SHRINGERI

Shringeri (shRingEri) (ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ) is an important place not only as a destination of pilgrims, but also as a town of historical and architectural/sculptural significance. The Vidyashankara temple located here is known for the knowledge of astronomy shown by its builders. It is situated on the banks of the Tunga River at a distance of 334 kilometers from Bangalore. It is a taluk head quarters in Chikkamagalur district. Legends associate this town with the sage Rishyashringa and his father Vibhandaka. Historical antiquity of Shringeri is based on the evidence provided by inscriptions. Shringeri did have Jaina connections prior to the twelfth century even though it is now known as a Hindu shrine. There is a Parshvanatha Basadi right in the middle of the town. Vestiges of Buddhist and Jaina architecture are still to be found in the Hindu temples that are florishing now. This is more a question of an amalgamation of architectural and sculptural styles rather than religious imposition.

Shringeri houses one of the four seats of religious power (AmnAya maTa) established by Jagadguru Shankaracharya in the eighth century. He installed an icon of ‘shAradAmbA Devi’ in a temple built in the premises of the maTa. However the place is closely associated with the Vijayanagara Empire. VidyAraNya who is credited with the founding of the empire was a pontiff of Sringeri maTa. Hundreds of inscriptions erected during these times are found in and around Shringeri. Harihara-1, Bukka, Harihara-2, VirUpAksha are some of the Vijayanagara kings who visited this place from time to time and gave generous endowments and land grants to the MaTA. Shringeri was protected by the kings of the KeLadi dynasty and the ODeyar dynasty of Mysore at later dates. A mention must be made of the munificent donations made by Tipu Sultan for the renovation of the temple and the installation of a new statue after it was damaged by the invasion of marATas. Tipu Sultan had a running correspondence with the pontiff of the maTa and has written no less than 29 letters showing his concern and loyalty. ImmaDi Krishnaraja ODeyar, CAmarAja ODeyar and Nizam Ul Mulk of Hyderabad are other kings who patronized Shringeri maTA and the temples generously.

Hundreds of basadis virtually in ruins bear testimony to the fact that Jainism had a strong base here before the arrival of Adi shankarAcArya.

ShAradAmbA, VidyAshankara, MallikArjuna and shankarAcArya temples are the most important shrines in this place.

ShAradAmba temple was built in the eighth century A.D. Originally it was an unpretentious shrine with the Murti of Sharada made of sandalwood, installed over the Sri Chakra that Sri Adi Shankara carved on a rock. Later on a temple  made of wood was built during the days of VidyAraNya and BAratItIrttha. The icon was replaced by a Gold statue. The present structure was built during the first few decades of the 20th century. (1916)

The shrine designated as Vidyashankara is the most important temple in Shringeri.  This temple was built by Vidyaranya in the 14th century in honour of his guru ‘VidyatIrtha’.  The architecture of this temple is a pleasing combination of Chalukya, Hoysla and Vijayanagara styles. Some scholars have surmised that this temple might be standing on the site of an earlier Hoysala temple. It stands on a richly sculptured basement. There are six doorways leading into the temple.

The twelve pillars of the Vidyashankara temple are known as ‘rAshistamBa’s or Zodiac pillars. Each one of them is engraved with a symbol of a particular zodiac sign. They are built such that the rays of the rising sun reach the deity in the inner sanctorum with out fail. The rays of the Sun fall on the pillar with the relevant zodiac sign depending the month of observation. Then it is deflected on to the deity. The northern and southern gates enable the surise view from the hall during solstices. This demonstrates the erudition and the engineering skills of the architects of this temple. Among the many delicate carvings, lions that are engraved in biped positions on the pillars may be mentioned.There are stone balls inside the growling faces of the lions and they can be moved inside their mouths. (The on line article found in the link provided below is very useful.)

Mallikarjuna temple atop a small hill is very ancient. It contains a bass relief of the Goddess BuvanEshvari. The town also contains a number of small temples dedicated to various Hindu Gods such as Harihareshvara, Shankaranarayana etc. 

 

 

Further Readings and Links:

1.      ‘History of Sringeri’ by A.K.Shastry and Tonnemane, 1982, (1973?) Prasaranga, Karnatak University, Dharwar.

2.      The zodiacal pillars of Sringeri (An article on the Zodiac pillars at the Vidyashankara temple by Dr B.S.Shylaja, a well known astronomer and science writer)

3.      www.templenet.com/Karnataka/vidysrin.html(Vidyashankara temple)

4.      karnatakatravelinfo.com/sringeri.html

 

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