Since the Vedic times, our country has been homeland to many of the great Acharyas and Vedic philosophers. The philosophers especially played a very important role, by explaining the meaning and content of the entire Vedas in a simplified version through simple stories, stotras and examples of life. The first philosopher who made this possible was Guru Shri Adi Shankaracharya, who gave the doctrine of the Advaita philosophy to the world and connecting our diversified country into a single entity with his teachings.
Shri Shankaracharya was born to Shivaguru and Aryamba in Thrissur, Kerala. They named him Sankara as he was born after they worshipped Bhagwan Shiv for a child. Shri Shankara mastered the Vedas and Sastras by the age of eight years and wanted to become a sanyasi devoted to the preaching of the Vedas and Sastras to common man. However, Aryamba did not want him to be so and forced him to stay with them. One day, they both went bathing in the river when a crocodile caught Shri Shankara’s leg. When his mother cried for help, Shri Shankara remained calm and mentioned that if she would accept him to be a sanyasi, then the crocodile would leave him. Aryamba agreed and the crocodile left Shri Shankara immediately. Aryamba understanding the purpose of his life blessed him to go ahead with his mission.
Shri Shankara left home and became the disciple of Shri Govind Pad. He later went to Kashi and wrote commentaries on the Vedas at the very young age of sixteen. Inspired by his philosophy and doctrines of Advaita, many great scholars became his followers.
Once, Shri Shankara was travelling with his disciples, when a Chandala with his dogs came in front of him. Shri Sankara seeing that he was an untouchable asked him to move aside from his way. For that, the Chandala asked Shri Shankara whether he was asking him to move aside, or the Almighty who resides in him , as in every being. The Chandala was none other than Bhagwan Shiv who made Shri Shankara realise that all humans are equal and thus preach the same to all the sections of the man-made society.
Shri Shankara is the composer of the great work Bhaja Govindam which denotes one of the Nava vIdha bhakti margas of devotion. Through this bhajan, he made man understand that even though one doesn’t know great stotras and mantras to chant in the name of god, taking the name of Govind with devotion would fulfil the destiny of man’s path on devotion.
In his short span of 32 years, Shri Shankara travelled all over the country twice and established four centres of learning across the country which are the Jyothir Math in the Himalayas, Govardhan Pith at Jagannath Puri, Shringeri Math in Shringeri and Sharad Pith in Dwaraka. He unified the country’s diverse people into a single entity through his Advaita philosophy. Till date the centres are the country’s greatest learning centres withstanding all foreign invasions and cultural changes.
Shri Shankara passed away at the young age of 32, during his visit to Kedarnath. However, his disciples kept his spirit and teachings alive by spreading his philosophy all over India. Shri Shankaracharya was the great philosopher who made people realise the true meaning of the Vedas and Sastras and not being misguided by the people of false knowledge and learning. ( Today is Sri Sankaracharya Jayanthi)