Sankara Digvijayam

On the auspicious Makara Sankranthi day, in the evening, as part of the ongoing Sports & Cultural Festival, students from Prasanthi Nilayam campus presented a drama entitled “Sankara Digvijayam”, on the life of Adi Sankara, the greatest proponent of Advaita philosophy.

Interestingly, this drama had its maiden staging 25 years ago in the Divine Presence in `Mumbai and later in Bangalore, directed by Bhagawan Himself. These occasions were doubly blessed by Bhagawan’s physical presence.

Presented uniquely, the evening’s drama began with the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara meeting and discussing the dilemma that man is caught in, that he is interested in the Grantha (text) and not in the Gandha (essence). Man should transcend ritualistic practices and reach the Divine. It was with this backdrop setting that the students started ‘narrating’ the illustrious life of Sankaracharya.

As the drama traversed through the life of Adi Sankara, many thought-provoking scenes from the great seer’s life were highlighted. The birth of the extra-ordinary, supremely worthy child, Sankara, after incessant prayers by his devout parents Sivaguru and Aryamba, the famous crocodile episode enacted to get his mother’s blessing before opting to Sanyasa, Sankara’s leaving his birth place Kaladi in Kerala to the ashram of Govindapada, his initiation under Govindapada before donning the role of a role model spreading the message of Veda and Vedanta were enacted with precision, well supported by superb dialogue delivery and settings.

Subsequent scene depicted the famous ‘untouchable’ incident in Kasi. Having set out in his mission, in the temple town Kasi, Sanakra met with a disguised ‘untouchable’ who subsequently revealed Himself as Lord Shiva, came to teach Sankara a precious lesson. In the incident, Sankara asked the ‘untouchable’, who came in his way, to move from his way as he had to perform his ablutions. In turn, the ‘untouchable’ questioned Sankara about his dual mindset as to why he was observing distinction between lower caste and higher caste.

Continuing his sojourn, when Sankara visited Kasi Viswanatha temple, he asked God pardon for the 3 sins he had committed. They were: He tried to describe God knowing fully well that He is indescribable. He saw God as someone different from him and though He knew God is everywhere, he still came to Kasi to seek Him. Here he was blessed by Lord Shiva’s darshan.

Sankara then started his Digvijayam (tour of conquest) through a debate with the famous scholar Mandana Misra. He held the view that the life of the householder was far superior to that of a monk. His wife Ubhaya Bharati acted as the adjudicator. He held a debate with Sankara for more than 15 days and at the end accepted defeat. Then Sankara encountered a grammarian who was steeped in Panini’s Grammar. Sankara instilled wisdom in the grammarian, saying that the rules of grammar would not come to the rescue of a person in his last moments…so, chant the name of God. Thus, blossomed the famous treatise, Bhaja Govindam.

When Sankara took Sanyasa, he promised his mother that he would be with her in her last moments. His mother was very ill and was remembering him, but was sure that her son would come to her. This touchy scene was poignantly portrayed.  Sankara kept up his promise. Mother Aryamba’s joy knew no bounds. Rejoiced she was beyond imagination that she could breathe her last, contented and happy. The Brahmins in the village objected to his conducting the last rites after he has taken to the path of Sanyasa and did not extend any help. Responding to Sankara’s prayer God of Fire came to his rescue, helping him to complete the final rites.

Sankara had preached many lofty philosophies. Rituals have lost their meaning and God has been reduced to a stone… Man should realise that sense gratification is not the means and end of life… Man should leave body attachment and get attached to God…

During his philosophical tours, Sankara encountered in a forest a Kapalika, a follower of Tantric practices. The Kapalika was about to sacrifice Sankara to Goddess Kali, but was saved by God Narasimha who destroyed the Kapalika and his disciples in response to a prayer by Sankara’s disciple Padmapada.

Adi Sankara travelled the length and breadth of the country during his philosophical tours with his disciples from South India to Kashmir and Nepal advocating his Advaita philosophy, debating and defeating many Hindu and Buddhist scholars on the way. Ultimately, he ascended the Sarvajna Pitha, defeating scholars in various scholastic disciplines namely, Mimamsa, Vedanta and other branches of Hindu philosophy. Lord Siva appeared and proclaimed that Sankara would teach that man and God are one and the same. In that happy note, the drama came to a conclusion.

All the cast converged for the final song. As bhajans started, there was a photograph session of all those involved with the drama and Prasadam was distributed to the entire gathering.

Bhajans continued and ended with Bhagawan singing “Bhaja Govindam…Bhaja Govindam…” The session concluded with Mangala Arathi.


II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II