Sringeri Temple and shringeri and Sharadamba Temple
Sringeri, on the banks of the Tunga, is a town with epic connections. Sringeri gets its name from sage Rishyashringa, the chief priest in King dasaratha's court, who did penance here. The town is now the seat of the Sankaracharya of the Seringeri Sharada Peetam, one of the four Mutts established by Sri Adi Sankara. It was here, it is said, he set up his first Mutt, headed by his disciple, Bharati.
The Peetam wielded enormous political influence during the 14th century, when the glorious Vijayanagar Empire was founded by the brothers, Harihara and Bukka, under the guidance of Sri Vidyaranya, the 12th Jagadguru (from 1380 to 1386). The brothers ruled in the name of the Acharya, who conducted the princely durbar during Navarathri, at their request. The empire endowed the Mutt with large areas of land (much of it lost to governmental land reform measures, after Independence). The Maharajas of Mysore, the Hyderabad Nizams and other dynasties also patronized the mutt.
There are two main temples here. The first of these, Sri Sharada temple, is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, and has been extensively renovated. The original sandalwood idol was installed by Adi Sankara over a Sri Chakra, carved on a rock. Later, in the 14th century, Sri Vidyaranya remodelled the temple in the Kerala style with timber and tiled roof. The sandalwood idol was replaced with a golden vigraha. The present structure, in granite, with the gopuram in the Vijayanagar style, came up in 1916. The Mahamandapam has pillars, with exquisitely carved sculptures. The present sankaracharya dedicated to the Goddess a golden chariot in 1999. The sanctum has also been beautified further with the installation of golden doors, which have eight panels depicting Astha Lakshmi, the eight aspects f Sri Lakshmi. Opposite to this temple is a huge hall, open at the sides, where religious and cultural events take place.
Sri Vidya Shankara Swamy Temple remains the way it was, when it was built in 1338. The shrine is an excellent example of the transition from the Hoysala to the Vijayanagar school of architecture. The imposing temple is on the banks of the Tunga. The temple which is shaped like a Lingam, is on a high plinth and can be viewed from afar. There are shrines her for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, with their consorts. In the sanctum, Sri Vidya Shankara Swamy, an aspect of Shiva, is worshipped in the Lingam form. On the eastern side is a mandapam with twelve pillars, so arranged that the sun falls on them in the order of the 12 solar months. The ceiling is intricately carved with a lotus and pecking parrots. The vimana over the sanctum is a convergence of both the Chalukyan and Vijayanagar style. Outside, at the plinth level, are images of the gods of the Hindu pantheon, while the basement is almost a replica of famous Belur temple, in a more modest way. The five tiers depict animals, humans and gods. At the entrance are two dwarapalakas on either side. Below each is a panel, one depicting musicians, and he other dancers. Atop the entrance is a carving of Gajalakshmi. And, as the structure carves, there is a pillar that demarcates the niches, each of which contains a god. Also here are stone chains, a characteristic feature of the Vijayanagar period. Though inside the Sringeri Mutt premises, the temple is under the ASI's care for its architectural values.
A bridge across the Tunga connects the two parts of the Mutt. The scenic beauty here has to be seen to be enjoyed. The river, the hills full of vegetation and the Mutt's buildings, nestled against the hillside, are of the picture postcard type. At the other side of the river are the headquarters of the Mutt, including the residence of the present Sankaracharya, Sri Bharati Teertha Swami, a meditation hall, etc. The mutt also does its bit for society at large, with a mix of the spiritual and temporal. It runs a Sanskrit library, a hospital, colleges and a number of Vedic schools.
How to get there:
Chikamagalur, the district headquarters, is 90km away. Buses connect Sringeri to various parts of the state, including Bangalore. Mangalore (105 km) is the nearest airport.
Accommodation: The mutt as its guest houses, while private lodges can be found everywhere.