Year of Birth of Adi Shankaracharya – 509 BC, 44 BC, 788 AD

In which year was Adi Shankaracharya born? Majority of the people would say Adi Shankara was born in 788 AD at Kaladi in Kerala and died in 820 AD. But the three monasteries among the four set up by Shankaracharya – Dwaraka, Puri and Kanchi – will say it is 509 BC. The fourth Sringeri monastery will say 44 BC. In nutshell, a common birth date of Shankara has not been agreed upon by researchers and the mutts.

A good amount of research has been done to know the birth year of Adi Shankara but there is no common agreement. This is the reason why many people might have come across different birth dates of Adi Shankaracharya.

But why has majority of the scholars agreed upon 788 AD as the birth year? Shankaracharya in his ‘Brahma Sutra Bhasya’ mentions about the city of Pataliputra. It is believed that the city of Pataliputra was destroyed in 750 AD. In the same Bhasya, Shankara mentions about King Purnavarma. Hiuen Tsang, Chinese pilgrim, mentions about Purnavarma as a Buddhist king during 590 AD.

But the most important evidence pointed out by those who support 788 AD was published in ‘The Indian Antiquary’ journal in June 1882 by K.B.Pathak. He mentioned about three manuscript leaves written in Devanagari script which mentions the date and year of birth and date and year of death of Shankaracharya.

Later in The Indian Antiquary magazine volume XXVI in 1897, one P Sundaram Pillai writes about the shlokas in the three manuscript leaves. The year of Shankara’s birth is Vibhava Varsha, Kali year 3889 and his death, the full moon in Vaishakha Kali year 3921. This corresponds to the period of 788 – 820 AD.

But these findings were rejected by several scholars and they formulated new dates. But majority of the researchers agreed to this date.

A recent article in the Sringeri Mutt website also suggests that the birth date of Adi Shankaracharya is 788 AD.

Interestingly, when there is a difference of opinion on the birth year, there is unanimity in the fact that Shankara lived only for 32 years. Those who argue Shankara was born in 509 BC believe that he died in 477 BC.

But why did Adi Shankaracharya – who wrote monumental literary works on Vedanta and Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) – not mention his birth year? Was it done purposefully?

Adi Shankaracharya teaches us to rise above birth and death. He continuously talks about the Supreme Soul or Brahman, which has no birth or death. Again, Brahman is above Time. After all what is time, it is a creation of human beings.

If Shankaracharya were to mention about his birth and foresee his death, he would have been negating his own teachings and Supreme Truth.

Which great ancient seer of Santana Dharma has mentioned his/her birth date? None. Time is important for we modern day human beings and scholars. For us, everything depends on the illusionary time.

Is the teaching of Shankaracharya going to change by exactly pin pointing his date of birth?

The right approach is to study the teachings of Shankara, think about it and form your own opinion and cut out a path to understand Brahman.