[Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Birth Date

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Thu May 5 18:03:54 CDT 2011

Dear Vidyasankarji,

Adi Sankaracharya mentioned that it is like saying thyat the barren woman's son was king before the coronation of Purnavarman and recent research indicates that Purnavarman or Hala was oindeed  coronated in 494 BCE. Assuming that Adi Sankaracharya was born in 509 BCE his age in 494 BCE was 15 years and he was yet to write the Sutra-bhashya. Thus there does not appear to be any  "Visangati" or discrepancy in  Adi Sankaracharya's referring to Purnavarman's coronation in the past tense for considering his birth year to be 509 BCE. My curiosity is to know whether the proponents of the date of 788 BCE tried to find out which Purnavarman Adi Sankaracharya was referring to.  

I  was reading the Brahmasutrabhashya in the mid nineteen sixties and at that time I had the curiosity to know about Adi Sankaracharya's date and all that I could gather at that time was that he was born in the 14th year of the reign of king Vikrama and that the date was 44 BCE and that after Sureshwaracharya there was a big gap of 700 years for the next name of the mathadhipati in the Guruparampara list. Thereafter it all changed and the Sringeri now says that the year is 788 CE. There must be some reason for abandoning the earlier views. That is the curiosity.


Sunil KB

--- On Thu, 5/5/11, Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:

From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Birth Date
To: "Advaita List" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Thursday, May 5, 2011, 1:42 PM

> Dear Vidyasankarji,
> King Vikramaditya is believed to have had a big territorry but he was not called world-emperor. Tradition has it that he was the person who constructed the Hai-ki-pairi in Hardwar in honour of his step-brothet Bhartrihari and
 Rajatarangini also has allusions to his reign. I was referring to king Purnavarman or Hala, mentioned by Adi Sankaracharya and he was definitely not an imaginary king. In keeping with the requirement of the panch-lakshana the Puranas are required to keep the genealogies upto-date and that they did faithfully up to the Gupta period. The Vayu purana does mention the king Purnavarmana. Who then is that king Purnavarman, whom Adi Sankaracharya was referring to in the Sutrabhaashya if he was not the Purnavarman, who ruled from Pataliputra in the 6th century BCE?

The crucial point is, nowhere does Sankaracharya say that Purnavarman was his contemporary.
In his play Henry V, Shakespeare has a minor character called Fluellen comparing Henry V to
Alexander the great. Can we therefore say that either Shakespeare or Henry V were close
contemporaries of Alexander, the Macedonian-Greek, who lived ~300 BCE?

In fact, as I mentioned, the
 usage of "was, is and will be" in the reference to Purnavarman, plus
the other bhAshya reference where Sankaracharya explicitly mentions his contemporary situation
where there was no sArvabhauma, would indicate that a Purnavarman was in fact not alive at the
time Sankaracharya wrote his bhAshya.
> Then what have you to say on the 44 BCE date given earlier by the Sringeri mutt along with assignment of 700 years to Sureshwaracharya (presumably all the Mathadhipatis during that 700 year  period were called Sureshvaracharya or it could be tha their names were lost?  The question arises as to why and at whose behest  the 44 BCE date  was withdrawn and Max Muller's date of 788 CE was accepted.

Again, please see the Sringeri Matha's official letter to Swami Tyagananda. It is pure speculation to 
say that all Mathadhipatis in the 700 year period were called Suresvara. The Sringeri Matha does
not say
 that. It is curious where these sort of idle ideas come from.
I can write a long essay on why 788 CE is a sufficiently traditional date. It is time this attribution of
all sorts of things to Max Mueller is stopped. Please see G C Pande's book on Sankaracharya for a
discussion of this date and how only the 7th-8th cent period is consistent with a host of internal
evidence in the bhAshyas and the works of Sankaracharya's disciples. 
> The Dwaraka math has not been able to substatntiate about the copper inscription of Sudhanva. According to them the Archaeological department took the copper inscription in the british times and it may be possible that the inscription may be there in some museums or in British depositories and it is better that we do not talk about it either way until and unless someone finds it. To my knowledge in Gujarat itself there rare several places with their own museums with many old inscriptions.

Again, if Sankaracharya himself says there was no sArvabhauma living in his time, one has to
wonder about the authenticity of any purported grant inscription by a king sudhanvA, right? 

> Asregards the Jina Vijaya it  was an existing text as evidenced by reference to it in the nineteenth century texts prior to the anoouncement of AIT. I have myself read one such text in Pune University library. Unfortunately we do not know whether some Jain scholars dastroyed it as it proved that Lord Buddha preceded Lord Mahavira or some British scholars did it as it opposed the AIT.
> Many of us are  still not convinced that the Sringeri Math has been able to establish the 8th century date beyond dispute.

And the rest of us are still not convinced that 509 BCE date is valid in any shape or form!
In any case, it is not incumbent upon the Sringeri Matha to establish the 8th century date.
Again, as
 per the letter reproduced by Swami Tyagananda, the Matha has accepted the date
given credibly by contemporary historical research, that is all. They are not bothered about
the actual dates the way some others are.
Anyway, I have entered into this thread (once again) much against my current inclination,
just to keep the record straight. Unless there are entirely new points to be made, I won't
pursue this topic any longer.
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