Abode of the goddess of learning

Abode of the goddess of learning

Sringeri is a famous pilgrimage centre in Chikkamagaluru district, nestled in a picturesque spot in the foothills of Sahyadri ranges. The temple of Sri Sharadamba was built here by Sri Adi Shankaracharya when he set up the Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham here. The complex is an idyllic location with the serene Tunga river on one side and the beautiful Rishyashringa-Giri hills on the other sides. The main shrine is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Adjacent to the Sharadamba Temple, there is the famous Sri Vidyashankara Temple in the math complex.

There is an interesting legend behind the setting up of the Sringeri Math and the temple. Long ago, Sri Adi Shankaracharya, during his travels across India, reached Sringeri on the bank of Tunga. There he saw a strange scene, a king cobra had spread its hood to provide shade to a pregnant frog from the hot afternoon sun.
He understood that the place has some enchanting influence and decided to set up a math here. So, he built the Sharadamba shrine, installed and consecrated a sandalwood idol of Saraswati as Sri Sharadamba in the shrine over a sacred Sri Chakra carved on a rock by Adi Shankara himself. Subsequently, the temple was built in Kerala style, with timber and tiled roof. Later, the sandalwood idol was replaced with the present golden idol.

Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati raised the present structure with polished granite walls around the sanctum and Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati III consecrated the new temple in May 1916. Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha, the 35th Jagadguru, made several improvements in the temple.

The mahamantapam has huge stone pillars exquisitely carved with deities like Durga, Raja Rajeshwari and dwarapalakas, all sculpted according to shilpa shastras. The temple is built in the Dravidian style of architecture. A speciality of this shrine is the standing dwarapalikas (female forms) on both sides of the golden door of the garbhagriha.

The garbhagriha and the mukhamantapa are enclosed in a fine cabinet of polished granite and surrounded by finely covered pradakshina patha. Sri Sharadamba with her beaming countenance, sparkling eyes and serene smile sends a thrill of awe through the hearts of the devotees.

In the year 1999, the present Jagadguru, Sri Bharati Tirtha, dedicated a golden chariot to Goddess Sharada. Golden doors were installed and inaugurated at the entrance of the sanctum of Sri Sharada temple. The gold covering to the door is a marvellous piece of art. The eight panels have the figures of Ashta Lakshmi inscribed on them. There is also a silver chariot within the premises, which is used during festivals when the deity is taken out for a procession. Beside the shrine,outside, there are two smaller temples, one for Adi Shankaracharya and another for Thorana Ganapathi.

Vidyashankara Temple

The Vidyashankara Temple, built by Sri Vidyaranya in the 14th century, is renowned for its architectural excellence. The architecture of the temple is a confluence of Dravidian and Hoysala styles. The main hall in the front has 12 sculptured pillars on which the 12 zodiac signs are marked. It is said that the rays of the sun fall on them in the order of the solar months with only one pillar being lit up by the sun's rays each month.

An ashram is located on the other bank of River Tunga and a small bridge takes us over the river. As we enter the ashram premises, we come across a beautiful garden called Narasimha Vanam, where several spotted deer roam free. A few steps take us to the ashram offices, the meditation halls and the Guru Nivas of the present acharya (Jagadguru). The famous sphatika linga of Chandramoulishwara, made of quartz crystal stone, believed to have been brought from Kailasa by Adi Shankaracharya is kept at the Guru Nivas and is worshipped by the acharya in the evenings. On Vijayadashami day, hundreds of children are initiated into learning at the temple premises.

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