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Title of heads of monasteries in the Advaita Vedanta tradition
Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya with his four disciples - Padmapadacharya, Sureshwaracharya, Hastamalakacharya & Totakacharya
Shankaracharya () (IAST: ?a?kar?c?rya, Shankara acharya) is a commonly used title of heads of monasteries called mathas in the Advaita Vedanta tradition. The title derives from Adi Shankara, teachers from the successive line of teachers dating back to his him are known as Shankaracharyas.
Establishment of the tradition
Adi Shankara set up four monasteries knows Mathas, in the North, South, East and West of India, to be held by realised men who would be known as Shankaracharyas. They would take on the role of teacher and could be consulted by anyone with of a spiritual nature.
The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Adi Shankara, and their details.
It is believed that after establishing the above four mathas and appointing his four disciples as head of these mathas, Adi Shankara established a fifth matha at Kanchipuram as the dakshina moolamnya sarvajna peetham and became the head of that matha till his lifetime.
The word Shankaracharya, is composed of two parts, Shankara and Acharya. Acharya is a Sanskrit word meaning "teacher", so Shankaracharya means "teacher of the way of Shankara".
Mukhyananda, Swami (2006) Sri Shankaracharya: life and philosophy: An elucidative and reconciliatory interpretation, 4th ed.; OCLC426914596; Kolkata; Advaita Ashrama