Adi Shankaracharya’s birthplace to be declared as national monument

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    • The National Monuments Authority (NMA) chairman met the governor of Kerala regarding the declaration of the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya in the state as a monument of national importance.
      • Earlier, the Prime Minister had unveiled a 13-feet statue of Adi Sankara at Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand.

    About other sites surveyed

    • Kashmir valley: The NMA also did a detailed survey of important Hindu-Buddhist monuments in the Kashmir valley.
      • Kashmir has a large number of ancient temples, Buddhist stupas and chaityas. Regrettably, none of these sites, in the last 74 years, have been recommended for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
      • There are numerous 6th-8th century ancient Hindu sites in the Valley, and Buddhist temples from the 3rd and 4th centuries, that are being preserved by state and central units of the ASI.
    • Other important sites
      • Harwan Buddhist site in Srinagar, a globally recognised monument, didn’t even have an access road.
      • Martand temple can be given a new look with rebuilding its stone blocks as per ASI norms under its guidance.

    Who Designates Monuments of National Importance?

    • A monument of national importance: is designated by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).
    • Aim: It authorizes the central government to “maintain, protect and promote the site”, which may be considered of significant historical importance, as mandated by the Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
    • Currently: there are around 3,600 monuments of national importance being protected by the ASI.

    Adi Shankaracharya – The Legend 

    • Birth: Adi Shankara is said to have been born in Kaladi village on the bank of the Periyar, the largest river in Kerala.
      • He left home very early in search of learning and to become a sanyasi.
    • A remarkable saga: The Adi Shankara story is a remarkable saga of travel and adventure, philosophical inquiry, conflicts in faith, exegesis, establishment of lineage, organization and mobilization, etc.
    • Shankaravijayas: The story recounted today has been reconstructed from multiple Shankaravijayas (Conquests of Shankara) written over the centuries.
    • Legendary stories:
      • Sanyasi story: In one legend, a crocodile caught hold of the young Shankara while bathing in the Periyar, and told his mother it would let him go if she allowed him to take sanyas. She reluctantly agreed and Shankara swam ashore.
      • Kanakadhara Stotram: In another legend, the young Shankara visited a poor Brahmin household, where the woman of the house apologetically fed him an amla, the only food she could offer. A grateful Shankara composed the Kanakadhara Stotram, following which there was a rain of golden amlas, which brought prosperity to the household.
      • Stories that suggest his supernatural powers: By scholars such as Mandana Misra and his wife Ubhaya Bharati, Kumarila Bhatta, etc. suggest his supernatural powers after being challenged by Ubhaya Bharati on aspects of kama, the celibate Shankara is said to have undergone parakaya pravesha to gain knowledge about sex.
    • Important spiritual centres: In a lifespan of just 32 years, he is said to have visited all the important spiritual centres of the time from Kanchi (Kancheepuram) to Kamrup (Assam), and Kashmir and the Kedar and Badri dhams, as well as Sringeri, Ujjain, Kashi, Puri, and Joshimath.
    • He is generally identified as the author of 116 works: among them the celebrated commentaries (bhashyas) on 10 Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Gita, and poetic works including Vivekachudamani, Maneesha Panchakam, and Saundaryalahiri.
    • Shankarasmrithi: It has also been claimed that Adi Shankara composed texts like Shankarasmrithi, which seeks to establish the social supremacy of Nambuthiri Brahmins.
    • Political appropriation: The mathas Shankara is believed to have established in Sringeri, Dwaraka, Puri, and Joshimath for the spread of Advaita Vedanta.
      • These are seen as custodians of Hinduism, and Shankara’s digvijaya (conquest) is often interpreted as a near nationalistic project where faith, philosophy and geography are yoked together to imagine a Hindu India that transcends the political boundaries of his time.
    • Death: He is believed to have attained samadhi at Kedarnath; however, Kanchi and Thrissur are also talked about as places where Adi Shankara spent his last days.

    Significance of Adi Shankaracharya

    • Revived the Hindu Culture: Adi Shankara helped compile the Advaita Vedanta and revived the Hindu Culture on the verge of decline.
    • The trio: Along with Madhava and Ramanuja, Shankara formed doctrines that followed and are respected to date in the respective sects. The trio is considered the most potent icon of the recent history of Hindu philosophy.
    • Master of Advaita Vedanta: Shankara’s great standing is derived from his commentaries of the prasthana trayi (Upanishads, Brahmasutra and Gita), where he explains his understanding of Advaita Vedanta.
      • According to Advaita Vedantins, the Upanishads reveal a fundamental principle of nonduality termed ‘brahman’, which is the reality of all things.
    • Ritual practices: He is believed to have established the ritual practices at the Badri and Kedar dhams, and to have debated with tantric in Srinagar.

    Source: TH