Date of Shankara

Date of Shankara the great saint of Hinduism is always been controversial. Dates ranging from 5th century BC to 9th century AD. Let us analyze the dates.


Internal Evidence
The most important internal evidence comes from Sankara's verbatim quotation of Dharmakirti, the buddhist logician. Hsuan Tsang , the Chinese pilgrim, who visited India in the time of Harshavardhana, king of Thanesar (606 - 647 CE), gives clues to Dharmakirti's date. He also mentions Bhartrhari , but not of Sankara. It follows that Sankara is post-Dharmakirti, and possibly post-Hsuan-Tsang also.


Astronomical Details
Various Sankara-vijaya texts are not of much use. The details in one work contradict those in another. Dates ranging from the 5th cent BCE to 8th cent CE have been calculated on the basis of such astronomical details. One further complication is that some astronomical information is said to have been obtained from works which are not available anywhere in India. So no firm conclusion can be drawn based on this.


Records of Mutts
Whether Sankara established any Mutts at all has been questioned. Paul Hacker attributes the tradition of four amnaya-maths at Sringeri, Puri, Dvaraka and Joshimath to Vidyaranyasvamin. The native oral tradition, takes the history of these four Mutts,each associated with one of the four geographical directions and one of the four vedas, to Sankaracarya himself. The dasanami sannyasi-sampradaya, with its various akhadas in northern India, accepts affiliation only with these four mutts. There historical evidence for the existence of the oldest dasanami akhadas as early as the 9th cent. CE. It is immaterial whether Sankara established them himself or whether these four mutts developed naturally at the places where the four famous disciples of Sankara lived and taught. Of these four mutts, the Joshimath title had long been vacant, till it was revived in 1940 CE. So, it does not have many ancient records. The Dvaraka and Puri mutts have, in the past, claimed a date of 5th century BCE for Sankara. This is partly based upon a dating of a grant by a king named Sudhanva who is supposed to have been a contemporary of Sankara. Nothing else is known about this king, and the grant itself has not been dated with any accuracy.And Dvaraka and puri mutts have patchy histories, with periods when there were no presiding Sankaracaryas.


Sringeri Mutt
Sringeri mutt in karnataka has been the only mutt of the original four which has had an unbroken succession of mathadhipatis, as southern India has not experienced as many political upheavals as the north. The Sringeri mutts record states that Sankara was born in the 14th year of the reign of Vikramaditya. The record does not give any clue about the identity of this king. Some 19th century researchers identified this king with the famous Vikramaditya of the Gupta dynasty, thereby postulating a date of 44 BCE for Sankara. Gap of 700 years was then assigned to Suresvara. The later successors in the Sringeri list can all be dated reasonably accurately from the 8th century downwards. If one identifies the Vikramaditya as a member of the Western Chalukya dynasty, which ruled from Badami in Karnataka. The Chalukya dynasty reached its greatest fame in the time of Pulakesin II, who defeated Harshavardhana. There were two kings named Vikramaditya in this Chalukya dynasty - Vikramaditya I ruled in the late 7th century CE, while Vikramaditya II ruled in the early 8th century. It is more reasonable to identify the Vikramaditya of the Sringeri record with one of these two Chalukyan kings, who ruled from Karnataka, rather than the northern gupta king, whose empire did not include southern India. This interpretation of the Sringeri record is also consistent with the internal evidence from Sankara's works.


Mutt Politics
In addition to these four original mutts, a number of other advaita mutts have come into being over the centuries, some of which are quite well-known. These mutts either started out as branches of the original institutions, or were set up as independent monasteries by notable sannyasis of the dasa-nami order. With the proliferation of such mutts came a number of "traditions," many of them conflicting with one another in details. some of these mutts also claim to have been established by Sankara himself., Some of them also claim 5th century BCE to be the date of Sankara.

The intimate connection of the founders of the Vijayanagara empire with the Sringeri mutt, and the competition by other mathadhipatis in the south for similar honors as traditionally accorded to the Sringeri Mutt. Every southern Mutt with a claim to be the "original" one wants to deny Sringeri's chronological primacy. This denial only has the effect of reinforcing the fact that Sringeri has been the most important advaita mutt for centuries. As such, their conflicting claims about Sankara's date have to be evaluated in the context of their political motivations in putting forth such dates.

Kanchi Mutt
Fifth advaita mutt at Kanchipuram is very active today, does not mean that it has always been so, nor does such activity lend any special credibility to its claims to antiquity. The political influence and prestige that a Mutt enjoys today also do not confer any legitimacy to such claims. It is inconceivable that the dasa-nami-sampradaya would have overlooked a fifth mutt in choosing its affiliations. Claims to historicity that are made in a spirit of political one-upmanship seldom stand up to serious scrutiny. There is no necessary correlation between the modern activity of an advaita mutt and its claimed antiquity.

Gaudapada

Gaudapada is ParamaGuru of Shankara. Guru Govinda was Shankara's guru. So if we find the date of Guru, we can arrive at the date of Shishya. Gaudapada lived after the major Buddhist writers especially, Vasubhandhu, Nagarjuna, aryadeva (disciple of Nagarjuna) whose work he clearly reflects. In the 6th century work of Bhavaviveka, there is a direct quotations from Guadapada. Bhavaviveka was junior contemproary of Dharmapala whose date is confirmed by Chinese travellers in 5th century AD. So he has to be earlier than that, that is 5th century AD.  Traditional advaitha list Gaudapada is student of Shukdeva who in turn was student of Ved Vyasa of Mahabharata. We can even argue bhavaviveka and Gaudapada are arguing from same source. Many also argue that Gaudapada is a institution not a person. To cut short the discussion, we can say that Gaudapada lived around 5th century AD. When shankara says Gaudapada to be his paramaguru, we have to take the context. Guru Govinda padacharya was shankara's guru and his guru greatest Guru is Guru Gaudapada. In this context we can see shankara comes around 800 AD date.


conclusion
The official date accepted currently is 788-820 CE, and the Government of India celebrated the 1200th anniversary of Sankara's birth in 1988. This date is largely based upon one traditional view prevalent in India.

18 comments:

  1. by saying Fifth advaita mutt at Kanchipuram is very active today, does not mean that it has always been so, nor does such activity lend any special credibility to its claims to antiquity, the auhtor refuses toa ccept any other proposal. it is not fair. it seems to be it is still an open question

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  2. Unfair, Not at All.

    Ramanathan Please follow the link to Kanchi mutt origins. You will get the full picture

    http://controversialhistory.blogspot.com/2009/06/myths-of-kanchi-kamakoti-peetam.html

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  3. PLEASE REFER MY BLOG ramchandrakamath.blogspot.com paramaguru gaudapada shankara govindapada shankara omkareshwar etc.

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  4. Mr. Kamath your Article does not give any evidence for 509BC date. Even if the other three mutts tell this date, there should be a basis for the same. The Same is never presented.

    My Logic is simple Dharmakirti is mentioned by Adi Shankara, then he comes after Dharmakirti. Dharmakirti date is confirmed by Independent source Hieun Tsang.

    If the date can be proved to be 509BC, I will gladly accept it. The present evidence point to 8th century AD only.

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  5. All acharyas are called after original Sankara.
    Then whom did Dharmakirti refer to?

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  6. Dharmakirti does not refer to Shankara, Shankara refers to Dharmakirti. Get your facts right sundar, stop speculation

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    1. which Dharmakirti did Shankara refer to? that's a question as well

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    2. AdiShankara Debated with Mandana Misral (8th century AD). In this debate Adi Shankara Quotes Dharmakirti work Vijnanavada, which is confirmed by sureSvara

      Dharmakirti is South Indian , who went to study In Nalanda under his uncle Kumarila Bhatta and became Teacher there. He explained Dignaga in a work called Vijnanavada

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    3. Kumarilla is from North India, maost likely a Mithila. Then how did he get a nephew in southern India?

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    4. What Happened to Kumarila from Assam Argument.

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  7. do you know ? shringeri till 1940 was claiming 44BC AS SHANKARA DATE . LATER AFTER 1950 IT STARTED TO DATE SHANKARA AS 788-820 AD. WHAT A FUN.IT IS STATED SO IN W R ANTARKARS RESEARCH THESIS. THERE IS A REFERENCE IN THE THESIS THAT SHRINGERI AGENT IN 1845 SUBMITTED A AFFIDAVIT IN KERALA COURT IN A DISPUTE' THAT IT IS 2000+ YEARS OLD AND HAS GOT 66 SWAMIJI SHANKARACHARYAS LIST. BUT NOW THE PRESENT REIGN LINEAGE IS 36. WHAT A WONDER..... WHAT DOCUMENTARY EVIDEBCES ENABLED THE THEN SECRETARY RELIGIOUS AND ENDOWMENTS COMMISSION TO POSTULATE 788 AS SHANKARA DATE? EVEN IF YOU TREAT VIKRAMADITYA II OF CHALUKYA DYNASTY THE DATE DOES NOT SUIT TO SHRINGERI ASTRONOMICAL DATE ALSO. PLEASE NOTE ALL THE SHANKARITE PEETAMS EXCEPT SHRINGERI ARE OF ONE STAND SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL THAT IS 509BC WHICH CAN NOT BE NEGLECTED EVEN SINGLY SHRINGER PEETAM DECLARES AS ACCEPTED. THE EVIDENCES PRESENTLY AVALABLE ARE NOT SUFFICIENT TO GIVE A FINAL WORD ON DATE . TILL FURTHER HISTORICAL EVIDENCING IS MADE IN FUTURE DAYS PLEASE BE HAPPY WITH THE PRESENT ONE EVIDENCED DATE. REMEMBER THE CASE OF RIVER SARASWATHI WHICH WAS DECLARED AS RIVER IN MYTH NOW PROVED THAT THE EXISTENCE OF RIVER SARASWATHI AS A HARD CORE TRUTH. LIKE WISE SHANKARA DATE TOO.......

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  8. Ramachandra kamat or whatever name you call yourself, Your arguement is just one side, there are various sides. What is the date of vikramditya, there are about a dozen vikramadityas. How do you say they all refer to Sakari vikramaditya. Because you dont agree with me or you are angry, I dont have to agree to your view. My view at present is on sound basis. Why dont you convince Sringeri mutt to change the view

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  9. pls note i dont have any anger nor any pre judices. for further study material on vikramaditya and other related matters refer search .....dating shankara by vishwanath shastry on web. further i dont have anything to say to any peethams now at present

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  10. I already submitted once. I presume you did not see it publish. Giving that benefit of doubt let me try once again.
    You seem to accept kota venkatachalam's work on date of buddha and maurya who has also established the date of shankara based on chronology of nepal. you may want to read that before you conclude.

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    1. I have Great Regard for Kota Venkatachalam. His analysis of Puranas and arriving at dates is impressive. Now coming to your point How did Kota venkatachalam come to support kanchi mutt claims, based on the book Brihat shankara Vijaya. There are many Shankaravijayas. See below article . http://www.kamakotimandali.com/advaita/truefacts.html

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  11. Sorry for the delay in response. I am not sure your comment was after reading his "Choronoloyg of Nepal" - Chapter 16. Immaterial of how many shakara vijayas. he quotes the yuthistra year mentioned in the poems. In fact - he in most places merely refers to "Age of Shankara" book bu T.S. Narayana Sastry. Sastry in his book accepts about almost about 10 sankara vijayas But that is not what mattered to them in arriving at the age but what the poem says. Kota shows from the poems and the meaning of the words from the poems - show the age of Adi Shankar. For example - the words
    Rishirbana stadha bhumirmarthyakshau - Rishi=7, Bana=5, bhumi=1 maryaksha=2 - reverse order = 2157 yudhistra saka which 2157+468 =2625 of kali which is 477 BC as the year of death of Shankara. Kotaji shows different years from different poems of different peopl on difference insidents.
    Though I have read both the books (by sastry and Kotaji), I know you do a thorough job before concluding. so please do so - if you have not already.

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    1. There is great deal of Confusion over when this Yudhistra Sake Starts. I Go by date of 3102BC for the Start of Kaliyuga and that means Yudhistra Sake starts at 3153BC. The Crowning of Yudhistar. Now where do you put Shankara Date. 2157 + 468 =2625. How do you get 468.

      Now the Problem is due to how you calculate yudhistar Sake. There is another old Saka Era. When Yudhister saka is calculated it is calculated from old Saka Era. But today, that saka era has been substituted by new Saka Era (78AD). So we have lot of Confusion.

      Chronolgy
      http://controversialhistory.blogspot.in/p/indian-chronology.html#.U13Z3IGSxT4

      Have you read another articule on two Buddhas.
      Is Gautama Buddha Avatar of Vishnu
      http://controversialhistory.blogspot.in/2014/03/is-gautama-buddha-avatar-of-vishnu.html#.U13beIGSxT5

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    2. TS Sasrty's book "The Age of Sankara" - link below:
      http://www.indicstudies.us/History/Chronologyproject/Age%20of%20Sankara1.pdf

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