Sringeri is the site of the first matha (Sringeri Sharada Peetha) established by Adi Shankara in the 8th Century AD located on the banks of river Tunga. A ‘matha’ is a Sanskrit word means “cloister, institute or college” and it also refers to a monastery in Hinduism. Adi Shankara was the Indian philosopher and theologian who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta and is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism.
According to legend, Adi Shankaracharya is said to have selected the site as the place to stay and teach his disciples, because when he was walking by the Tunga river, he saw a cobra with a raised hood, providing shelter from the hot sun, to a frog about to spawn. Impressed with the place where natural enemies had gone beyond their instincts, he stayed here for twelve years.
Sringeri is home to the historic temples of Sri Sharadamba Temple and Sri Vidyashankara Temple. The Sharadamba temple is dedicated to the Goddess of learning and wisdom. The temple structure made in wood was damaged by a fire in the early 20th century and was rebuilt in the traditional south Indian Chettinadu style of temple architecture.
The Vidyashankara temple was built in commemoration of the pontiff Vidyashankara, around 1357-58 AD by Harihara and Bukka, the brothers who founded the Vijayanagara Empire. The temple, has a number of stone sculptures from Hindu mythology. Inscriptions in the temple record contributions made by several Vijayanagara emperors but the temple was probably built on an earlier Hoysala site as it combines Hoysala and Vijaynagara architectural features. The architecture also exhibits the astronomical expertise of medieval south Indian temple builders. The main temple hall features 12 pillars designated for the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Windows and doors along the temple walls are arranged such that the equinoxes sunrise rays reach the deity. The temple was built in the year 1338 AD. It is a unique monument built entirely of stone combining both Hoysala and Dravidian architectural styles. The structure, stand on a high plinth and commands a magnificent view from the hills and their slopes all around.
The twelve pillars in the Vidyashankar temple are popularly known as Rashistambhas (zodiacal Pillars). Symbols of the twelve divisions of the zodiac are engraved on these pillars. It is said that the design of the pillars involved certain astronomical concepts like the first rays of the rising sun fall on specific pillars with the zodiacal symbol on the pillar corresponding to the position of the sun.
How to Reach & Where to stay
KSRTC Buses operates from Bangalore. It is 95 km from Shimoga which is connected to Bangalore through bus and rail routes. Sringeri can also be reached from Mangalore which is at a distance of 105 km by road. From Udupi it is at a distance of 80 km via Hebri and Agumbe.
The town has guest houses run by the temple administration of which the details can be obtained from the Sringeri Mutt web site. There are many private lodges available as well.