Sri Adi Sankara (788-820 CE), the propounder of the Advaita, was born in Kalady, as the only child of Sivasarman Namboothiri and Aryadevi Antherjanam. Sri Sankara was born after his parents prayed to Lord Vadukkunathan of Thirussur for an issue. His father was a priest in Sri Manickamangalam temple, dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy, a kilometer from Kalady. Sankara refers to this temple in his Soundarya Lahari. He lost his father in 793, and was brought up by his mother. At the rather tender age of eight, he left kalady on his life's mission to resuscitate the ancient Sanatana Dharma. Sri Sankara traversed the length and breadth of the land, setting up monasteries and preaching Advaita. He returned to Kalady in 819CE to perform the last rites of his mother. He was assisted in this task by members of two Namboothiri families. Kappily Namboothiris, one of the two families, marked the place of her cremation by lighting a lamp, a tradition which continued through the centuries. It was this act of lighting the lamp that led to the identification and acceptance of Kalady, as the birthplace of Sri Sankara, in 1905, by an envoy of the Sringeri Mutt, one of the institutions founded by Sankara. In 1910, the Sringeri Mutt formally accepted this location as Sankara's birthplace. And, on the instructions of the then Sringeri Sankaracharya, the Maharaja of Travancore acquired the area from the Kappily family and handed in over to the Mutt for upkeep and development. It is now known as Sri Adi Sankara Janma Bhoomi Kshetram.
Situated on the northern banks of the Periyar, there are now two shrines at the Janma Bhoomi Kshetram to perpetuate Sankara's memory. While one depicts Adi Sankara as Dakshinamoorthy, the other is dedicated to Goddess Sharadamba. Also here is a shrine for Sri Vinayaka. The samadhi of his mother, Aryamba, is also located here. A black stone lamp, lit by the Kappilys still burns. It bears the inscription "Thir Thekke Madhom was started in 825 CE, just five years after the Jagadguru passed away. The area is now with Sringeri Mutt, which runs a Vedic school hee.
To the west of the Sringeri Mutt temple complex is Sri Krishna temple. The story goes that Adi Sankara, moved by the plight of his frail mother having to walk 3km to fetch wate from the Periyar, prayed to Krishna to bring the river near home. The tears of the seven-year-old child moved Sri Krishna, who told him that the "river will henceforth flowed under his feet(Kalady). Sankara installed the krishna idol as a thanksgiving gesture n the present premises, and recited the Atchutha Ashtakam. The temple is said to be the only surviving structure from Sankara's time. Kalady, before this incident, was known as Sasalam.
Adjacent to Sri Sankara's birthplace memorial is the Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram, a shrine modelled on the Belur Math in West Bengal.
There are three bathing ghats in the river here, from west to east. Kalady Kadavu is the ghat where the river changed course, following Sankara's prayer, and can be termed as the birthplace of Kalady. It was also the place where he performed the first ritual bath of the Krishna idol before installing it in the present premises. Muthala Kadavu or Crocodile Ghat is the place where Sankara was caught by a crocodile. The crocodile reportedly released him from its jaws only after his mother agreed to let him take up sanyas (recluse). The third ghat is the place where Sankara performed the post cremation rites of his mother.
Adi Samkara Bagavad Padha Keerthi Stambha Mandapam This nine-storeyed memorial, built by Sri Kamakoti Mutt of Kancheepuram, is opposite the bus station. Painting is relief on the walls narrate the story of Adi Sankara. The cylindrical-shaped memorial is a recent construction, consecrated in 1978.
How to get there
All the historical places associated with Sri Sankara, including his Birthplace, the Krishna temple and the ghats, are a mile away from the bus station. Buses are infrequent on this route, but autos are cheap and plentiful. Angamali is 10km away and Aluva 22km, while Ernakulam is 36km and Thrissur 56km from Kalady. Angamali, Aluva, Ernakulam Junction and Thrissur are on the main rail route. Cochin is the nearest airport.
Sringeri Mutt has guest houses and choultries. Private lodges are in the town area. Angamali and Aluva are the other options.
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