoti in this scheme is the special seat conferring the grace of Liberation (Urdhvamnaya mantroghair anugraha prakasakah).

Guhyanama Sahasraka also speaks of the five Lingas that Sankara got from Siva

विद्याभोगयशोमोक्षयोगलिङ्गप्रतिष्ठितः ।

The names of the five Lingas are given as Vidya, Bhoga, Yaso, Moksha and Yoga Lingas.

In the traditional biographies of Sankaracharya, we have the names Muktilinga and Varalinga in place of Vidyalinga and Yasolinga. Mukti being none other than Moksha the nomenclature of Guhyanama Sahasraka seems more acceptable.

This Sahasranama, occurring in the Uddamarmesa Tantra, one of the 64 tantras, is imparted only to those who have touched the very end of Tantra Upasana. What appears gross and obscene in it, is in reality a symbol of Supreme Enjoyment of Bliss. That is why the layman is not initiated into it. At a very modest estimate, this Sahasranama should have attained its high status at least some four centuries back, since we come to know that the great Sakta of revered memory, Sri Chidanandanatha, is the eighth in the succession of disciples of one of the schools of Ucchishta Ganapati Upasana.

It is of particular interest to know that Shri Sacchidananda Sivabhinava Nrsimha Bharati Sankaracharya Svamiji of Shri Sringeri Peetha was deeply drawn to this Sahasranama.

Sankara’s devotion to Ganapati was very great. When he found the Goddess Akhilandesvari of Tiruvanaikka radiating a fierce aspect that common people could not stand, he not only drew that fierce aspect in the Sri Chakras to be placed in Her ears, but also installed an image of Ganapati in front of Her; because he knew the immense love that Ganapati’s presence would evoke in the Divine Mother.

Fittingly, the Kamakshi temple, which is intricately interwoven with the Kamakoti Peetha, contains a number of images of Ganapati, each with a different name. In his Pentad on Devi, Sankara prays to Kamakshi in each stanza; ” Let the Goddess residing in this Ambapura, mother of Ganapati, protect me” (Mam Ambapuravasini Bhagavati Heramba Mata avatu). It implies that he is entitled to the Divine Mother’s love in an equal measure with Ganapati, beloved of her.

– By Sankara Kinkara – Sankara And Shanmata (1969)