This is yet another story from Guru Adi Shankaracharya’s life which has fascinated me.

As a young child, my mother has often told me the story of the Kollur Mookambika temple that is  situated in Kollur, Udupi district of Karnataka.

The story goes that Mother goddess appeared in front of Guru Adi Shankaracharya and when she asked Guru for his wish, Guru Adi Shankaracharya expressed his wish to install Mother goddess’ idol. Mother goddess agreed to his wish but to test Adi Shankaracharya, Mother goddess makes a condition that she will follow him to his destination provided he does not turn and look backwards. When they reached Kollur, Guru Adi Shankaracharya suddenly has a doubt as to whether as promised Mother goddess was following him or not and he turned backwards.

The preset condition broken, Mother goddess asks Guru Adi Shankracharya to install her idol at that location, where now the  Mookambika temple  stands.

I have been thinking /meditating on that moment. At the level of Guru Adi Shankracharya, where his mind could request Mother goddess to follow him, was there a distance, a difference between Guruji and Mother goddess? I believe not, they were one and the same, because that from my understanding is Guru Adi Shankracharya’s A-dvaitvam.

If that is the case then what is the genesis of the doubt? Where from the seed of doubt was sown in his mind? Was it really an error on part of Guruji? Did the Divine mother really perceive it as an error of her favorite child? Even today the hills of Kollur are incredibly beautiful. Hence did the surrounding environs cause Guruji to want to install the Mother’s idol there in resplendent beauty? Did the Mother herself want to be there? Was it a decision that was mutually, spontaneously and simultaneously decided upon ?

I have been dwelling on this question, thinking of the beauty of the moment. I have read several treatises on the life of Guru Adi Shankracharya and there are several versions of the story and yet none satisfies me. I shall continue to think. May the Guru and the Divine mother help me.

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Usha Padmanabhan

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