From Tradition to Transition: Tunga Matha’s Shifting Stance on Shri Shankaracharya’s Birth Year

In his article published by the Srirangam Vani Vilas Shankara Gurukulam Journal, Tinnavely Advocate R. Krishnaswamy Iyer, an adherent of the Tunga Matha, supported for 44 B.C.E as Shankaracharya’s birth year, in line with the Tunga Matha’s tradition.

Despite dismissing the traditional date favored by the Kanchi, Puri, Dwaraka and Jyotir mathas and date suggested by the Western scholars (509 B.C.E and 788 C.E), the Tunga Matha later shifted its stance and adopted the 788 C.E date.

What factors influenced this change from supporting 44 B.C.E to accepting 788 C.E as Shri Shankaracharya’s birth year?

The transition in the Tunga Matha’s position raises questions about the specific influences behind this shift from their initial stand for 44 B.C.E to eventually adopting the 788 C.E date, marking the period post the birth of Jesus Christ.

Tunga Sringeri Math’s Records: Revealing Shri Shankaracharya’s Pre-C.E Date:

“.. The time of the foundation of the Sringeri Math cannot be definitely stated, as the date of Sri Sankara is still a matter of controversy among the

scholars of history. The date of the great Acharya is placed by scholars at different periods between the second century B.C. and 788 A.D. (the date of

Kumarila Bhatta whom Sankara met); but the information traceable up to date in Sringeri assigns to its founder the latter half of the century that preceded the birth of Christ…”

(The Sringeri Math By Swami Nikhilananda, Prabuddha Bharata, A Monthly Magazine devoted to Religion and Philosophy started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896.)

Four-Matha Theorists and Cherry-Picking Quotes

Are the Four Matha Theorists Cherry-Picking Quotes from Chidvilasa to Support Their Narrative?

The four matha theorists claim Shri Shankaracharya established only four mathas, citing Chidvilasa’s Sankara Vijaya. Yet, they disregard the same Chidvilasa’s account of Shri Sankaracharya’s meeting with His Guru Shri Govinda Bhagavatpada in Badarikashrama (not on the bank of Narmada) and His Sarvajna Peetharohana and Shanmatha sthapana in Kanchi. Why this inconsistency?

Meeting Place of Adi Shankaracharya and His guru Govinda Bhagavatpada – Variations within the Tunga tradition.

Within the Tunga Sringeri tradition, there are variations in the location of Govinda Muni’s ashrama, as documented in different texts:

Chidvilasa’s Sankara Vijaya mentions Ratnagarbha Ganapati who is worshipped in Tunga, the ashrama of Vibhandaka Muni, a detailed description of Sringeri, the establishment of four peethas and Bhagavatpada’s ascent of Sarvajna Pitha in Kanchipuram and can be understood as the work that upholds the Tunga tradition.

However, this work curiously places Govinda Muni’s ashrama in Badarikashrama in the Himalayas and has the following description of Govinda Bhagavatpada shining like the Sun with Rudraksha mala.

अन्विष्य शङ्कराचार्यः सर्वत्र जगतीतले ।

क्रमेण बदरीं प्राप यत्र विष्णुस्तपस्यति ॥ ३८ ॥

बदर्यो भूरुहो यत्र फलन्ति स्वर्दुमा इव ।

तत्रैकत्र समासीनमुटजाभ्यन्तराङ्गणे ।। ४३ ।।

ध्यायन्तं परमेशानं व्याघ्रकृत्तिकृतासनम् ।

भूत्युद्भासितसर्वाङ्गं पौण्डरीकोत्तरच्छदम् ।। ४४ ।

रुद्राक्षमालिकाजालसमाकलितविग्रहम् ।

निस्तरङ्गमिवाम्भोधिं निर्विकारमिवाशुगम् ।। ४५ ।।

निस्तमस्कमिवादित्यं भास्वन्तमिव पावकम् ।

गोविन्दभगवत्पाददेशिकेन्द्रमलक्षयत् ।।४६ ।।

In a stark departure from Chidvilasiya, the Madhaviya Sankaravijaya mentions that meeting of Bhagavatpada with His guru Govinda Bhagavatpada happened on the banks of “Indubhava”.

Given that Chidvilasiya is of relatively older antiquity than Madhaviya, and Madhaviya is a sangraha of many texts from Vyasachaliya to Shankarabhyudaya, one has to wonder what source of Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya is for mentioning Narmada as the meeting place.

दण्डान्वितेन धृतरागनवाम्बरेण गोविन्दनाथवनमिन्दुभवातटस्थम् ।

तेन प्रविष्टमजनिष्ट दिनावसाने चण्डत्विषा च शिखरं चरमाचलस्य ॥ ११ ॥

Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya uses the newly coined term “Indubhava” for River Narmada based on the traditional name “Somodbhava” replacing “Soma” with “Indu”. It is from the commentaries of Madhaviaya such as Advaitarajyalakshmi quoting Dindima that we know this.

It may also be noted here that Gururatnamala of Sadashivendra Sarasvati mentions “uparevam” situated near Reva nadi both in the stuti on Govinda Bhagavatpada and also mentions the word “pratichandrabhavam” similar to indubhava usage of Madhaviya when talking of where Shankara Bhagavatpada met Govinda Bhagavatpada. Likewise Tirumala Dikshita’s Shankarabhyudaya also mentions Narmada Tiram as the Place of Their meeting.

Given the wide extraction of many verses from Tirumala Dikshita’s work in Madhaviya, there is a likelihood that these works may have been a source for Navakalidasa Madhava, the author of the 18th-19th century Samkshepa Shankarajaya (Shankara Digvijaya) in its departure from Chidvilasiya Sankaravijaya. .

Curiously, Tunga Sringeri Matha’s Guruvamsa Kavya does not mention the location Govinda Muni’s ashrama.

The disparity between the Guruvamsa kavya and the Madhaviya Sankara vijaya and Chidvilasiya Sankaravijaya becomes a perplexing puzzle. It leaves room for speculation that either these two Sankara vijayas were not in existence when Guruvamsa kavya was written, or the Tunga Sringeri adherents were unaware of their existence when guiding the composition of Guruvamsa kavya.

Tracing Tamil Brahmin Migration : Sankarite Institutions, Sri Vidyatirtha, and Settlements in Mysore’s History

The Historical survey records published by the Mysore Government provide fascinating insights into the migration and settlement of Tamil Brahmins from Tanjore and Kanchipuram regions, near the Sankarite institutions on the Tunga and Tungabhadra rivers (Tunga Sringeri and Tungabhadra -Koodali Sringeri mathas).

In the Quarterly journal of the Mythic Society, while reviewing the 1931 Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of Mysore, there is an interesting observation that Sri Vidyatirtha also hailed from the Tamil Brahmin community of Choladesa (Tanjore) in his earlier life.

“… Hale Sringeri Village is about two furlongs to the west of Sringeri with about one Brahman and twenty other houses. A small mud shrine contains the old Vidyasankara Linga, about six feet high. The Vidyasankara image is 1½ ft. high in Yoga-mudra with a sannyasi disciple on either side. Compared with this, it will be clear that the image to which I have referred in my article on “An Ancient Image at Hampi ” may not be that of Vidyasankara.

In his notes on Vidyaranyapura, Dr. Krishna says that “Vidyaranya also must have been a Karnataka (Kannadiga). But Vidyasankara is said to have been a ‘choli’ (belonging to the Chola-desa of Tamilnadu) since some ‘cholis’ (Tamil Brahmins from Chola desa) have set up his image in the Agrahara.”

This statement is evidently traditional, picked up during the course of enquiries but it deserves further investigation…”

The authenticity of this statement is supported by the ancient Guruparampara records of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetha. These records state that Sri Vidyatirtha, the 51st Acharya of Sri Kanchi Matha, originated from Bilvaranya kshetra of the Chola desa. His successor, Sri Sankarananda, the 52nd Acharya hailed from Madhyarjuna kshetra (Tiruvidaimaruthur) in the Chola country.

(Reviews : Archaeological Survey of Mysore – Annual Report for 1931 – The Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society.)

H.H.Puri Acharya spoke to THE WEEK at Sringeri on the eve of the Historic meet of Shankaracharyas


QUESTION: What brought you to Sringeri now?

ANSWER: The Sringeri swami invited me to this meeting, and told me that we would be discussing the Ram Janmabhoomi issue. So I came. Perhaps, you should ask him what this is all about. They told me that it would be an opportunity for all the four Shankaracharyas to meet, and I was happy about that,

Q: So you do recognise the Kanchi Shankaracharya as one of you, and there are no longer any problems on that count?

A: You should ask this to the two mutts who actually had those differences (Kanchi and Sringeri). If they say they have all come together now, I am happy about that. It is better that we are not divided over small issues.

(THE WEEK, July 11, 1993)

ADI SANKARA-AND-COURTS – Sri Kamakoti Peetam and Sri Sringeri Peetam as co-respondents in one case

“It is not possible to have more than one view, namely, that Sri Adi Sankara had established the present Sri Kamakoti Peetam at Kanchipuram.”





S.Balasubramanian, Advocate, Madras.

1986 MLJ 9 (Vol.II)

1. The decision rendered by Mr. Justice Ratnavel Pandian reported in K.Rajendran V. The Govt. of Tamil Nadu, (1985) II M.L.J. 337 makes interesting reading. The case was filed by one Sri K.Rajendran seeking the issuance of a Writ of Mandamus directing the Government of Tamilnadu to declare that the three present Jagathgurus of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam are not of Jagathguru Sankaracharyas. The petitioner also impleaded the Jagathguru Sankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt as fifth Respondent.

According to the averments made in the affidavit Sri Kamakoti Peetam is not one of the four mutts established by Adi Sankara and the mutt at Sringeri alone has exclusive jurisdiction in the southern States and so it will not be open for the Jagathgurus of Sri Kamakoti Peetam call for and receive pecuniary and other offerings from the people at several places in the Southern States.

The learned Judge has noticed that the Petitioner was espousing the cause of Sringeri Mutt. The learned Judge after referring to an earlier Judgments came to the conclusion that the Writ Petition was not maintainable and rejected the same. Further, the learned Judge found that the prayer in the Writ Petition has been substantially moulded on the lines of the prayer in the Bombay decision in Madhusudan Parvat v. Sri Madhav Theerth, reported in (1909)11 Bom.L.R., 58: (1909) I.L.R. 33 Bom. 278. The case was filed by Shankaracharya of the Sharadha Mutt Dwaraka against Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math for declaration as sought by the Writ Petitioner now and the suit was dismissed.

2. Even though the learned Judge has not given any finding about the establishment of the Mutts there are some Division Bench Judgments of our Courts which refer to the tradition that the Sri Kamakoti Peetam has been established by Sri Adi Sankara at Kancheepuram. The decision reported in Vidayapurna Thirthaswami v. Vidyanidhi Tirthaswami, 14 M.L.J.105: (1904) I.L.R. 27 Mad. 435 and Sri Shirur Mutt v. The Commissioner, H.R.E., (1952)1 M.L.J. 557 A.I.R. 1952 Mad. 613, clearly establish that Sri Adi Sankara had established the Mutt at Kancheepuram and He Himself assumed the Headship of the Sarvagna peetam or central seat of knowledge at Kanchi after installing His principal disciplies at the four mutts viz at Sringeri, Badrinath, Puri and Dwaraka.

3. The Bench consisting of Justice Satyanarayana Rao and Justice Rajagopalan, has given a judgment reported in Sri Shirur mutt’s Case, (1952)1 M.L.J. 557: A.I.R.1952 Mad. 613, and it says “Tradition has it that after conquering the rival faiths He established the Advaita system of Philosophy and founded four mutts or seats of learning in the four corners of this vast subcontinent Sringeri (Saradha Peeta) in Mysore in the south with which it is familar knowledge, the name of that great and erudite scholar and philospher Vidyaranya Swami is associated; Badrinath in Himalayas in the north; Jagannath or modern Puri in the East and Dwaraka in the Bombay presidency in the West. In each of these Mutts as their heads, He installed his principal disciples and He Himself assumed the Headship of the Sarvagna Peeta or the Central seat of knowledge at Kanchi, the modern Kancheepuram. This central peetam was first shifted to Tanjore and then to Kumbakonam from where it continues to function even in the present day”.

4. Now the question as to why the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam shifted its head quarters from Kancheepuram to Kumbakonam for some time may be considered in the light of an earlier suit between these two mutts. There was a case in the year 1844 when Sri Sringeri Mutt filed a civil suit in O.S.No.95 of 1844 on the file of the Principal Sadar Amin Court, Tiruchirapalli against the Acharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam claiming exclusive rights for Pratishtha (repairing the the ear rings) of Goddess Akilandeswari of which belonged Jambukeswaram Koil, only to that Mutt.

In that suit the reasons for shifting has been stated as follows: In the rejoinder filed by the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam “The Plaintiff (the Sringeri Mutt) in column 20 its reply states that if it is true that the Kamakoti Peeta was established at Kancheepuram by Adi Sankara and if Sankara’s disciple was installed, the first defendant should be still residing there only and the reason for his residence at Kumbakonam has not been stated in the defendant’s answer. It is not stated in any authoritative text that the Kamakoti Peetadipathi must necessarily live only at Kancheepuram and should not take up his residence in any other place. The first defendant, disciples and other staff of the Mutt are still living at Kancheepuram Mutt and are still engaging on the daily Pooja to the Sarvagna Peeta there. The 1st defendant’s Paramaguru (Guru’s guru) wanted to reside on the banks of the river Cauvery and hence came to reside in Kumbakonam. He brought along with him the Yogalinga, Chandra Mouliswera Swami consecrated by Sureshvaracharya. The local and other disciples offered every facility and convenience to him and hence he used to alternate his residence between Kumbakonam and Kancheepuram.

5. Ultimately, the Court decided that the documents submitted on behalf of the Sringeri Mutt were not reliable and that the oral evidence adduced on their behalf was self-contradictory and the suit was dismissed with costs. The Court went on to say,

“அதினாலே 1வது 13வது சாக்ஷிகள் பார்த்ததாகவும்: அவர்களுடைய வயதும் அதில் விசேஷமாய் முதல் சாக்ஷிக் காரன் சொல்லுகிறதும் 64, 65 இந்த லெக்க ஆதரவுகளில் கண்ட மத்தளிப்புக்கும் பின்னும் இந்த ஆதரவுகள் 222வது அடையாளமுள்ள கணக்கும் நேரே விரோதமாயிருக்குது. இந்த சாக்ஷிகளுடைய சாக்ஷியை நிஜமானதென்று ஏத்துக்கொள்ளுகிற விஷயத்தில் ஸ்ரீங்கேரி மடத்து சுவாமியார் அந்த வருஷத்தில் பழுது பார்த்திருக்கிறதைக் குறித்தும் தன் கக்ஷிக்கும் மிகவும் பலமுள்ளதென்று நிச்சயமாய் வாக்குமூலத்தில் சொல்லி யெழுதி வைத்திருக்குற ஷெ ஆதரவுகளைப் பொய்யாக்குது. இந்த நிமித்தியங்களால் ஷ சாக்ஷிகள் சொல்லுகிற ருசுவும் ஷெ ஆதரவுகளும் நம்பக்கூடாதாயிருக்குது:”

An appeal was filed in A.S.No.109 of 1846 which met the same fate as the suit and there was an unsuccessful special appeal petition for the admission of the special appeal in special appeal Petition No.106 of 1848. Further a review petition was also filed in S.M.P.No. 398 of 1848 which was dismissed. Thus it is seen from the earliest decision the reasosns for shifting of the Kamakoti Peetam. A reference here may be made about the case filed by the Sringeri Mutt against the Kudali Mutt in accepting cash donations. The Mysore Courts confirmed the right of the Kudali Mutt and the Mysore State Hazur Adalath Court in the year 1846 in appeal case No.22 has referred to the above case filed by Sringeri Mutt against the Kamakoti Mutt in O.S.No.95 of 1844.

6. Further a reference to the inam lands and inam titles of the Mutt may be made here wherein the original title of the Grantee is noted as “Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam” or “Kumbakonam Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam or Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Sri Sankaracharya Swamigal now living in Kumbakonam”.

On 22.1.1874 the mirasdars of Tattanur village in Trichy District have gifted lands to to the Mutt and therein they have stated the Mutt as “Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Sri Sankara charya Swamigal now living in Kumbakonam”.

Two gifts have been given during the year 1881 to the Mutt styling it as “Sri Kanchi Kamakoti peetadhipathi Sri Sankaracharya Swamigal residing in Kumbakonam”.

An inam of devadayam dry lands in Thiruvottiyur Village, Saidapet Taluk, Chingleput District given to the Mutt in 1862 for the support of the Mutt styles it as “Kumbakonam Sri Kanchi Kamakoti peetathipathi Sri Sankaracharya Swamivaru”. The above deeds clearly show that the Mutt has been shifted to Kumbakonam.

7. A Division Bench consisting of Sri Subramania Iyer acting Chief Justice and Justice V.Bashyam Iyengar in their judgment reported in Vidayapurna Thirtha swami v. Vidyanidhi Tirthaswami, 14 M.L.J. 105 (1904) L.L.R. 27 Mad. 435, observed “Not less than 7 Mutts being among the most celebrated owe their origin to the great Advaitha Philosopher Sri Sankaracharya”.

This decision has been referred in the decision reported in Sri Shirur Mutt v. The Commissioner, H.R.E., (1952)1 M.L.J. 557: A.I.R. 1952 Mad. 613, and the learned Judges have added that the reference to seven mutts of Sankaracharya seems to be a mistake for five”.

Further another Bench Decision of our Court consisting of Sir John Wallis, Chief Justice and Mr. Ayling in S.A.Nos. 1282 and 1283 of 1957 has recognised the payments made to the Kanchi Mutt under the name of “Merai” (Portion of produce paid to the Mutt for maintenance from the cultivable lands) in some Taluks round about Kanchi wherein they say “We think the evidence justifies the inference that this payment of the disputed merai had a lawful Origin and was not merely voluntary”. See Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Swami Avargal Sikkudayar Swami Avergal, Sri Sankaracharya Swami V. Manali Saravana Mudaliar and another (Srotriemdars of three Srotriem, Villages in Chingleput District).

8. Apart from the above decision Guruvamsa Maha-Kavya (History of Teacher of Sringeri Mutt) For more details please refer the Book I edition published by Guru-bhakta Sikhamani Sri T.K.Balasubramania Iyer, Sri vani vilas Press, Srirangam. prepared under the orders of Sri Sachidhanandha Bharathi who adorned the pontificial seat at Sringeri throws considerable light about the establishment of the Sri Kanchi Peeta by Adi Sankara.

The Guruvamsa Maha Kavya, written under the direction of Sri Sachidananda Bharati Swami, Head of the Sringeri Mutt says that Sri Sankara established five mutts at Benares four for his disciples and one for Himself. The author has himself written commentary on this work.

” Varanasim Yogivaro ‘dhigamya

bujairiva Sri hariresha sishyaih

Sahatmana Pancha Mathanamesham

Prakalpya tasthau Katichiddinani”

(Sarga 33 Verse 23)

In the commentary it is said:

“Atmana Saha amisham Sishyanam Pancha Matham Prakalpya”

The following extract from the annual report of the Archaclogical Department of Mysore for the year 1928 written by the Director of Archaeological researches in Mysore and published under the auspices of the University of Mysore contains reference to the Guruvamsa -maha-Kavya at P.15.

9. ” Guruvamsa-maha-Kavya: History of teachers of Sringeri Math: Author. Laksh mana Sastri son of Visvesvara Sastri, under the orders of Sri Sachidananda Bharathi disciple of Sri Narasimha Bharati. The author is contemporary of Soma Sekhara II, of Keladi when Sachidananda Bharathi adorned the Pontificial seat at Sringeri. It may be reasonably presumed that he faithfully copied all traditional informations about the successive teachers of Sringeri.

The author says that He (Adi Sankara) set up Five maths and mentions the names of Sringeri, Kanchi, Badri, Kasi and Jagannath.”

10. Further Chengalpattu Gazetter published by Charles Stuart Crole Esq. I.E.S. in the year 1879, says that Sri Sankarachariar paid particular attention to Kanchipuram where He worked many miracles and founded a Mutt or Monastery (pp.86–87). For further details please refer article “Sri Sankara and Sankarite institutions” written by Swami Anantanandedra Sarasvati in “Preceptors of Advaita” published by Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Sankara Mandir, Secunderabad and edited by late Dr. T.M.P.Mahadevan.

11. Thus, it can be seen from Judicial pronouncements and other records mentioned above that it is not possible to have more than one view, namely, that Sri Adi Sankara had established the present Sri Kamakoti Peetam at Kanchipuram.

The Traditional date of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada : 44 B.C – Ancient Records of the Tunga Sringeri Matha :

The Traditional date of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada : 44 B.C – Ancient Records of the Tunga Sringeri Matha :

“… It is idle for us to attempt to fix the exact period of time when the Master blessed the earth with his presence. Scholars who have specialised in the ransacking of old records and re-building the history of the land are of varied opinion and the dates suggested by them range from 509 B C. to 788 A D. that is, for a period of nearly thirteen hundred years.

It may be mentioned however that the Sringeri tradition gives a date between these two limits and that date, namely 44 B.C is probably nearer the truth if we accept the authority of Bhaskaracharya, the famous commentator of the Lalita Sahasranama Stotra.

If the Vikramarka Saka is referred to in this stanza, the date of Sri Sankara is about 49 B.C.”

– Sri.R.Krishnaswamy lyer, M.A.,B.L., Advocate, Tinnevelly

(The Journal of Sankara Gurukulam, Published By Sri Vani Vilas Press, Srirangam, Vol.4, No.13.)