Highlights:An important Hindu pilgrimage site, the first Shankara math established by Adi Shankaracharya
Nearest Railway Station:Shimoga
Nearest Airport:Mangalore (110 kms away) How to reach:Well connected by road
Hotel: Accommodation is provided in temple and various small maths across the town
Restaurants: Vegetarian low budget restaurants; hygienic food is served in math
Sringeri is an important Hindu pilgrim center located in Karnataka state of India. It is considered as one of the seven most sacred sites of Karnataka state. It is located in a hill surrounded by lush forest of Western Ghats and on the banks of the beautiful river of Tunga. Sringeri has many important sites. Let us explore most of them in this article.
As per the legend, it was the adobe of sage Vibhantak. He had a son named Rishyasringa (a man with deer's antlers). The site was named after him as Rishyasringapuram and later it became Sringeri. He was the sage who did Ashwamedha yagna for the King Dashrath which resulted in the birth of Lord Rama.
As per another legend, when the demon Hiranyaksha hid the earth inside the ocean, Lord Vishnu took a form of boar (Varaha avatar) and grabbed out the earth using his tusk. The site where his tusk touched the earth got the name - Sringeri.
Adi Shankaracharya, the exponent of Advaita philoshopy and the great Hindu reformer, won a lot of people of other religions and faiths in debates. Mandanamishra of Prayag was one among them. However, his wife Sharada claimed that she would accept the defeat of her husband only if Shankara could win her in debate. She also lost to Shankara in debate. As per the request by him, Sharada Devi followed him all over India. She told him not to turn back; otherwise she would stop following him. After travelling all over North India and Central India, he entered into the forests of Sringeri; when he was passing the river of Tunga, he didn't hear the sound of Sharada's anklets. So, he turned his face to see if she was following him. Sharada Devi, the incarnation of Saraswati, stayed there and thus the famous temple was built for her in Sringeri.
Sringeri is the place where Shankaracharya started his first mutt. Also, it is the site where he spent around 12 years. It is said that he selected this site for his mutt when he saw a hooded snake protecting the frog in labour from the heat of sun. Also, he saw a tiger and a cow drinking water together in the river.
Torana Ganapati Temple:
The temple town of Sringeri and places surrounding Sringeri has many important temples. Most of the temples are located within the temple complex. The first temple located once you enter into the complex is a unique temple of Lord Ganesha called as Torana Ganapati.
Around 400 years back, when Narasimha Bharati IV was the Shankaracharya of Sharada Peeth in Sringeri, there was a news that the temples of Sringeri were in danger due to some invasions. The seer looked for an idol nearby to do meditation and pooja. He could find only the Ganesha idol carved in the 'Torana' of the door. After performing pooja to this idol, the enemies were misled and the temples were saved from the danger. From thereupon, Torana Ganapati emerged into a temple. The only deity is the small image of Ganesh at the upper side of the door. It is a uniue temple where the doors are always closed and the deity is found in the door. The devotees usually visit this temple first before proceeding to the other temples.
Adi Shankara Temple:
The temple of Adi Shankara which stands next to Torana Ganapati temple is comparitively a newly built temple. It has a huge mandapa with pillars full of relief images. Adi Shankara is the main deity of the temple. Shiv Linga idol and the bronze idol of Sharada are also found in the temple.
Sharada is the presiding deity of Sringeri. Please refer the legend above. The original idol of Sharada was a sandal wood idol insallted on the chakra carved out by Adi Shankara in a rock. Later, the temple was built in Kerala style. Bharati Krishna Tirtha installed the current golden idol. Later a lot of renovations were done to the temple.
The lamp post (deep sthambh) is standing in front of the temple tower. Two small shrines are located on either sides of the entrance. The shrine to the right side of the main temple is dedicated to Malayala Brahma. A learned Brahmin scholar who refused to share his knowledge with the others became a Brahma Rakshas (demon) due to a curse. He got rid of his curse due to Vidyaranya (one of Sringeri Shankaracharyas) and became the care taker (kshetra palaks) of Sringeri. The other shrine is dedicated to Ram, Sita and Lakshman.
The main shrine is dedicated to Sharada Devi. She is found in the sitting posture with four hands. The golden idol of the Goddess is a treat to the eyes. The upper right hand of the Goddess carries parrot and Japa mala. The upper left hand has the vessel carrying amrith. The lower left hand has a book whereas the Goddess blesses the devotees with her lower right arm.
The mandapa has a lot of sculptured pillars built in Tamil Nadu style of temple architecture. The temple has one prakara. The popular idol of Shakti Ganapati is found in this prakara. The famous golden chariot and silver chariot are also kept in this prakara. The simhasan (throne) where the metallic idol of Sharada is placed is the throne where all Sringeri Shankaracharyas sit while becoming the head of the mutt. There is a shrine full of utsav idols. There is another shrine where Shiva, Parvati and Nandi are found. Saraswati idol is also found near Shakti Ganapati.
A spectacular temple not to be missed in this great site.
Vidyashankara temple is an architectural marvel and an important highlights of Sringeri town. Located on the banks of the river Tunga, the temple was built in Hoysala and Dravidian architectural style. Vidyashankara or Vidyathirtha was the head of Sringeri Shankara mutt for a period of 105 years between 1229 AD and 1333 AD. As per the legend, he showed an idol called as Chadurmurti idol to his disciple Bharati Teerth. The idol had the carvings of Vidyashankara, Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma with Narasimha and Shiv Linga on top. He claimed that he would go underground and perform yoga for 12 years; at the end of the period, he would have become an idol similar to this. However, some disciples of the mutt dug and tried to find the seer who went underground after three years. As they didn't wait for 12 years, they could find only a small Shiva Linga. Bharati Teerth built a temple for this Shiva Linga idol. Later, his disciple Vidyaranya who was the head of the mutt for the period of 1380 AD and 1386 AD built this huge architecturally beautiful temple with the help of Vijayanagara kings. It should be noted that he was instrumental in the establishment of the Vijayanagara empire.
Fruit garden near Guru Niwas
The spectacular structure stands on a high plinth. The main shrine has Vidyashankara - Shiv Linga. The left side shrine has Vidya Ganapati shrine and the right side shrine has Durga. All these three shrines as well as all the entrances of the temple have very beautiful idols of Dwarapalak. The mandapa has twelve pillars which are marked by the twelve signs of the zodiac. The centra ceiling is an exquisite piece of workmanship. The vimana of the main shrine rises magnificiently with sikhara. The outer wall of the temple has a lot of bas relief images depicting various scenes from Hindu puranas and epics. The bas relief images of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses are also found in the niches all around the temple. A long lamp post is place in front of the temple structure. In between Vidyashankara temple and Sharada temple, there are lot of small temples some of them built on the samadis of various seers of Shankara mutt. Some of the temples in this region are Janardhan Swamy temple with big Anjaneya and Garud at entrance, Sureshwaracharya temple, Vageeswari and Vidyaranya temple, Vrudha Narasimhabharati Swamy temple and Bala Subramanya temple.
Guru Niwas is located on the other side of the river Tunga. From Vidyashankara temple, one has to cross the river to reach Guru Niwas located inside a garden full of fruit trees. It is the abod of Shankaracharya and it is the place from where Shankara mutt is functioning.