Shankaracaryas are the nominal leaders of the Dasnami sampradaya of Hindu ascetics. There are four commonly recognized Shankaracaryas, each seated on the throne of a vidyapith (“seat of knowledge”) said to have been established by Adi Shankaracarya, the eighth or ninth century philosopher of Advaita Vedanta.
The Shankaracarya vidyapiths (“seats of knowledge”) of India derive from the work of the eighth or ninth century Hindu reformer, Adi Shankara, born in what is today Kalady, Kerala. Having left home as a child to live as a sadhu, Shankara is reputed to have written his major commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gita, the Brahma Sutras, and several of the Upanishads while still a teenager; after which, he began a teaching career that carried him to the far points of India. Hinduism itself had become deeply diversified by this point, based on the fragmenting of the subcontinent into various feudal kingdoms following the periods of unification...
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