Turning out to be quite a long day – reached the beautiful temple town of Sringeri with the drive to Chikamagalur still to be done after this. Not much time to hang around at the beautiful temple complex unfortunately.
Sringeri is famous for being the first of the four centres of Advaita philosophy founded by the 9th century saint, Adi Shankara. The presiding deity is Sharadamba, or Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and wisdom.
The town gets its name from the nearby hill, Rishyashringa-giri, believed to be the home of one to one of the chief priests of Lord Rama’s father, Dashratha.
The legend behind the temple location: When Adi Shankara was looking to establish his first institution, he witnessed an unusual sight of a frog delivering its spawn – under a shelter procided by the hood of a cobra! A place that could foster love between natural enemies must be sacred thought the saint and established the Sharada Peetha here.
The Peetha has had an unbroken line of illustrious spiritual leaders, and has enjoyed the patronage of the rulers including the Vijayanagara kings, Keladi Nayaks, the Wodeyars, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
Not only is Sringeri known for its ancient temples, but as a centre of theology with a seminary, a school for priests, a Sanskrit school and a library of rare Sanskrit texts.
The Vidyashankara Temple, resembling a chariot from some angles, was built in 1357 by Vidyaranya in memory of his spiritual teacher, Vidyatirtha. It is a synthesis of Chalukya, Hoysala and Vijayanagara styles of architecture. It has 104 exquisite sculptures from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions. Walls are adorned with friezes of horses, elephants, lions and scenes from the Puranas. A broken idol of Sharadamba is widely believed to have been originally installed by Adi Shankara himself.
The Sharada Temple is dedicated to Sharadamba. In the 14 century, Vidyaranya replaced the sandalwood image installed by Adi Shankara with one made of stone and gold. The temple was rebuilt in its present form in 1906 after being badly damaged by a fire.
The temples are located along the Tunga river, flowing peacefully with fish used to being fed by devotees – no one fishes here as the water and fish are both considered holy.
A bookshop sells publications with the primary goal of propagating Sanatam Dharam around the world. You can check these online too at www.sringeri.net, the official website of the temple complex.
Pity I could not everything I read about the temples for myself. Time to head to coffee country, Chikamagalur.
Some signs for visitors at the temple complex including a map of what’s where.
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