Birth and early life of Sri Adhi Sankarar
Sri Adhi Sankarar was the divine incarnation of Lord Shiva. The main purpose of this incarnation was to rehabilitate Vedas and other spiritual works of Hinduism. More than 2000 years ago, Sri Adhi Sankarar was born to the couple Sivaguru-Aryambal, at Kaladi in Kerala.
In olden days, the Brahmacharis(boys who wore the the sacred thread named Poonool) had to get alms from every house for their food. When Adhi Sankarar was five years old, he also went for getting alms. One day, he was seeking alms in front of the house of a poor lady. She had nothing expect an amla in her house. She gave it to him wholeheartedly. Realising her poverty and selfless mind, Sri Adhi Sankarar prayed Sri Mahalakshmi with a slokam named Kanagadhara (gold rain) Sthothram, for Her grace to that poor lady. Sri Mahalakshmi showered gold over that house.
From his childhood also, he was very intelligent and kind to all. He lost his father and was brought up by his mother. One day, he was caught by a crocodile while bathing in a river. His mother tried to save him but in vain. As his mother was much worried about his life, Sri Sankarar told her that if he would become a Sanyasi (a religious mendicant) with her permission, his life would be saved from that crocodile. As a mother to save his life, she agreed to it. Thus Sri Sankarar became a Sanyasi.
He left home and reached the river banks of Narmadha. There he studied Vedas and Sasthras under a guru named Govinda Bhagavathpadhar. As per the guru's order, Sri Sankarar started from there to spread the Advaitha philosophy, which shows that the god and the athma are one.
Sri Adhi Sankarar as Acharya
Sri Sankarar travelled all over India and preached the ways for the people to realise the divine residing within themselves. He also established six schools of religious worship for the Hindus and so he is called as Shanmatha Sthapagar (founder of six schools of religious worship). They are
• Ganapatyam - worshipping Lord Ganesha
• Saivam - worshipping Lord Shiva
• Saktam - worshipping Goddess Parvathi
• Sauram - worshipping Lord Surya
• Vaishnavam - worshipping Lord Mahavishnu
• Kaumaram - worshipping Lord Muruga
as the Ultimate divine.
He went to kasi alongwith his disciples. One day, a man considered to be an untouchable one, was coming with his wife and four dogs, on the way of Sri Sakarar and was shouted by his disciples to move away. Then that man questioned if all are one as per their Advaitha philosophy, then why he was considered as untouchable. Suddenly Sri Sankarar realised that he was no one other than Lord Shiva, who came with His consort Parvathi and the four Vedas. Then Sri Sankarar composed Maneesha Panchagam and obtained His blessings.
He wrote Bhashyam for Brahmasuthra, a work by Sage Vedhavyasa. It was accepted by the sage himself by appearing before Sri Sankarar. He also blessed him to spread Advaitha philosophy.
Sri Sankarar conquered the opponents of Advaitha philosophy, like Kumarila bhattar, Mandana misrar(an incarnation of God Brahma) etc., by establishing his points in the discussion. Mandana misrar became his disciple. The wife of Mandana misrar named Sarasavani (an incarnation of Goddess Saraswathi) continued the discussion after his husband's defeat, with Sri Sankarar. After Sri Sankarar's victory, she followed Sankarar as per his request and enshrined as Goddess Saradha in Sringeri.
One of his disciples named Sananthar was much devoted to his guru, Sri Sankarar. One day, when he was on the riverbank, he heard his guru's voice calling him from the other bank of the river. Suddenly, he began to walk over the river to reach the guru. The river made a lotus to appear below his every step, so that he would not drown into the river. Then he is called as Padmapadhar. When Sri Sankara was doing penance in a forest, a kapaliga (the man who belived in human and animal sacrifice for getting the grace of god) tried to give Sri Sankarar as sacrifice. At that time, Lord Narasimha entered into the body of Padmapadhar and saved Sri Sankarar by defeating that kapaliga.
Sri Sankarar made a dumb boy to speak the divine truth and named him as Hasthamalakar, who also became his disciple. Another disciple named Giri, was also an important one. He was named as Thodagar by Sri Sankarar, as he composed Thodaga ashtakam.
Sri Sankarar and the temples of India
Sri Sankarar visited various temple all over India and recharged them with the divine power.
At that time, at the temple of Tiruvanaikovil in Trichy, goddess Akilandeswari was with severe power so that no one could stand before her. Sri Sankarar visited there and controlled that power by adoring Her with two divine studs named Thadangam.
At Thiruvidaimaruthur, a group of scholars could not accept the Advaitha philosophy of Sankarar. When Sri Sankarar enter the Shiva temple there alonwith the opponents, a hand emerged from the Sivalinga in the sanctum sanctorum and a divine voice proclaimed three times that Advaitham is true. Then the opponents accepted the Sankara's principle.
In the Kancheepuram Kamakshi amman temple also, the goddess Kamakshi was with severe power and there was famine. Sri Sankarar visited there and controlled that power by establishing a divine chakram in front of the goddess. Then the area became fertile.
He visited Tirumala at Tirupathi and worshipped Lord Venkateswarar by composing slokas on Him. He also established a divine yantram there.
One day when he was travelling in the air by his divine power, he was attracted down by the power of Shri Krishna at Guruvayoor temple in Kerala. He worshipped Him and started his travel.
He went to Srisailam Malligarjunar temple and worshipped the Lord Shiva there with a sloka named Sivanandhalagari.
After visiting, Badrinath and Kedharnath, Sri Sankarar went to the divine abode of Lord Shiva, Kailasa, and worshipped Lord Shiva and goddess Parvathi there. Lord Shiva gave him five lingams alongwith the slogam (100 hymns) composed by Himself on goddess Parvathi, which is called as Soundaryalahari as gift. On his way back, Sri Sankarar had to share half of that slogam with the Nandi. Then Sankarar himself composed for the remaining hymns.
Installation of the five lingams got from Lord Shiva was made by Sri Sankarar at five places.
• Varalingam was installed at Neelakand
• Mukthilingam was installed at Kedarnath
• Mokshalingam was installed at Chidambaram
• Bhogalingam was installed at Sringeri
• Yogalingam was kept by himself for his own worship.
Sri Sankara Mutts
Sri Sankarar established mutts (religious centres for the monks) at five places in India and assaigned his disciples to lead them. The five mutts are
• Jyothir mutt was established at Badrinath
• Saradha mutt was established at Sringeri
• Govardhana mutt at Puri
• Kaliga mutt at Dwaraka
• Kamakoti mutt at Kancheepuram, the place where he attained the eternal bliss and united with the god.