On Adi Sankara’s trail – II – Sringeri – The seat of Advaita philosophy

After our trip to Srisailam, following Adi Sankara’s trail, we headed to Sringeri a week later. This time instead of taking our car, we decided to travel to Bangalore by train and then hire a self driven car from Zoom Cars, a new experiment for us to give our already 90,000 kms old Figo a breather. We were lucky to get tickets to Bangalore on the Rajdhani Express. Fans of Indian Railways would know how prestigious it is to get tickets on a Rajdhani Express !

Zooming to Sringeri

For our drive to Sringeri, we took a self driven car from Zoom Cars, a convenient car hiring system if you want to drive while travelling and don’t want to take your own car. We reached Bangalore after experiencing the royal treatment on the Rajdhani and freshened up at the railway station. Breakfast was at a nearby tiffin centre where we devoured two plates each of Bidadi Thatte Idly and Chitranna. The hotel owner looked at us in disbelief when we ordered the second plate of Chitranna ! We, then picked up our pre-booked Ford Ecosport, from Zoom Cars and drove off to meet our family who were already waiting for us at Mysore.

We started from Mysore at 1 PM. The drive from Mysore to Sringeri takes you some of the most scenic landscapes dotted with lush green fields and blue lakes here and there. The roads were good throughout as we passed through Hassan, where we stopped for lunch at Hotel Suvarna Regency, since their pure vegetarian restaurant did not have too many options, we went to their Bar & Restaurant and found every single person, men and women having a peg or two, it was almost a culture shock for us, the lunch was good though ! As we continued our drive out of Hassan, we found men throwing up on the road side ! Later, a friend from Hassan told us, those were common sights in the town !

From Hassan, the landscape changes to the hills and fresh air. We stopped at Cafe Coffee Day at Chikmagulur, the coffee capital of India for a cup of refreshing coffee. As darkness fell, the ghat road to Sringeri acquired a mysterious beauty, something we discovered when we switched off the headlights and found ourselves surrounded by pitch darkness and complete stillness, a scene etched in our memory forever !

Reaching Sringeri around 8 PM, we checked into Hotel Advaith Lancer, we had stayed here on our previous visit and by far found it the best place to stay in Sringeri. After dinner, close to 10 PM, for some reason, the idea of visiting the Sankara Mutt popped up and we drove to Guru Nivas where the current pontiff was performing the Chandramouleeswara Pooja followed by the night Harathi. It was a moment of divine bliss as Vedic chants from young children reverberated in the hall.

Sringeri – Divinity everywhere !

Early next morning, we went to visit the Sringeri Sharadamba Temple. This was our 3rd visit to Sringeri but the magic of the place doesn’t seem to wane. There were two new additions to the temple, one was the tall Raja Gopuram at the entrance, which was under construction during our previous visits.

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The other was a shrine dedicated to Adi Sankara, recently built within the premises of the temple.

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The ancient Vidyashankara Temple, stood beside the Sharada Temple, beautiful as ever !

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Since this was a spiritual trip unlike our previous ones to Sringeri, we had read up a bit about the temple and were surprised to learn that Sri Vidyaranya, the Guru of Vijayanagar Empire founders, Harihara and Bukka was one of the pontiffs of Sringeri Mutt and he commissioned the construction of this temple over the samadhi of his Guru Sri Vidyathirtha. Inside the temple, there is a sandalwood idol of Goddess Sharada which is believed to be the original idol worshipped by Adi Sankara himself ! We did not know this earlier and missed seeing this idol but this time, standing in the temple and praying before the idol that belonged to Adi Sankara’s times, was a feeling that defies words !

We visited the Sharadamba shrine, while we sat there, a devotee was immersed in singing songs in praise of Goddess Sharada. His soulful voice, the freshness of the morning, the calmness of Sringeri and the Thungabhadra river – Divinity was right there ! We performed the Swarna Pushpa Seva, wound up our visit to the temple and headed towards the river bank.

A flight of steps take you down to the river. The Tungabhadra flows in serenity, everything about Sringeri is serene, a trait that the place seems to have acquired listening to the Advaita philosophy for centuries !

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Near the river bank at the end of the steps, there is a sculpture depicting the famous incident that inspired Adi Sankara to choose Sringeri as the seat of his teachings, the story of a snake holding its hood as a shelter for a frog in labour.

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That is the essence of Advaita, where you look at every thing on earth as a manifestation of the Supreme power.

Guru Nivas 

A short walk across the Tungabhadra bridge takes you onto the other bank where the Guru Nivas or the Sringeri Mutt headquarters is located. This 2 minute walk is one of our favourite experiences in Sringeri, savouring the cool breeze from the river, the beautiful landscape of the river and the hills while devotees took a dip in the holy river.

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From the other end, this view of the Vidyashankara temple is something we never get enough of !

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Crossing the bridge, you enter Sringeri Mutt, spirituality is in the very air of this place.

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A place like this will sure to connect you with the God inside you. Just look at the rich shades of green !

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The building is simple, elegant and well maintained, all is quiet around here giving it the sanctity of a hermitage.

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We then went to the main hall where the morning pooja had just concluded and people were waiting for a darshan of the current Guru. In meantime, we performed the Paduka pooja. Soon it was time to meet the Guru, everybody queued up and waited for their turn while he listened to every devotee patiently and engaged in conversations with them. We bowed in respect to the legacy of Adi Sankara.

Completing our visit to the Guru Nivas, we walked back on the bridge to the temple area and spent some more time visiting the temple again followed by a quick visit to the adjacent hall that has paintings depicting the life of Adi Sankara.

It was lunch time by then and we decided to have the temple prasadam. Food is served in the huge dining hall where thousands of people are fed free meals every day, the entire process, system and organisation of the meals is amazing !

Finally, we made our way out the temple, something about the place makes you want to just sit there for eternity and forget the world !

Kigga 

Next, we drove to Kigga, 8 kms from Sringeri, to visit the Rishyasringa temple. Sringeri gets its name from the legendary Rishi of the Ramayana times, who is believed to have lived here. The temple is small but its history goes beyond the times of Adi Sankara. There was a group reciting the Vedas, standing in a place that goes beyond recorded history, made sacred by the greatest philosopher. Listening to the rhythmic chants of the Vedas, the feeling was surreal !

The beauty of the landscape in that short drive from Sringeri to Kigga doesn’t need a mention, we lost count of the number of “wow”s!

It was past 1 PM by the time we were back to our hotel, we checked out and headed back to Mysore via the same Chikmagulur route, rolling down our windows, trying to feel the fresh air of the coffee estates.

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A coffee break at the same Cafe Coffee Day at Chikmagulur later, we were near Belur by 5.30 PM and decided to make a quick visit to the famous Hoysala temple.

Sculpture at its best !

If you want to marvel at human skill, there is no better place than the temples at Belur and Halebid. These 900 year old temples seem to have been built by sheer magic, such is the finesse of the sculpture. Here are a few pictures from our brief visit.

Presenting the Belur Chennakesava Temple built during the Hoysala reign in the 1100s A.D.

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The mindblowing sculpture that covers every bit of the temple makes you wonder if this really was possible by humans !

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Here are the charming Hoysala ladies in their finery !

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Also boggling your mind is this “gravity pillar” that somehow manages its weight only on 3 sides while the 4th side doesn’t touch the platform !

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We spotted an information board that listed the names of the lead sculptors of the temples, they surely had some super human skill in their hands !

It was closing time and we could spend only a little more than half an hour at the temple and had to skip the Halebidu temple.

We have written about the temples before but these are such gems of architecture that you could write about them again and again.

It was dinner time when we reached Mysore. After a pleasant stay at Country Inn & Suites, Mysore, we took the Rajdhani back to Hyderabad, while family set off to Chennai by Shatabdi Express, both trains, the pride of Indian Railways.

We followed Adi Sankara’s trail to Srisailam and Sringeri, if only we could follow his trail through the length and breadth of the country. For now, we will follow his Advaita Vedanta and hope to be better human beings !

Info tidbits

– Information on Sringeri temple timings, pujas and sevas is available at their website http://www.sringeri.net

– Hotel Advaith Lancer is best stay option in Sringeri, you get good accommodation for approx Rs.1800/-.

– Check out the timings for the pooja performed to the Spatika Linga at the Mutt by the Guru every day. This Linga is believed to have been given to the Mutt by Adi Sankara.

– Horanadu Annapurna Temple, Kukke Subramanya Temple and Dharmasthala are other places of pilgrim importance near Sringeri.

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Categories: Karnataka | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “On Adi Sankara’s trail – II – Sringeri – The seat of Advaita philosophy

  1. My upcoming trip is to Hassan- starts from feb 1st. And its a different plan. Will be posting it on my blog. Thanks for sharing!! Have a good day!!

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