History of Vidyashankara Temple
According to history the Vidyashankara Temple was constructed by Vidyaranya in memory of Guru Vidyashankara or Vidyathirtha. He was helped in his mission by the rulers of the Vijayanagar Empire in the 14th century. Adi Sankaracharya installed the image of deity along with a Sri Chakra. It is said that he then began the Bharati Sampradaya promulgate the theory of non dualism. The temple is also known as 'Shankaracharya Temple' because of its association with Adi Shankaracharya. As most architectural exploits have legends glued to them, this temple is no exception. The legend behind the temple location goes like once when Adi Shankara was looking to establish his first institution, an unusual sight confiscated his reflection of a frog delivering its spawn under a shelter provided by the hood of a cobra! A place that could cultivate love between natural foes must be sacred contemplation the saint and established the Sharada Peetha here.
The Peetha has had an unbroken line of illustrious spiritual leaders, and has enjoyed the patronage of the rulers including the Vijayanagara kings, Keladi Nayaks, the Wodeyars, Hyder Aliand Tipu Sultan. Not only is Sringeri known for its ancient temples, but as a centre of theology with a seminary, a school for priests, a Sanskrit school and a library of rare Sanskrit texts.
Architecture of Vidyashankara Temple
Vidyashankara Temple is an ancient pilgrimage centre built according to the architectural designs of the Hoysala Empire and Dravidian style. The temple has been built on a beautifully designed basement. There are six doorways that lead to the temple. The temple has been adorned with twelve pillars in the mandapam that are known as Raasi Pillars. These stand as the 12 zodiac signs. The pillars have been arranged in a way that the sun's rays fall on them as per the solar months. 104 sculptured images executed in Hoysala style adorn the temple. On the floor one can see a large stone on which a circle is drawn with lines corresponding to the shadow of the pillar as it falls during each month. There are five cells to house the images of Vidya-Ganapati, Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara and Durga. The main temple hall features 12 pillars designated for the 12 signs of the zodiac. In the same temple, the broken wooden image of Saradamba, believed to be the original one installed by Shankaracharya also can be seen.
The columns of the Vidyashankara Temple have been embroidered with large rearing lion. These are seen holding huge rolling stone balls in their mouth. The sanctum is topped by a circular shikhara. The walls of the temple are adorned with images from the Indian Puranas carved beautifully. The temple portrays Lord Buddha as one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Image of Goddess Sarada
The original image of Goddess Sarada was made of sandalwood. Later in the 14th century it was replaced by a golden image. It portrays Ma Sarada sitting on the Sri Chakra Peetham. She has a Japa Mala in her hand and a parrot is seen sitting on her hand. Besides the Vidyashankara Temple there are few other temples here dedicated to Shakti, Lord Ganesha, Mahishasuramardini, Goddess Bhuvaneshwari and Rajarajeswari. The image of Venugopala and Srinivasa made of ruby are also installed in the temple. A Nandi made of pearl is also installed in the shrine. Several inscriptions have been inscribed which states about the contribution of the Vijayanagar rulers.
Festivals of Vidyashankara Temple
Several festivals are celebrated in the Vidyashankara Temple on a grand scale. Devotees throng the temple during the procession of Saradamba on every Friday. A silver chariot carries the idol around the temple. The Navaratri festival is also organised with great fervour.
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