SRINGERI, also written as SHRINGERI, is a hill town and taluka headquarters located in CHIKKAMAGALURU District in Karnataka. It is the site of the first MATHA (SRINGERI SHARADA PEETA) established by Adi Shankara, Hindu theologian and exponent of the ADVAITA VEDANTA Philosophy in the 8th century CE. It is located on the banks of the River Tunga and is also an historical temple (1,200-years-old).
The name SRINGERI is derived from RISHYASHRINGA —- a nearby hill which is believed to have contained the hermitage of RISHI VIBHANDAKA and his son. The Rishi appears in an episode in the Ramayana, where a story narrated by VASISHTHA, relates how he brought rains to the drought-stricken Kingdom of ROMAPADA.
According to legend, ADI SHANKARACHARYA is said to have selected the site as the place to stay and teach his disciples because when he was walking by the Tunga River, he saw a cobra with a raised hood, providing shelter from the hot sun to a frog about to spawn. Impressed by the place where natural enemies had gone beyond their instincts, he stayed here for twelve years. He also established MATHAS in the northern (at JYOTIMATH, near Badrinath), eastern (at PURI) and western (at DWARKA) quarters of India.
SRINGERI is home to a number of historic temples. Of these, SRI SHARADAMBA Temple & SRIVIDYASHANKARA and PARSHWANATH Jain Temple are prominent. Other historic temples nearby are HORNADU, KOLLUR & KALASA.
(1) SHARADAMBA TEMPLE, dedicated to the Goddess of learning and wisdom, has grown from a simple shrine dating to the time of Adi Shankaracharya. In the 14th century, VIDYARANYA is said to have replaced the old sandalwood image with a stone and gold image. The Temple structure itself continued to be made of wood till the early 20th century. After an unexpected fire that damaged the structure, the current structure was built in the traditional South Indian CHETTINADU Style of Temple structure.
(2) VIDYASHANKARA TEMPLE was built in commemoration of the Pontiff Vidyashankara, around 1357 – 58 CE. It was built by Vidyaranya, patron-saint of HARIHARA & BUKKA, the brothers who founded the VIJAYANAGARA Empire. The niches in the Temple have a number of sculptures from Hindu Mythology. Inscriptions in the Temple record contributions made by several Vijayanagara Emperors, but the Temple was probably built on an earlier Hoysala site as it combines Hoysala and Vijayanagara architecture features. The Temple architecture is also an exhibition of the astronomical expertise of Medieval South Indian Temple builders. The main Temple Hall features 12 pillars designated for the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Windows and doors along the Temple walls are arranged such that EQUINOXES sunrise views reach the Deity. The northern and southern gates enable the sunrise view from the Hall during SOLSTICES. The Temple was built in the year 1338 AD. It stands on a high plinth and commands a magnificent view from the hills and the slopes all around. It is more or less a rectangle with APISIDAL east-west ends. On the western side is the GARBHAGRIHA, with VIDYA GANAPATI on one side and DURGA on the other side of the entrance. On the other three sides are shrines to BRAHMA, VISHNU & MAHESHWARA with their consorts. In the eastern half of the structure is a MANTAPA with 12 pillars, huge monoliths carrying large figures and carrying heavy projecting CORBELS on top. The central ceiling is an exquisite piece of workmanship with lotus and pecking parrots. The VIMANA over the GARBHAGRIHA rises magnificently with SHIKARA, MAHAPADAMA & STUPI. The rest of the roof is made up of sloping channelled slab. The basement is elaborately sculpted with animals, Siva, Vishnu, Dasavatara, Kali, Shanmukha and so on. To a student of Hindu Iconography, this Temple is a veritable storehouse of sculpture.
(3) THE ZODIAC PILLARS, in the Vidyashankara Temple, are popularly known as RASHISTAMBHAS (Zodiacal Pillars). 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.