I have since read the book and found that one superstition about Shankara performing last rites of his mother was mentioned there which seemed ghastly and gory. He cuts up her body into pieces and then cremates. Which was why, even today there is a funeral custom among Namboodiri Brahmins in Kerala to keep a knife on the body.
Customs could be derived from ancient practices that are now given up but superstitious people want a reminder of it as a custom. K.P.S. Menon, former Ambassador during Nehru’s time, mentions about this superstitious practice, again among Namboodiri Brahmins.
It appears he once went for a function where lunch was served on plantain leaf with guests squatting on the floor. He saw a boy bringing a pestle and keeping it at a corner while food was being served. Menon made enquiries about the pestle. Only an old man could explain. It appears in ancient times along with the food a toothpick of wood also used to be kept on the leaf. Now that, that practice is not followed, instead as a symbol or reminder a pestle is kept !
To answer this question of KBG about Shankaracharya’s travels, I remember a report wherein Morarji Desai had spoken about the secret of travelling by Saints. Once a Sanyasi had visited Morarji Desai in his house in Mumbai and he mentioned of his plan to go to Kedarnath and Badrinath. Morarji asked how he would travel and if any arrangement was to be made. The Sanyasi said no need that he would travel at “Manovega” — speed of his mind. So saying he asked Morarji Desai to stretch his left hand and there was the Sanyasi in the size of one inch dwarf like a doll !
Another incident relating to the yogic powers of Shankaracharya was about him and his disciples who followed him in his travels. Once Shankaracharya was passing by a toddy shop (intoxicating brew derived from the wild palm). He went in and drank the toddy. The disciples followed the Guru and also drank the stuff.
Observing this, Shankara stopped at a blacksmith’s workshop where he saw the molten metal and drank it asking his disciples to taste this also. Of course, they refused.
These are some of the miracles or anecdotes attributed to Shankaracharya and there may be many.
– K.G. Kulkarni, Mysuru, 27.8.2018
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