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Located amidst the Sahyadri hills in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka, Sringeri is on the left bank of the river Tungabhadra.
As one of the most celebrated pilgrimage centers of Karnataka State, Sringeri is the home of Sharada Peetham (Sarada Peedam) which was established by Adi Sankaracharya, the first among the four Amnaya Peethams. This was more than twelve centuries ago. The sacred tradition of Sanatana Dharma is fostered here.
The story goes that when Sankara Acharya came to Sringeri, he happened to see an unusual sight on the banks of the river Tunga. A cobra was spreading out its hood over a frog in labor pains, thus providing shade from the scorching sun. What stuck Sankara was that this was the place that could infuse love even among natural adversaries, such as snake and a frog. Therefore, it thought that this was the fittest spot to establish the temple he wanted to. The Acharya chose this very place to establish his first Mutt.
Vidya-Sankara temple Sringeri
Vidya-Sankara or Vidyathirtha headed the Peetham for a period of 105 years from 1228 to 1333 AD. He was considered one of the greatest gurus of this peetham. Vidyaranya headed the peetham from 1331 to 1386 AD and was instrumental in the establishment of the Vijayanagara Empire. The Vidya-Sankara temple was built in fond memory of Guru Vidyasankara or Vidya thirtha. Legend has it that this temple was built over the mortal remains of Vidyathirtha, the teacher of Vidyaranya.
The Vidya-Sankara temple, with six entrances, stands in the shape of a chariot with its awe inspiring gopurams soaring to the sky. The presiding deity of this temple is the Shiva Linga, known as Vidya-Sankara, installed over the Samadhi (final resting place). The effect of the imposing granite structure of the Vidya-Sankara temple with intricate carvings is awe-inspiring. The temple is a vivid testimony to the Dravidian and Hoysala school of engineering.
This temple hosts about one hundred and four images in Hoysala style. A large stone with a circle drawn with lines corresponding to the shadow of the pillar as it falls during the month. Five cells house the images of Vidya-Ganapati, Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara and Durga. Ruby images of Venugopala and Srinivasa, and a Nandi made of a large pearl can be seen in this temple. Several inscriptions seen in the temple describe the contributions made by the Vijayanagar emperors.
The twelve pillars which correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac are seen in the main temple and are reckoned as 'Raasi pillars'. Yet another feature of these skillfully erected pillars is that they receive sunlight on the basis of the solar calendar. Each column has a large roaring lion which has non-removable rolling stone balls in its mouth. The temple also features 61 images carved in bas relief depicting various scenes from the puranas.
From across the river, the temple looks seated like a majestic swan. It is believed that when Adi Sankaracharya installed the image of Saradamba, it was in sandalwood installed over a Sri Chakra that Sri Adi Sankara carved on a rock. But historical facts indicate that this was substituted by another image made of pure gold later with the advent of the 14th century.
Krishna Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya had a temple built in the Kerala style, with timber and tiled roof. Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha substituted the sandalwood idol with the present golden idol.
After setting up the image of Sarada in this temple, Adi Sankara commenced the propagation of the philosophy of non dualism, known as Bharati Sampradaya.
Saradamba Temple Sringeri
When Sri Adi Sankaracharya chose Sringeri to build the temple, Saraswathi Devi was with him in the form of a young girl, Bharathi. She decided to stay here. Adi Sankara also decided to stay here and put up the Sringeri Sarada Peetham. He built a temple for Saraswathi and installed a sandalwood idol of Saradamba, in a standing posture.
Sarada Devi is enshrined here and seated on a Sri Chakra, installed by Adi Sankaracharya. She is seen holding a japa mala and a parrot perched atop her hand. Sanctified by continuous and unbroken succession of Acharyas with devotion, the image of Sarada radiates grace and unsurpassed beauty.
Shrines of Shakti Ganapati and Bhuvaneswari are also found here. There is also a shrine for Adi Sankara. Saradamba is taken on procession in a silver chariot around the temple on Fridays. During the navarathri festival, you can view processions of Saradamba and other shrines such as Shakti Ganapati, Mahishasuramardhini and Rajarajeswari.
Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Narasimha Bharati raised the temple to its present structure in granite with polished granite walls around the sanctum. This new temple was consecrated in May 1916. The deities in the temple are all carved according to the Shilpa Sastras practiced in Tamil Nadu. Near the temple is the Brindavan of Sureshwarcharya.
In 1999 the present Jagadguru Sankaracharya Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamigal dedicated a golden chariot at Sringeri. Again, golden doors were installed at the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Sarada temple. The eight panels have Ashta Lakshmi installed on them.
During navarathri festival, which is celebrated on a grand scale every year, Shathachandi Homa Poornahuti is performed on the Mahanavami day. Deepotsava is conducted on Sarada shrine.
Peetham at Sringeri
Sri Adi Sankaracharya invoked the Goddess Sarada, the Divinity of Knowledge and consecrated to the peetham he found at Sringeri. He also taught the doctrine of Advaita. This Peetham fosters the Vedas and the sacred tradition of Sanatana Dharma and came to be known as Dakshinamnaya Sri Sarada Peetham. Thus Sringeri is known as a great place of traditional learning owing to the divine presence of Goddess Sarada and the erudition of the Acharyas of the Peetham.
It was in the fourteenth century that royal patronage of the Vijayanagar empire came to the Peetham under the 12th Acharya Jagadguru Sri Vidyaranya. Soon the Peetham was granted the rights over secular administration of the land. Over the years the Peetham rose into a mighty institution - a Samasthanam and today as the Jadadguru Sankaracharya Mahasamsthanam Dakshinamnaya Sri Sarada Peetham at Sringeri.
Several rulers including the Mysore Maharajas, Nizam of Hyderabad, Peshawas, Keladi rulers and Travancore Rajas were drawn towards the Peetham and they respected the Acharyas as their Guru. The Peetham continues to uphold the principles of Sanatana Dharma under the 36th Acharya Jagadguru Sankaracharya Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji.
To cater to the devotees visiting the Darshan of Goddess Sri Sarada, the Sarada Peetham has constructed guest houses near the temple. These are provided to the pilgrims on a non commercial basis and a minimum fee is collected from the devotees. 'Sri Bharathi Teertha Prasada' caters to the need of devotees and Annadana (free food) is served to all devotees, almost 7500 people.
Mangalore is the nearest airport. Shimoga and Kadur are the nearest railway stations. Bus services ply from major towns of Karnataka to Sringeri. Bangalore is at a distance of 336 km from Sringeri. Private taxi and buses are also there from Kundapura city.
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