Sri Sankaracharyam Smarami

Dr. Lalita Ramakrishna

Sri Sankaracharya has impacted philosophy and spiritual thought and is revered as a universal teacher ...

Sri Sankaracharya has impacted philosophy and spiritual thought and is revered as a universal teacher (jagat guru). During Sankara Jayanti in May, we remember his birth at Kalady in Kerala in early 9th century C.E. He was born to a devout couple Sivaguru and Aryamba after they performed intensive penance at a local temple of Vrishachalesa.

Sankara is an incarnation of the Lord (avatara purusha) who has given our religion back to us in its pristine state. In his short life of 32 years he affirmed that according to the Vedas there was only One Supreme Power whom we call by different names. This wondrous power is immanent in every atom of mind and matter. Vedic seers had a perception of absolute equality since the soul (Atma) in every living creature (jiva) was utterly the same.

Differences in rank and economic status were inevitable in the material world. Just as only those who are certified medical personnel are allowed into an operation theatre, only those who had the requisite discipline and knowledge were allowed to practice priestly professions, giving rise to caste systems. However these differences are only for limited practical purposes; becausein truth, all human beings of any creed, caste or sex are one and the same.

In recent years when Narendra ( later called Svami Vivekananda) jocularly remarked to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa - "You say that there is only one single power pervading all things - which means that - I, you, this cup of tea , this room, must all be the same." The saint just touched him lightly with his leg and Vivekananda actually saw a glowing energy flowing around him in which all objects - the walls, the teacup, bodies were in constant interaction an motion and change. Such was the vision of seers at different times in history - they perceived that all differences of caste, mental ability, etc were temporary illusory shadows. Just as the space ( akasa) inside a pot is the same as the space outside, the individual soul (jiva) is the same as the Sat chit ananda Brahman that pervades Prakrti ( the material and mental world). This is the philosophy of Advaita (non-dualism).

Sankara appeared at a time when Hindu dharma had been overpowered by Buddhist and Jain philosophy. The true teaching of the Vedas had degenerated into performance of rituals and sacrifices. Since this did not satisfy the spiritual aspiration of people they turned to Buddhist teachings. Sankara saw clearly that the dazzling gems of Vedanta had to be presented in a manner that would satisfy the pundit as well as the lay person.

Sankara was a prodigy who learnt all the Vedas by the age of 12 and when he went to his guru Govinda bhagavat pada he was asked to write commentaries on Brahma sutra and other abstruse texts.

In Viveka chudamani, Sankara examines the process of ceaseless self enquiry that can reveal the underlying Brahman in everything. In his Gita Bhashyam (commentary) he affirms that the selfless performance of one's allotted role in life (svadharma) alone can give us freedom from action and reaction that leads to worldly tensions.

Sankara had a flair for the cadences of Samskrt meters and he composed memorable verses on all the forms of the Supreme. Bhaja Govindam, Annapurna ashtakam, Kanakadhara stotram, Ganagashtakam - are proof that he actually perceived the divine in the forms of Vishnu, Devi, Sri Lakshmi and Ganga. He codified the six major forms of worship as the Shanmathas - Saivam, Shatktam, Sauram, Ganapatyam, Kaumaram and Vaishnavam.( worship of Siva, Shakti, Surya, Ganapati, Kumara, and Vishnu)

He engaged the pundits of his time in debates and proved logically that Vedic truths were relevant for all time - for all centuries and in all places. His insistence on Advaita - that all beings are indeed one and the same - is not only a profound vision but a wonderful practical approach in our daily interaction with others.

Sankara was not only extraordinary in his intellectual abilities; he had tremendous physical stamina and vigour as well. Sankara travelled by foot to the four corners of our country. He went to Badarikasrama in the Himalayas, and to Srinagar where there is a Sankaracharya hill and a temple of Devi. He established monastic orders ( Pitha) in the north (Joshimath), east( Puri), west ( Dvaraka) and south( Sringeri) of this land that operate till today in spreading Vedic truths to all seekers. He travelled all over India shaking people out of superstition and distorted beliefs.

This krti composed by Subbarama Dikshitar celebrates Sankara's many faceted genius..It was made popular by M.S. in her concerts.

Sankarabharanam Adi Pallavi

, , , Sankaracharyam ( Sri)/ bhakta manova // ( sankaracharyam)

,, ,, / smaramyaham //

Madhyama kala

Pankajaata bhava vedyam hrdyam / pankajaata bhava roga vaidyam Aa //

dyam, , Sankaracharyam smaramyaham //

Sadguna saandram Sri Mahadeva Sarasvati samyamindra chandram //

Sri , ,Sankaracharyam)

Anu pallavi

Sankara bhagavath charana apara varyam //Sankara krpaya vardhita viryam //


Shanka raaga sita yasho dhuryam anisam karaabjam avaarya tapas shauryam //

Sri , , (Sankaracharyam)


Parama jnaana lata aalavalam // Bhavyatara sumano jaalam //

Para mata khandana chandima shilam //Parama advaita sthapana lilam //


Kara kalita danda kamandalum kashaaya dharam vinata muni mandalam//

Vara mati vijita Hara kundalam shubha varadam nata dharaa gandalam Sri //

Chitta svaram

(Double speed) s, n? p? d? n? s , , , p m g r s , / , , d p m g r s / , s n d p m g r //

(Quadruple speed) repeat same svaram / s , r g m p, d n s r , g m g g /

r s s, d p p , m g r s , m g r // (s d p m g m) ( Sankaracharyam)

Meaning -

I contemplate on Sri Sankaracharya who captures the minds of devotees. He has realized Brahma and Siva and is dear to them. He is the cure for the diseases of those born on earth. He is the repository of all virtues. He is dedicated to Jnana marga (Goddess Sarasvati) and follows the ascetic principles of Mahadeva. He is exalted like the moon in his sublime self control.

There is no greater goal for me than the feet of Acharya Sankara who has been endowed with enormous energy by the grace of Lord Siva. With his lotus hands he has the competence to end our doubts and desires forever ( shanka raga sita dhuryam). He is undeniably renowned (avarya yashah)) for his powerful tapas.

He is the channel of water that nourishes the creeper of jnana ( transcendent truth). He captivates everyone by his courtesy and simple behaviour. He is adept at destroying foreign beliefs He is the one who established the exalted Advaita philosophy.

In his hand he carries the yogi's pole and water jug (kamandal). He wears saffron and is respected by the sages. His wisdom matches the glowing earrings of Siva. He blesses us with boons. He is worshipped as an incarnation of Siva.(dharaa gandalam)

Sahitya nuances

The krti begins with the word Sankara which indicates the raga Sankarabharanam as well as the name Sankara. The same word is repeated in the anupallavi in different contexts at the beginning of all the avartanas. The phrase 'Sanka raga' in the anupallavi indicates the name of the raga.

The charanam repeats the word 'parama' (which means 'exalted') in many different contexts making the tone of the krti sublime. The phrase bhakta manovasham (you capture the hearts of seekers) is imbedded at the end of the first line and ' 'vasham' becomes 'vashamkara'.

'Panka jaatha' is repeated with different meanings in the pallavi. In the first line it means Brahma who was born out of a lotus. In the second line panka jatha 'made out of dirt' - means the material world and physical existence. Bhava means - 'Siva' in the first line and in the second line bhava means 'the physical world'.

The Sankara matha gurus carry the title 'Sarasvati' or 'Bharati' - to indicate that they are dedicated to jnana marga - the intellectual approach - understanding the difference between that which is transitory and that which is theEternal. The Gurus are all called Sankaracharyas because their ideal is the stark ascetic discipline of Lord Mahadeva. 'samyamindra chandram'. Chanda sekhara is the sanyasa name given to the guru who dedicates himself to Sankara's principles. They are known as 'Sankara Bhagavat pada' a term that occurs in the Anupallavi beginning.

This krti highlights the cardinal features of Sankara's teachings. He saved Sanatana dharma that was lost inmeaningless rituals, he established Vedic truths by sheer logical debate defeating Buddhist teachings that had taken hold of the popular mind. The krti shows how intellectual vigour combined with physical stamina was enshrined in Sri Sankara.

Sound values

The words are chosen for resonance and throughout we hear echoes of 'ra' in Sankara, kripa, vardhita, viryam, parama, kara, vara , dhara. "Ra' is a mystic syllable which indicates 'fire & brightness'

The charana lines resonate with the sound of 'la' which is the symbol of 'laghu' (easy). 'Lam' which means 'delight' echoes in- alavalam, jaalam shilam, lilam., mandalam, kundalam, gandalam. Sankara experienced the bliss of Advaita so the sound of 'Lam' meshes with the sound of 'mm' at the end of words. The whole krti resonates with the sound of 'Om'.


The laya of this krti gives ample space for sangatis and manodharma in the pallavi and charana.. It has to be performed only in medium tempo or madhya laya because there is double speed sahityam in all the three parts - pallavi, anupallavi and charanam. Passages with sprightly tempo follow meditative lines and this rhythmic variation attracts even those who are unfamiliar with Karnatak music.

The chitta svaram at the end is interesting. The svara phrases in the first avarta are repeated in quadruple speed in the next half avarta. The svara passages cover the entire gamut from mandara 'pa' upto tara sthayi 'ga'. To bring out the flavour of the raga, murchanas of Sankarabharana are repeated like s, np and s, dp both being patent prayogas.

The Composer

Subbarama Dikshitar who composed this krti was the grandson of Balusvami Dikshitar, the younger brother of Muthusvami Dikshitar. He was born in Tiruvarur (1839 - 1906). His grandfather educated him in Samskrt, Telugu and music. Rama kumara raja, who was the ruler of Ettayapuram, predicted that he would be as renowned as Muthusvami Dikshitar. The young student studied literature, grammar, alankara (poetics), and charitram( history) from Vilathikulam Krishnayya. .From his father he learnt the vina and sangita sastra.

As a 17 year old he presented his Darbar Ata tala varnam in the court and several courtiers doubted his authorship of the varnam and felt that it was perhaps his father's composition. To prove the young composer's talent, the Raja told Subbarama "I am going out for an hour, and before I return you should have composed a Jathi svaram in Yamuna kalyani . The final svara passage should start with the svara 'dha' and have svara passages in all three speeds - in a pattern of increase followed by decreasing tempo with a muktayimpu (pattern of 3 svara phrases) at the end. When Subbarama did this everyone was convinced of his prodigious talent. The raja gave him ten gold coins and a brocade shawl. Subbarama became the Asthana vidwan (musician in residence) at the Ettayapuram Court.

Later at the raja's behest he composed pada varnams in Surati,and Ananda bhairavi, and a Ragamalika in 9 ragas. He composed about 15 krtis, 2 darus, and 8 raga malikas. He composed the krti Sankaracharyam and presented it before the Kanchi mata adhipati Jagadguru Sankaracharya who was stationed in Kumbakonam. He composed the music for the 72 Melaragamalika of Krishna Kavi in the 72 melakarta ragas. Parthasarathi ni ( Yadukula kambhoji) is a well known krti of Subbarama Dikshitar.

A.M. Chinnasvami Mudaliar who was in the service of the British government learnt gamaka forms and the music of the Venkatamakhi tradition from Subbarama Dikshitar. Chinnasvami Mudaliar wished to preserve Karnatak music for posterity and for wider appreciation in the western world by publishing krtis with western music notation. Subbarama helped him with this project.

Mudaliar requested the Ettayapuram raja to give financial support to Subbarama for writing the volumes of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini , a massive tome with all the well known compositions given in notation with raga lakshana, with gamakas and tala symbols. It was completed in two volumes over a period of four years by Subbaram Dikshitar and published in 1904 by the Raja.

This work covers the biographies of eminent musicians from the time of Sharnga deva (13thc). Subbarama Dikshitar's Pradarsini is valuable book on Sangita Sastra and he is the latest in the line of musicologists that began with Bharata who wrote Natya Sastra( 2nd c.C.E.)

The Pradarsini is both a lakshya grantha (compendium of compositions) and a lakshana grantha ( a treatise on the grammar of music).Since he was a vina player he has given gamaka stmbols in the script of Pradarsini. Subbarama Dikshitar composed the sancharis ( outline ragas) for the 188 ragas listed in the Pradarsini.The raga names follow the Venkatamakhi tradition which are different to the later tradition adopted by Tyagaraja which is in vogue today.

If it were not for this valuable work, music lovers today would not know the authentic version of the great compositions in Karnatak music.

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