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Date of Adi Sankara

 

Viswanatha Sastry

December 2002

 

 

Adi Sankara - National and Cultural Integration

 

Sri Adi Sankara Bhagavatpadacharya is one of the greatest philosophers and

spiritual thinkers of the world. His importance in the religious history of

Sanatana Dharma is unparallelled. His achievements during a very short

life-span of 32 years has astounded observers. Naturally, he has been

regarded as incarnation of the divine. People who are ignorant of Indian

religious history may call him, merely, a logician. The fact remains that he

is the greatest consolidator of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal ethic and

cosmic order that sustains. He gave a comprehensive exposition on Vedanta

and will always be identified with the spiritual tradition of Upanishads. No

Hindu school of thought is foreign to his central doctrine, Advaita. In fact

he treated all schools of Hindu philosophical thought as complementary to

his treatise and drew inspiration from all schools of thought. In his

commentary on Mandukya Karika (3-17) he states that the doctrines of Kapila,

Kanada, Buddha and Arhata who differ among themselves may treat Advaita as

opposed to their doctrines, but Advaita treats them as it's own.

 

Adi Sankara strived for religious harmony and National integration. He

accepted all religious paths, doctrines such as Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya,

Vaiseshika, Purva Meemamsa and contributed to refine such paths enabling the

inquirers to reach the goal safely on the Vedic path. While accepting all

the innumerable forms of God that were being worshipped by people, he

grouped the divinities into six, viz,, Siva, Vishnu, Sakthi, Ganapathi,

Surya and Subrahmanya. He met the leaders who adored these divinities and

convinced them that ultimate truth can be worshipped in many forms and that

choice of the divinity worshipped should not become a contentious issue. He

was the earliest philosopher to recognize that temples could unify the

Hindus, a tradition that was later extolled by the Nayanars. He travelled

all over Bharat and visited several temples, sung hymns, refined and

prescribed traditions of worship. He appointed a Gokarna priest at

Kathmandu, a Nambudiri at Badri and a north-Indian at Rameswaram to

demonstrate that the tradition of Hindu Dharma was uniformly followed in all

parts of Bharat.

 

The greatness Sri Sankara can be seen in the fact that while he was a

champion of Vedic Dharma, he was not opposed to the paths of Baudha or

Arhata. Commenting on the common belief that Adi Sankara is responsible for

the decline of the path of the Buddha, Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati

Sankaracharya of Kanchi said: " This is not true. There are very few

passages in Acharya's commentaries critical of that religion (path of the

Buddha), a religion that was opposed to the Vedas. He was more critical of

the doctrines of Samkhya and Mimamsa which respect the Vedic tradition.Two

Acharyas (Kumarila and Udayana) were mainly responsible for the decline of

Budhism in our land and not Sankara Bhagavadpada. What we are taught on the

subject in our text books is not true."

 

Akhila Bharateeya Itihasa Sankalana Yojana had organized, in Bombay, in

October 2002, a seminar to discuss the dates of three great personalities

Buddha, Chanakya and Sankara - three great thinkers who crystallized the

purusharthas. While scholars expressed different views on Dates of Buddha

and Chanakya, there was unanimity on the date of Adi Sankara. All the eight

papers submitted by scholars pointed only at 2631 Yudhishthira Sakha (Y.S.)

equaling to 507-509 BCE (Before Common Era). Dr. S. Kalyanaraman and Prof.

Y. Sudarshana Rao jointly chaired the session of scholars which deliberated

on the date of Adi Sankara. Sri P. S. Mishra, spokesperson of Puri Matha,

Sri Ch. Viswanatha Sastry, Sri Satyanarayana Sarma and Sri Ramakrshna Rao

were among those who submitted their research monographs.

 

The following paragraphs summarise the main points to support the date of

Adi Sankara as 507-509 BCE.

 

1. Tradition of Sankara Mathas

 

Fortunately, we do have the evidence of tradition sustained by the Sankara

Mathas, to determine the date of Adi Sankara; the tradition which has been

carefully preserved and passed on to us by an un-broken line of revered

Acharyas. We cannot neglect the traditional dates prevailing at various

Sankara Mathas while fixing the date of Adi Sankara. Even though there are

controversies concerning the number of Mathas established by Adi Sankara, we

are able to glean the evidence of tradition from five important Mathas,

viz., Kanchi, Dwaraka, Puri, Badri and Sringeri.

 

Acharyas of vast learning, great piety, mighty intellect and widely

respected Sanyasins who are well versed not only with Advaita, but also with

the Darshanas presided over these Mathas, from time to time. They are

repositories of valuable information passed on to them from generation to

generation, by their preceptors. Unfortunately, foreign historians did not

attach proper importance to the tradition of the Mathas while determining

the Date of Adi Sankara. It is remarkable that the tradition of all Mathas

is consistent and provide corroborative evidence to determine the date of

Adi Sankara.

 

Kanchi Kamakoti Matha: Adi Sankara established this Matha on Vaisakha

Poornima of Sidhardhi year in 482 B.C. According to the tradition of Kanchi

Matha, Adi Sankara's birth date is 509 B.C (Nandana nama samvatsara Vaisakha

Sukla Panchami) and date of siddhi (death) is 477 B.C (Raktakshi nama

samvatsara Vaisakha sukla Ekadasi)

 

Kanchi Matha provides a list of 69 Acharyas from Adi- Sankara to Jayendra

saraswathi Swami .

 

It is said that 56th Acharya of this Matha, Sri Sarvagnya Sadasiva Bodha has

compiled or collected or edited 209 verses. Most of these verses are very

old, and handed down to the successors through ages - a sort of obituary

notices providing Date and Place of death of each Acharya of Kanchi Matha to

facilitate the successors to do Aradhana . This historic work is named as

Punya Sloka Manjari. Sadasiva Brahmendra has written 86 slokas wherein he

recorded the history of Kanchi Matha's preceptors and named it as

Gururatnamalika. Atmabodha, 58th Acharya of Kanchi has written further

slokas revering his Guru and also a wonderful commentary on Gururatnamalika

giving a plethora of references. But unfortunately we are unable to trace

those references. .

 

Sri Kota Venkatachalam comments on the chronology of Kanchi Matha as under:

 

" The chronology of the Kamakoti Pitha is of the utmost importance as it

gives accurate dates for a number of events in the history of India.

Therefore all information is dated, and dated accurately, is of immense

importance to it, There can be no doubt of the accuracy of the chronology as

a whole,"

 

For example Sri Kota Venkatachalam has fixed the date of Andhra Satavahana

king Hala rule as B.C 500 - B.C 489 based on a variety of sources. Sadasiva

Bodha's Gururatnamalika and Brihatsankara Vijaya mentions Adi Sankara as a

contemporary of King Hala and that Sankara granted him Darshan. Dr. T. S.

Trivedia in his Indian Chronology notes that King Hala had Darshan of Adi

Sankara in 494 B.C.

 

Barring small discrepancies we can say that Kanchi Kamakoti Matha has been

able to maintain their records intact and correctly since the Matha (unlike

other Matha-s) did not have to encounter external threats.

 

DWARAKA MATHA: Dwaraka Matha is he first Matha established by Adi Sankara in

the year 491 B.C. on Magha Sudha Sapthami of cyclic year Sadharana. This

Matha records the date of Sankara as Y.S 2631 - 2663 (509B.C - 477B.C.) (

507 B.C - 475 B.C according to P.S. Mishra's computation). Dwaraka

Guruparampara consists of 73 Acharyas upto Sri Rajarjeswara Sankarasrama.

There are striking similarities between the tradition of this Matha and that

of Kanchi Matha. Both of them fix the date of Sankara in the sixty century

BCE. The earlier acharyas of both the Mathas lived very long. The number of

Acharyas in this Matha is nearly same as that of Kanchi parampara. Some

foreign scholars doubt the longevity of our ancestors. But, Sri Kota

Venkatachalam quotes some ancient foreign historians to prove the longevity

of ancient Kings of Bharat.

 

"The Indians are not afflicted with head ache or ophthalmic problems, nor

have they mouth sores or ulcers in any part of the body. The age to which

they live is 120, 130, and 150 years, though very old live 200 years"

(Ancient India as described by Ketosis - Greek historian)

 

"They are just and all men are longest lived, attaining the age of 170 and

some even 200 years" (page 25 of McCrindle, Ancient India).

 

"The inhabitants were believed to attain the age of a hundred and thirty

years" (Early history of India by V A Smith)

 

If this is the case with citizens or Kings in the second and third millennia

BCE, what will be the longevity of Sanyasins who lead their life in great

austerity?

 

Dwaraka tradition is based on Tamra Sasana issued by Sudhanva Maharajah.

The copper-plate epigraph recounts a brief history of Sankara and was issued

in 478-477 B.C. This Sasanam is said to be in Government's custody on behalf

of Dwaraka Matha. This was first published in the book "Vimarsa" written by

former Acharya of Dwaraka in 1872. Based on the Matha's tradition, this

Acharya fixed the date of Adi Sankara as 509 B.C and narrated important

events of Sankara's life. Jagadguru parampara from the day of the Matha's

foundation i.e 491 B.C. is preserved.

 

Sri T.S. Narayana Sastry endorses the importance of this Tamra Sasana and

adds that Gururatnamalika (Kanchi), Sushma (Kanchi), and Vimarsa are of

invaluable interest to historians in determing the date of Adi Sankara.

 

PURI GOVARDHANA MATHA: This Matha is founded on Vaisakha Sukla Navami in the

cyclic year Nala- 485 B.C. Sri Antarkar notes that this date tallies with

Guruparampara Nama mala of Govardhan Matha preserved in Adayar Library.

The age of Adi Sankara as recorded in the list of Puri Matha more or less

tallies with that of Kanchi and Dwaraka. It is said that the first list is

prepared based on the information contained in Guruparampara Nama mala

provided by the then Peetadhipathi Sri Madhusudana Teertha. The list

contains a list of 142 Acharyas upto the above-mentioned Swamiji.

 

'Essay on Date of Sankaracharya' by Yogeswarananda, a former head of Puri

Matha also gives Adi Sankara's date as 509 B.C.

 

P.S. Mishra in his paper states that the records of Puri Matha show Adi

Sankara's date as Vaisakha Sukla Panchami of Kali era 2594 (507 BCE) and his

Siddhi as Kartika Sukla pournami in Kali era 2626 (475 BCE)

 

BADARI JYOTIRMATHA: This Matha was established during cyclic year

Rakshasa on Pushya sudha panchami day.

 

Mathanusasana - A publication of this Matha (1946) gives the date of Adi

Sankara as 509 BCE. Sri P.S. Misra in his paper states that according to

this Matha tradition, the date of Sankara is Kali 2595.

 

MATHAS CONNECTED TO SRINGERI MATHA: Kudali is a Matha with a long history.

Kudali Matha is a very ancient institution. There are references to this

Matha in an inscription dated 1153 CE. Kudali Matha has a lineage of 66

Acharyas up to Sri Sachitananda Sankara Bharathi who attained siddhi in

1970.

 

Upto the year 1970, the Matha's official stand regarding the date of Adi

Sankara has been 44 BCE The latest position is not known. But it is noted

by Sri V G Ramachandran that the 66th achrya (67th according to his list)

strongly advocated the date of 509 B.C.

 

Kalyanananda Bharathi, Head of Virupaksha Branch Matha at Gunturu was a

great scholar. He is the author of several books on Sanatana Dharma and

studies in the history of Bharat. In his book, Epochs of Bharata Varsha,

he cites the date of Adi Sankara as 508 B.C,

 

SRINGERI SARADA MATHA: TS Narayana Sastry notes that, according to

Brihatsankara Vijaya, this Matha was founded in the year Pushya Poornima of

Cyclic year Pingala in 484 BCE.

 

According to tradition of Sringeri Matha, Adi Sankara was born in the 14th

year of Vikrama Saka. P.S. Mishra notes that, based on Ashoka's

inscriptions, there is another Vikram Saka which starts from 521 BCE Thus,

the 14th year of Vikrama Saka would be reckoned as: 521 minus 14 = 507 BCE.

Hence, P.S. Mishra states that, even according to Sringeri Matha's ancient

tradition, Adi Sankara's date is 507 B.C.

 

T.S. Narayana Sastry remarks, "...evidently the year 2625 clearly refers to

the Kali era. Must have been mistaken for that of Yudhishthira Saka. Taking

Yudhishthira Saka, like Jains and Buddhists, which was then prevalent in the

province of Mysore to have commenced 468 years after Kaliyuga, they must

have rendered the year 2625 into Kali era, by adding 468 years to it and so,

must have fixed Sankara's death in the year 3094 of Kali era." This remark

meant that when properly rendered to Hindu Kali era, this date also conforms

with the tradition of other Mathas. However, in recent years, Sringeri

Matha, acknowledges the rationale for determining 788 A.D as the birth year

of Adi Sankara.

 

It is clear from the above particulars that the traditional date Sankara

according to all important Sankara Mathas, with the exception of Sringeri

Matha, is the same i.e., 509 BCE. Nandana Nama Samvatsara Vaisakha Sukla

Panchami, Sunday- Punarvasu Star and this perfectly tallies with the

information recorded in Brihat Sankara Vijaya.

 

2. Sankara Vijayas and other Biographical works

 

T. S. Narayana Sastry, based mainly on Chitsukha's Brihat Sankara Vijaya and

Prachina Sankara Vijaya fixes the date of Adi Sankara. Sushama, Commentary

on Gururatnamalika, also quotes from Prachina Sankara Vijaya and fixes the

siddhi of Adi Sankara: Raktakshi Samvatsara Vrishabha Masa bright Ekadasi in

477 B.C. Slokas and elaborate interpretation can be seens in Age Of Sankar

by T.S.Narayana Sastri. Both the Sankara Vijayas are not available today.

But Dr. Antarkar affirms that Brihatsankara Vijaya is in Kanchi Matha even

today. The translation of Slokas narrating the time of birth of Adi

Sankara from Brihatsankara Vijaya as cited by T.S.Narayana Sastry may

rendered as follows: " Then in the 10th month of her pregnancy which was

filled with all auspicious signs in the year of 2631 of Yudhishtira Saka,

in the auspicious year Nandana, on Sunday the 5th day of bright half of the

auspicious month of Vaisakha when the Sun was in Aries (Mesha), when the

Moon had advanced to the constellation to Punarvasu, in the lagna (known as

Karkata) just at mid-day in the muhurtha, known as Abhijit, with ascending

sign aspected by auspicious planets."

 

One Chronogram from Prachina Sankara Vijaya that cited by Sushama, when

interpreted, gives the date of Sankara as Kali 2593, i.e., 509 BCE.

 

Chitsuka tells us that that Sankara established five Mathas on following

dates:

 

Dwaraka Matha 491-90 B.C

Badri Matha 485-86 B.C

Puri Matha 484-85 B,C

Sringeri Matha 483-84 B.C

Kanchi Matha 481-82 B.C

 

This sequence of dates matches with the tradition of all the Mathas with the

exception of that of Sringeri Matha.

 

2. Corroborative evidence

 

There is a general belief that Adi Sankara was contemporary to Vikramaditya.

That may be one of the reasons for fixing Sankara's date in 44 B.C. There is

no unanimity of opinon on the date of Vikramaditya. According to Patanjali

Charitham Adi Sankara's preceptor Govinda Bhagavatpada had four wives

before relinquishing the worldly life and Vikramaditya was one of four sons

from a Kshatriya mother. Some scholars have mistaken the famous Malwa

Vikramaditya to be Sriharsha Vikramaditya. We know of a Vikramaditya who

ruled Malwa and in his name a Saka (era) is founded. Kota Venkatachalam

says, based on the authority of Bhavishya purana, that this Vikramaditya is

a son of Gandharvasena , a King of Ujjain. His son Deva Bhaktha reigned

after him. The Vikramaditya reffered to by Brihatsankara Vijayam and

Gururatnamalika is Sriharasha Vikramaditya, who is quite different to Malwa

Vikramaditya. According to Alberuni, as quoted by Kota Venkatachalam,

Shriharsha Vikramaditya Era starts at 457 B.C. It would appear that in

Al-beruni's days, this era was used only in Mathura and Kanauj. Kota

Venkatachalam notes that there is an interval of 400 years between Sriharsha

and Vikramaditya Eras. Vikramaditya Era starts from 57 BCE. Hence,

Sriharsha Era can, therefore, be reckoned as starting from 457 BCE.

Venkatachalam proves that Sriharsha reigned at Ujjaini and gives a short

account of Sriharsha's achievements in his Kali saka Vignanam part-1 and

part-3. This Sriharsha Vikramaditya drove away the foreign Sakas and Hunas

and founded his own Era, and he was the son of Govinda Bhagavatpada, in

accordance with Patanjali Charitam . He might have founded his Era

during the fag end of his life. Based on Ashoka's inscription and other

sources, P.N. Mishra opines that one Vikram era started in 521 B.C.

Sriharsha is said to be an emperor of Ujjain when Govinda Bhagavatpada

attained Siddhi in 493 B.C. Shri Kalyananda Bharathi Swami of Abhinava

Virupaksha Shringeri Peetham, writes in his Epoch of Bharata Varsha as

follows: "It is stated by Citsukhacharya, in his Brihat Sankaravija that

when the wonderful news of siddhi of Govinda Bhagavatpada reached the ears

of Sri Harsha Vikramaditya, the-then-emperor of Ujjain, he proceeded to the

island of Mandhata, in Amalesvara on the bank of the Narmada, where the

sacred body of his revered father was interred by his disciples and in

memory of his sacred name whose last word was "Omkara" caused the great

temple of Omkaranatha erected over his samadhi". Brihat Sankara Vijaya also

says according to the Swamiji, that Shri Govinda Bhagavatpada expired on

the full moon of day of the Karthika month. It is said that more than

15,000 people participate even today, in the festival at Amaleswar held

every year on Kathika full moon day. According to Brihat Sankara Vijaya,

Govinda Bhagavatpada expired in the cyclic year of Plavanga, in the year

2646 of Yudhistara Saka = 493-492 BCE. Kota Venkatachalam in his Chronology

of Nepal History also fixes the siddhi of Govinda Bhagavatpadacharya as 2603

of Kali = 493 BCE. Thus, it is evident that scholors mistook Sriharsh

Vikramaditya for Malava Vikramaditya and sometimes even for Chalukya

Vikramaditya. We may list some known Vikramadityas as under who are closer

to the dates ascribed to Adi Sankara:

 

1. Sri Harsha Vikramaditya - 6th century BCE

2. Vikramaditya of Malwa - 1st century BCE

3. Gupta Vikramaditya - 4th Century A.D

4. Badami Vikramaditya - 7th Century A.D (654-81)

 

If Sringeri tradition accepts that Adi Sankara was a contemporary of

Vikramaditya or even assuming that Adi Sankara was born in the 14th year

of Vikrama Saka, 788 AD is not a probable date. Out of these only Sri Harsha

Vikramaditya and Vikramaditya of Malwa had founded Sakas.

 

Sri Natesa Sastry refers to the reign of Varaguna Pandya in or about 2614

Kali ie. 488B.C. during the lifetime of Sankara. This, he gathers from

Halasya Mahatmya, an authoritative and chronological history of the Pandyas

from 1192 BCE to 650 BCE. It is stated therein, that a war broke out between

the Pandyas and Cholas at the time of Varaguna Pandya, the 22nd King of

Kulasekhara Pandya, the founder of the third Pandya dynasty and that the

capital of Cholas was at Kanchi. The Chola king was Raja Sena alias Raja

Varma spoken of in the context of Adi Sankara. It is clear that

Kanchipuram was indeed under the rule of Cholas during 509 BCE, as asserted

by Sankara Vijayams and other biographies.

 

Adiyarkunallar has quoted a Tamil verse that he refers to as an ancient song

in his commentary on Silappadikaram. It means "The emperor Karikala Chola

of the Ist century AD was greatly successful in his expedition upto

Himalayas because of the blessings he had of the Sasta icon, the guardian

angel of Kamakottam, inside the temple of Devi Kamakshi." It is mentioned in

Sankara Vijayams that Adi Sankara had not only consecrated Sri Chakram, but

also got the three famous temples constructed with the help of Rajasena, the

early Chola king who ruled Kanchipuram. The Tamil verse cited confirms that

Kamakshi temple was in existence from first century AD. This adds weight to

the conclusion on the date of Adi Sankara as the sixth century BCE.

 

In Chronology of Nepal History, Kota Venkatachalam says that Adi Sankara

visited Nepal during the reign of Vrishadeva Varma, 18th king of Fifth

Surya Vamsha Dynasty of Nepal. Adi Sankara reportedly argued effectively

with the Budhist Priests through philosophical discourses and reduced the

influence of Buddhism. This is recorded in the Indian Antiquary of December

1884 pp. 411-428, edited by Buhler. In the Surya Vamsha Dynasty, Vrishadeva

Varma ruled for 61 years upto 487 BCE (i.e. Kali 2615). According to

Nepal Rajavamshavali, Bhumi Varman, first of Surya Vamsha Dynasty was

crowned in Kali 1389. Reckoning from this date, upto the 18th king,

Vrishadeva Varma's period would end in 487 BCE. His son was named after

Sankaracharya as Sankaradeva.

 

In his commentary, Acharya mentions Purnavarma as a King of Pataliputra.

Discussing the context in which the said name is mentioned, Sri Natesa

Sastry notes: "The irresistible conclusion, therefore, seems to be that

Sankara was a contemporary of King Purnavarman." Who is this Purnavarman?

Budhist records state that Purnavarman was a King of Magadha. Historians

have found one Purnavarma of 8th century A.D. But Pataliputra was not in

existence during 8th century A.D. After detailed investigations, Sri Natesa

Sastry relates this Purnavarma to King Hala of Satavahana dynasty on the

authority of Vayupurana. His date was arrived as Kali 2593- 2618 . This date

matches with date of 500 - 489 BCE determined by Kota Venkatachalam.

According to T.S.Narayana Sastry, Brihat Sankara Vijaya refers to Hala's

meeting with Adi Sankara. Dr. T.S. Trivadia puts Hala's ascension to the

throne only in 494 B.C and adds that he had Darshan of Adi Sankara in the

same year. V. G. Ramachandran adds: "The existence of Purnavarma as a

historical personage is confirmed by the Japanese Inscription. Since

Hiuen-ts-iang speaks of Purnavarma as having lived in very ancient times,

and since Sankara is known from the Sutra Bhashya to have been his

contemporary, Sankara must have lived in the 5th century B.C."

 

Various Sankara Vijayas including Madhava mention King Sudhanva as a very

great devotee of Adi Sankara. Adi Sankara is said to have converted him

from Jainism. The Jain scriptures describe him as wicked and as a

persecutor of pious Jainas . Jinavijaya about which a mention will be made

later, also refers to King Sudhanva in deprecatory terms. King Sudhanva was

the 6th emperor in Chahaman dynasty and Prithviraj Chauhan was the 68th

emperor in the lineage of this dynasty. In Amit Kalarekha, P.S. Mishra

details a copper plate issued by this King, which is said to be in

Government custody now. This inscription on this copper plate indicates Adi

Sankara's birth year as 509 B.C. This copper plate was first published in

Vimarsa, a book written by Sankaracharya of Dwaraka in 1872. The full text

of the inscription can be seen in TS Narayana Sastri's The Age of Sankara.

This plate is addressed to Sankara Bhagavatpada on 15th day of the bright

half of Ashvina month in the year 2643 of Yudhistara Saka corresponding to

478-477 BCE. T.S. Narayana Sastry notes that Chitsukhacharya's Brihat

Sankara Vijaya corroborates all the statements mentioned in the inscription.

 

Acharya mentioned the names of two cities: Pataliputra and Srughna.

Patanjali also mentions Srughna as a city. According to archaeological

findings, Srughna was destroyed during the third century AD and Pataliputra

was destroyed during the 6th century AD. Since Acharya mentioned them as

thriving cities, the date of Adi Sankara must be a date earlier to the dates

of destruction of these cities.

 

Jainavijaya which deals with the history of Jain religious leaders, talks

about Kumarilabhatta, who is supposed to have studied under Jain Gurus and

who criticized the Jain doctrine vehemently. Jainavijaya is referred to in

Life of Kalidasa, by Mahaavidvan Vidhyavachaspathi Appu Sastri is cited in a

number of research works: vide Nos. 1-3, Samskrita Chandrika Vol. 6, Kota

Venkatachalam in his various books and T.S. Narayana Sastri, The Age of

Sankara. According to Jainavijaya, Kumarilabhatta was born in 557 BCE (i.e.

2077 of Jaina Yudhistara Saka), in a village named Jayamangala on the banks

of Mahanadi. Kurmarila was a son of Yogeswara and Chandraguna. Brihat

Sankara Vijaya notes that Kumarila was 48 years elder to Adi Sankara and

that Adi Sankara, when he was 15 years of age, met Kumarila. Thus, 557

minus 48 = 509 BCE may be reckoned as the date of Adi Sankara according to

Jainavijaya. Punyasloka Manjari refers to Adi Sankara's Siddhi (death) in

477 BCE. Jainavijaya also records exactly the same year, 2157 of Jaina

Yudhistara Saka, i.e., 477 BCE. Jainavijaya is, thus, an astonishing

confirmation of the tradition of Sankara Mathasthe and matches with the

information provided in Brihatsankara Vijaya.

 

In Garhwal ka Itihas, Pandit Harikrishna Rathod states that, according to

ancient records, the Badrinarh temple was constructed in 492 B.C. by Adi

Sankara himself.

 

Explaining Brahman, in Mandukya Upanishad Bhashya, Adi Sankara uses the

term, Karshapana, which referred to a coin in vogue in his times.

Karshapanam was used as a unit of monetary exchange all over Bharat between

6th century BCE. and 2nd Cenrury A.D. Hence, the date of Sankara in all

probability, should be within this period.

 

Hultz - Mss states: "After hearing of Sankara's demise in Kanchi, in 477

B.C. Prithvidhara hurried to Kanchi." According to Hultz Mss no 1,

Prithvidhara was the first pontiff of Kudali Sringeri Math.

 

Dr. Antarkar points out local traditions prevailing in Kalady, Puri and

Kanchi related to a lamp post at Aryamba's Samadhi, Gopalakrishna image,

shrine of Sankara in the Kamakshi temple of Kanchi and suggests that these

traditions put Adi Sankara's date prior to the common era.

 

3. Archaeological evidences

 

In Short History of Kashmir, P. Gwashalal writes, that Gopaditya, King of

Kashmir, built the temple of Sankaracharya on Takhti Sulaiman (hill) in

Kashmir in 367-366 B.C. General Cunningham report on archaeological survey

observes that King Jaluka, son of Ashoka, circa 220 B.C., built the temple

of Sankaracharya on Sankaracharya hill in Kashmir. Later this temple was

said to have been repaired by Muslim rulers. Modern historians do not

accept the date of 320 B.C.on the gound that the architectural style of the

temple points to a later date of the common era. In Shri Adi Sankarachaya's

Date of Birth, A. Kuppuswamy opines that veteran archaeologists hold the

view that the style of a temple has nothing to do with the age of a temple.

He quotes from a number of various sources to support this point of view.

 

An inscription belonging to King Buta (500 - 515 AD) has been discovered at

Village Sanjeli, Gujarat. The copper plate records the grant of two villages

to a temple described as Bhagavadpadalayam under the category of

Parivrajakabhojya. This means that it was a gift to a Brahmin monk. In this

copper plate inscription, "Bhagavatpadalayam" may be interpreted to refer to

a temple of Adi Sankara. Dr. A. V. Narasimha Murthy who reports this based

on research work of Prof. S. Sankaranarayanan and published in Studies in

Indian epigraphy vol xxvi, 2001, p 9 - 24, argues that Bhagavatpada refers

only to Adi Sankara; this is corroborated by an inscription of Chola king

Virajendra (1063-69 A.D.) Thus, this copper plate inscription provides

evidence that a temple of Adi Sankara existed in Gujarat well before 500

A.D.

 

Adi Sankara is referred in the tradition of Bharat as the founder of

Shanmatas (Six deities or paths). Caves sculptures have been found in

Tiruchi, depicting all the six deities within one structure. These

sculptures have been dated to 6th century A.D (reign of Mahendra Varma).

 

There are several ancient sculptures of Adi Sankara in and around 50 kms

radius of Kanchipuram. They perhaps relate to early Pallava period.

 

Literary references

 

Hariswami has written a commentary on Satapatha-Brahmana. Details about the

time and the author of the commentary are found in an introductory part of a

gloss which can be interpreted as 55 BCE Another verse says that Hariswami

was Dharmadhyaksha of King Vikramaditya of Ujjain. This is a reference to

the same Vikramaditya in whose name Vikrama Saka was founded. Kota

Venkatachalam in his several books establishes the existence of Vikramaditya

and the Saka beyond any doubt. In his commentary, Hariswami refers to

Prabhakara, the disciple of Kumarila, a contemporary of Adi Sankara.

According to Udayavir Shastri, Prabhakara is always mentioned as Guru

Prabhakara and Sesha in his Sarvasiddhanta Rahasya mentions clearly that

Prabhakara is a disciple of Kumarila Bhatta. Hence Adi Sankara must have

lived much before 55 BCE.

 

In his commentary on Nirukta, Skandaswami, the teacher of the

above-mentioned Hariswami, refers to Vakyapadiya of Bhartrihari. TS Narayana

Sastri notes that, according to Brihat Sankara Vijaya, Bhartrihari, son of

Chandra Sarma (Govinda Bhagavatpada in his purvashrama) was a contemporary

of Adi Sankara. Skandaswami as the teacher of Hariswami should be dated

earlier than 55 BCE. Hence, Skandaswami's reference to Bhartrihari should

also be earlier than this date. This emphatically places Adi Sankara at a

date much earlier than 55 BCE.

 

Adi Sankara is referred to in many Puranas such as Matsya and Vayu. Modern

historians argue that the date of the Puranas ranged between 350 to 600 AD

(i.e. during the Gupta dynasty). However, Kota Venkatachalam argues that the

Gupta dynasty period should be dated between 327 to 82 BCE. Accepting either

of these views, the date of Adi Sankara should be much earlier than 788 AD.

We had noted earlier, the remarks of T.S. Narayana Sastry: "...evidently the

year 2625 clearly refers to the Kali era. Must have been mistaken for that

of Yudhishthira Saka. Taking Yudhishthira Saka, like Jains and Buddhists,

which was then prevalent in the province of Mysore to have commenced 468

years after Kaliyuga, they must have rendered the year 2625 into Kali era,

by adding 468 years to it and so, must have fixed Sankara's death in the

year 3094 of Kali era." In endorsing these observations of TS Narayana

Sastry, Dr. Antarkar in his thesis observes: ". perhaps same remark applies

more or less to the references in Puranas and other works which bring a

little before beginning of the Christian era. If, therefore, Puranas and

other works prove anything they prove the 6th century B.C. as the date of

Sankara. However this cannot be said to be conclusive."

 

Mathara Vritti on Samkhya Karikas of Gaudapada was translated into Chinese

by Baudha Bikshu Paramardh who died in the year 569 A.D. He has compiled

this work in the year 546 A.D. Mathara should have written this Vritti much

before that period and Gaudapada, who was said to be 120 years old when Adi

Sankara met him, must have lived much before that date.

 

Uttararama charita of Bhavabhuti clearly mentions Vivartavada of Adi

Sankara. Bhavabhuti is dated to 7th century A.D.

 

Ramakrishna Rao argues that Advaita doctrine as expounded by Sankara finds a

mention in Tamil Sangam literature. He argues that Sangam literature is of

great antiquity, circa earlier than 1st century BCE.

 

6. Arguments against the date of 788 A.D.

 

Cambodia Inscription: This inscription reveals that Sivasoman who was a

teacher of King Indravarman, Cambodia (878-887AD) learnt the sastras from

'Bhagavtchankara'. Sri R,M. Umesh and Sri A. Kuppuswamy have discussed this

matter in their books at great length and come to a conclusion that the

'Bhagavtchankara' did not refer to Adi Sankara.

 

Modern historians argue that since Sankara mentioned some passages from

Dinnaga and Dharmakirti, he must have lived after them (i.e. after 6th and

7th century A.D.). But the dates fixed for Dinnaga and Dharmakirti are not

beyond doubt. Internal evidence from their books can be cited to demonstrate

that they belonged to an earlier date. Scholars also note that even the

passages attributed to Dinnaga and Dharmakirti might have been lifted from

some earlier works to substantiate their arguments. Based on Raja Tarangini

and other ancient records, Pandit Udayvir Shastri notes that Nagarjuna lived

during 12th century BCE and that Dinnaga and Dharmakirti lived during 740

and 550 BCE respectively.

 

Dravidasisu : This word from Soundaryalahari has been interpreted to

indicate that Sankara was referring to Gnyana Sambandhar (7th century A.D.)

Several scholars opine that the word was a reference to Sankara himself.

Sambadhar's date is also not beyond doubt. In his paper, Ramakrishna Rao

cites from Sambadhar's Padigam (11:29-5) which has a clear reference to

Shanmatha. As already mentioned, Sankara is believed to be the founder of

Shanmata. Likewise, dates of other Nayanars are also not fixed conclusively.

If Sankara refers to them in very vague terms such as Kantadrohi, these

references cannot form the basis for determining the date of Adi Sankara.

Such arguments related to textual references as synchronisms to fix the date

of Adi Sankara can be used only after an authentic list is compiled, of

works which can be attributed to Adi Sankara and not to Sankaracharyas of

Mathas (for e.g. Abhinava Sankara of Kanchi Kamakoti Matha).

 

Belgaum Chronogram: This chronogram mentions Sankara's birth tithi as Sukla

Dasami against the tradition which refers to Panchami as the birth tithi.

This tithi if Sukla Dasami may refer to the birth date of Abinava Sankara .

 

7. Cause for confusion

 

As already noted, the Mathas established by Sankaracharya were headed by

eminent Acharyas who were in some cases compared in erudition, with Adi

Sankara himself. All Acharyas heading the Mathas established by Adi Sankara

are respectfully referred to as Sankaracharyas. Such a great Acharya was the

Acharya of Kanchi Matha during 788 - 840 A.D. Those scholars who assert that

Adi Sankara lived in the 8th century, may perhaps be referring to his 38th

successor at Kanchi Matha, Abhinava Sankara. Likewise, there are several

references to Sankaracharyas, as contemporaries of various historical

personalities.

 

Conclusion

 

Adi Sankara lived between 509 B.C - 477 B.C based principally on the

tradition of the Sankara Mathas corroborated by other evidences - textual

and archaeological. It is the duty of researchers and scholars to strive to

tie the loose ends such as: non-availability of source books and conduct

further archaeological work on sites such as: Shankaracharya Hill in

Sanjeli site and further research work on source-books of ancient Tamil

tradition and Sangam literature.

 

 

 

Abbreviations:

 

CE - Common Era

AD -Anno Domini

BCE - Before Common Era

Y.S. - Yudhishthira Saka

 

End-notes

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