[Advaita-l] Sankaracharya

vijay kartik vijaykartik_2004 at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 8 06:28:26 CDT 2004

The origin of the Kanchi Mutt is a highly debatable issue. While there is lot of visibility in the last nearly 100 years, the Kanchi Mutt seems to have been unknown before that.


Oral traditions on Sankara Mutts which have come down centuries had no references to a Sankara Mutt in Kanchi.

While these traditions have recognized even mutts like Badrinath, Dwaraka which have had gaps in their lineages these oral traditions do not recognize the Kanchi Mutt which is supposed to have unbroken succession.


The Dasanami sanyasins who traditionally pay obeisance to the four amnaya mutts make no references to Kanchi Mutt.


If you look at books written by eminent men till 100 years back, same is the case .Even in the later writings of Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, Swami Sivananda, Ramakrishna Mutt one would find only the four Mutts. These people had no special reason to do so.They were only recording what tradition said in this matter.


For the same reason. many books, websites even today contain references only to four Mutts of Sankara,


Today the information regarding unbroken lineage of Kanchi Mutt’s gurus, their dates of birth, sanyasa, samadhi etc are  presented in minute detail, but somehow the origin of the Mutt itself is not confirmed by oral traditions or any independent evidence.


Many in the present generation may not be aware that today’s Kanchi Mutt was only known as Kumbhakonam Mutt even till 1960 or so. Over the last few decades, references to Kumbhakonam have been carefully phased out.


The Mutt moved to Kanchi only during the early 20th century.


Whether it was Paul Brunton or Mahatma Gandhi , they referred only to Kumbhakonam Mutt and not Kanchi Mutt.


One cannot find any branch Mutt of Kanchi established during the 2500 years, nor can one hear about saints / philosophers who were inspired by Kanchi Mutt gurus. I mean one cannot find independent evidence.For example, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s guru was Totapuri who had taken diksha from one of the four Mutts. Once can find references to mutts like Sringeri even in Madhva writings . There are acknowledgements of the role of the four mutts even by institutions outside India.


One is told that the Kanchi Mutt shifted to Kumbhakonam during the Carnatic Wars in middle of 18th century and stayed there till early 20th century.


It is difficult to accept how a Mutt which is supposed to have been adorned in an unbroken succession by most revered saints for 2300 years ( till then ) could suddenly be forgotten by people just because it shifted to Kumbhakonam due to a war that lasted hardly for 20 years.


One would also hear that so-and-so book talks of Kanchi Mutt or that a copper plate found in the last century refers to Kanchi Mutt.

However, one should remember that antiquity of an institution should be borne out by solid tradition and not by untested pieces of evidence. This is not a matter to be proven by producing evidence.


In the modern world ,with media power and  political influence it is not too difficult to start a totally new institution and get an antiquity stamp in less than ,say, fifty years.


I do realize that many readers may find the above comments shocking. Some readers may try to reject or contest some part of the above in one way or the other, but the underlying issue will remain- that the Kanchi Mutt ‘s claim of antiquity and Sankarite origin will not stand the test of an objective scrutiny .



Vijay Kartik







"U.K Anumula" <anumula at hotmail.com> wrote:As far as I am aware Adi Sankara established four Peethas, at Badrinath, 
Puri, Sringeri and Dwaraka. How did the Kanchi Peetha originate? Was it 
set up by the Adi Sankara? Can any one please clarify?

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