His Holiness, Adi Sankaracharya has been credited to stave off many obstacles and save the Vedic Dharma. Sankaracharya managed to defeat to all the forces opposed to Vedic religion, single handedly, and restore Vedic dharma in our land. Adi Sankaracharya is known as the incarnation of Lord Shiva and founder of Advaita philosophy. A firm believer of Vedas he was strongly against rituals and religious practices that were over exaggerated.
His holiness was born in a poor family in Kaladi (presently Ernakulam) in Kerala. Young Sankara was born to Sivaguru and Aryamba who were childless for a long time, as history says it, the couple performed penance to Lord Shiva for a child and Lord Shiva appeared in their dreams and asked them if they wanted many sons who were mediocre or only one son who would be one of the greatest philosophers of the land, but short-lived, Sivaguru opted for a lone son – who would reach great heights, but short – lived. By the grace of Lord Shiva, a son was born to them. Their son was named Sankara – which meant bestower of happiness. Young Sankara lost his father when he was three years old, but his mother looked after him and performed his upanayanam with the help of her relatives. At the age of sixteen, Sankara became a master in all the four Vedas and six shastras. There are a few miracles written about young Sankara, once as a young Brahmin boy, he went on begging for alms in his village, on the way he met an extremely poor lady who had nothing to give but for a small amla (gooseberry) fruit. Sensing such poverty, he composed a hymn to appease the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, right at her door step. The old lady was showered with golden amlas by the goddess of wealth. In another instance, young Sankara, perturbed by the fact that her mother used to walk long distances to fetch water to perform her daily ablutions, re-routed the course of the Poorna river, to help his mother.
Young Sankara was never interested in the worldly pleasures, his mother wanted to get him married and become a gruhasta. However, in bizarre circumstances, Sankara attained Apata sanyas. He travelled far distances to find a Guru to increase his knowledge, once during his travel – he reached the ashrama of Govinda – bhagavatpada on the banks of river Narmada. He was accepted as a disciple by the great guru, who also initiated him in to the paramahamsa order of sanyas, the highest kind of renunciation. His Guru was highly impressed by the intellectual acumen capacity of the young disciple and commanded Sankara to preach the philosophy of Vedanta through commentaries on principal Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Gitas.
Sankara took leave of his Guru and authored commentaries on Badarayana’s Brahma Sutras, various Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. His holiness also wrote independent treatises called Prakarana Grantas, including Upadesha Sahasri, Atma Bodha etc. In propagating his philosophy, he defeated many philosophers belonging to Buddhist, Purvamimamsakas and others in debates.
In the course of his travel, he reached Kashmir, there he performed several discourses and discussions in the Sarada temple and was honoured by pundits who requested him to ascend the highly respected Throne of Omniscience (Sarvajnapeetha). During this juncture, he learnt that his mother was at her death bed, he rushed back and performed her last rites, despite stiff opposition from his relatives, who said that a Sanyasin cannot perform the final rites of his mother. At the age of 32, he had expounded the Vedanta philosophy through his writings and passed on the same to his intelligent disciples, who could carry on the vedantic tradition. He is known to have disappeared in one of the caves near Kedarnath. Now at this place, there is a beautiful monument built as a memorial to one of the greatest philosophers and son of this land.