Four Maths – Char Dhams – established by Shankara
During his travels across the length and breadth of India, he established four maths (ashrams) to unify the scattered and diverse groups of Sannyasis. Four maths were established, about 700 AD, in four different corners of India. He selected four of his senior most disciples to head each of these maths. Each of these maths was assigned the task of maintaining and preserving for posterity, one of the four Vedas (the main scriptures of Hinduism) and a Maha Vakya. Shankaracharya reorganised all the Sannyasis in India into ten main groups (the Dasanami Sannyasa Tradition) allocated to different maths.
Historical and literary evidences also exist which prove that the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt at Kanceepuram, in Tamil Nadu, was also founded by Shankaracharya.
Direction South India West India North India East India
Place Sringeri Dwaraka Badrinath Puri
Math Name Sringeri Math Sarada Math Jyotir Math Govardhan Math
Acharya Sureswara Hastamalaka Trotaka Padmapada
Veda Yagur Sama Atharva Rik
Mantra Aham brahmāsmi Tattvamasi Ayamātmā brahma Prajñānam brahma
Sanyasa Order Saraswati, Bharati, Puri Tirtha, Ashrama Giri, Parvata, Sagara Vanam, Aranyam
The Puri Sannyasa Tradition
The Sannyasis of Mata Amritanandamayi Math belong to the Puri Sannyasa tradition. According to the tradition set forth by Adi Shankaracharya, the Puri Sannyasa tradition is characterised by the following – formal allegiance to the Sringeri Math
first Acharya (teacher) – Sureswara
follow the Bhurivara Sampradaya (customs)
traditional Kshetra (Temple) – Rameshwar
traditional Deva (God) – Adi Varaha (The incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar)
traditional Devi (Goddess) – Kamakshi (Sharada)
traditional Veda – Yajur Veda
traditional Upanishad – Kathopanishad
traditional Mahavakya (statement revealing the nature of Absolute Reality ) – Aham Brahmasmi
traditional Tirtha (Holy River) – Tungabhadra
traditional Gotra (descent or lineage) – Bhaveshavar Rishi
Legends of Shankaracharya
Shower of Gold
Before he was eight, as a young Brahmachari, the young Shankara went to a house to beg for his daily food. The hostess was a kind but very poor lady. All she could give him was a small amalaka fruit. Shankara was deeply touched by the sincerity of this poor lady and he invoked Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) by singing spontaneously the Kanakadhara Stotra The legend has it that the Goddess showered golden amalaka fruits into the house.
Changing the course of the Purna river
Shankara’s mother used to go a long way everyday to take her bath in the Purna river. One day the young Shankara found her lying unconscious, due to exhaustion. He prayed to the Lord and the next morning the river started flowing by the side of his house.
Guru Govindapada’s blessings
During the rainy season, the river Narmada was in spate. The flood waters rose and were about to enter the cave in which his Guru was sitting, deeply immersed in Samadhi. His disciples did not dare to disturb him, though his life was in danger. Then Shankaracharya placed his kamandalu (water pot) at the entrance of the cave saying that it would absorb all the waters of the flood. His words came true. The flood waters could not disturb his Guru’s meditation. Guru Govindapada blessed him saying “Just as you contained the flood waters in your kamandalu, you should write commentaries containing the essence of the Vedantic scriptures. By this work you will gain eternal glory.”
When Shankara broached the topic of his embracing the Sannyasa way of life, his mother was reluctant to give him her permission and blessings. One day, however, when he accompanied his mother for a bath in the river, a crocodile caught hold of his leg and started dragging him. His mother could only stand and watch helplessly. Then Shankara called out to his mother, asking her to permit him to become a Sannyasi at least during these last moments of his life. She agreed and miraculously the crocodile let go of Shankara’s leg. To console his mother he promised her that he would come back to her at the time of her death and perform the last rites.
Final rites of his mother
Shankaracharya was some where in North India when he came to know of his mother’s impending death. By using his Yogic powers, travelled through the air to reach her quickly. At her request he granted her divine visions.
When he tried to arrange the cremation of his mother’s body, his relatives refused to help him on the grounds that as a Sannyasi he was not permitted to perform funeral rites. Normally this would have been a serious setback as a cremation involves rituals, which would require physical assistance by a few people. So Shankaracharya performed a miracle. He made a funeral pyre out of plantain stalks. After placing the body on the pyre he took some water and after chanting a few mantras he sprinkled the water on the pyre. Immediately the pyre caught fire. Thus he was able to complete the funeral rites without help.