800 AD Bharat:
Buddhism had spread far and wide. Jainism had also found many followers in Bharat. (The rulers of North like: Mauryans, Kushans, Harshavardhan were Buddhists. Most of the rulers of South and Rajasthan were followers of Jainism.) The followers of Sanatana Dharma, were engrossed in Vedic rituals. Many schools of thought like: Shaktas, Ganapatyas, Sauras had sprouted. In this chaos the teachings of Vedas were vanishing rapidly. With so many conflicting sects, the religious integrity in Bharat was lost.
At this juncture, Adi Shankaracharya revived Sanatana Dharma. He effectively turned back the wave of Buddhism and Jainism and established Hinduism firmly in Bharat. His works on religion and philosophy pointed out the unique features of our ancient religion. The Hinduism known today is as re-established by Adi Shakaracharya. It would not be incorrect to say that the Hindus were able to survive the wave of Muslim invasion only because of Adi Shankaracharya.
Shankara was born in village Kaladi (Kerala), to Shivguru and Aryamba. Sivaguru died when Shankara was seven years old. Aryamba saw to it that her son was educated in all the Shastras. An extremely intelligent boy, Shankara mastered Vedic studies within 8 years.
At sixteen Shankara sought permission from Aryamba to become a Sanyasi. Aryamba agreed to it on the condition that Shankara would perform her final rites. Then, Shankara left home in search of a Guru.
Shankara met Swami Govindapada in Badrinath. Swami Govindapada initiated him and taught him the philosophy of Advaita. He asked Shankara to go to Kashi and spread his knowledge.
In Kashi, Sankara wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita. He then began to propagate his philosophy. He met leaders of different schools of thought. He argued with them and convinced them of the philosophy he preached. Shankara’s debate with Mandan Misra umpired by Mandana’s scholarly wife Bharati is famous.
He traveled all over Bharat preaching the Advait philosophy. He established matths in Srenigeri (near Mysore), Puri, Dwarika and Badri. His disciples headed these Matths. (Mandan Misra being one of them.) Even today, Vedas are taught in these matths.
After the Matths were well established, he went back to Kaladi, to perform the final rites on his mother. (Sadly, here he had to face opposition from the villagers. They believed that a sanyasi was not allowed to perform the tasks of a son. Thus he had to creamate his mother in the backyard.)
Later he traveled to Ujjain, where he won over Bhairavas who shed human blood in rituals. In Assam, he defeated Abhinava Gupta the leader of Shakta. In south the dynasties of Pandyas and Cholas became his followers.
At the age of 32, he felt that his work had been accomplished, and he took samadhi.