Adi Sankaracarya and Sanmatam - SIX FOLDED TRIBUTARY - THOUGHT DOMAINS

Sankarayacharya Samadahi Kedarnath 2001
  • Adi Shankaracharya had creatively reinvigorated Shanmatam i.e.,- Six folded thought domains of Saiva, Vaishnava, Shakteya, Ganapathya, Saura and Kaumara thereby synergised the modes of worship with necessary insights from Vedantam, Tantram, Yogam and Bhakti. An exploratory precursor of Shanmatam along with explaining the anchoring principles of each constituent of it in brief is the primal theme of this article

Adi Saṅkaracarya’s monumental contribution to reinstate the multitudinal anchoring values of sanatanadharmam is reverentially ever-reverberating in the hearts of true Hindus worldwide. Historically, the life and works of Adi Saṅkaracarya (henceforth Acarya) was explored in past by many scholars of repute from different parts of Bharatavarṣam (India). Besides the philosophical consolidation of Bharatiya values including ‘Kevala-advaita vedantaṁ’; the most observable contribution of Acarya which still binds all of us with a common thread is the creative reinvigoration of Ṣaṇmataṁ and synergising the modes of worship with necessary insights from Vedantaṁ, Tantram, Yogaṁ and Bhakti. Sankaracharya Adi Shankaracharya had creatively reinvigorated Shanmatam i.e.,- Six folded thought domains of Saiva, Vaishnava, Shakteya, Ganapathya, Saura and Kaumara thereby synergised the modes of worship with necessary insights from Vedantam, Tantram, Yogam and Bhakti. An exploratory precursor of Shanmatam along with explaining the anchoring principles of each constituent of it in brief is the primal theme of this article.


An exploratory precursor of Ṣaṇmatam system in brief is the primal theme of this article.     


Br̥hat śaṁkara vijaya’ written by Sri Paramahaṁsa Citsukhacarya vividly explain the birth of the Acarya as below-


“By the grace of Vr̥ṣādrinātha (the lord of Vr̥ṣabhādri, Vaḍakkunāthan; at Triśivaperūr -Trissur in modern Kerala), in the all-auspicious Nandana saṁvatsaraṁ of the year 2593 in  Kaliyugābdaṁ (corresponding 509 BCE), on a Sunday (Bhānuvāsaraṁ), when the sun was in the northern path (Uttarāyaṇaṁ), on the 5th lunar day (Pañcamī tithi) of the bright fortnight (Śuklapakṣam), in the month of Vaiśākha (Lunar month), in the asterism of Punarvasu and under the sign of Sagittarius in the zodiac (dhanur lagnaṁ), was born, in a miraculous manner, a wonderful male child from the sacred womb of Āryambā, the dutiful wife of Sivaguru. Acarya’s parents were residents near Kalaḍi, a place not far from Ernakulam in Modern Kerala.”


Acarya’s works are astonishingly prodigious, remarkably divine and are still preserved in its pristine form by scholars/followers. Major works include-


a) Literary works which can be classified under-


i) Bhaṣyaṁ - Commentaries upon major Upanishads and other scriptures,

ii)Prakaraṇagranthaṁ - Philosophical treatises consolidating and explaining various intricacies of Advaita vedāntaṁ,

iii) Stotraratnaṁ - Devotional and poetical works exploring the essence of various devatas (specific cosmic form- visualised) thereby instilling Bhakti (devotion) for             those who recite.


b) Comprehensively consolidated as well as channelised the metamorphosis of the Siddhantaṁ (Philosophy-Theory-Practice) of Advaita Vedāntaṁ (Vyasa - Govindabhagavatpādācārya lineage).


Advaita Vedantaṁ is based upon Sastraṁ (Rationality/Scientific nature), Yukti (Logical comprehensiveness), Svanubhavaṁ (Self-experiential) and aided by Karma (guided actions).


c) Reinvigorated Dasanami (Ten moulded/named) traditions of monastic (Sanyastha) affiliations; Ṣaṇmatam (Six-folded thought domains) as interrelated and enriching tributaries of thought-domains; Pancayatanaṁ (The being as Five) - a guided system for familial worshipping, among others.


d) Establishment of various piṭhaṁ and guided procedures (sampradayam) for their coordinated/smooth workings-Govardhana (Bhogavāra), Sarada (Bhurivara), Dvaraka (Kiḍavara), Jyotirmaṭhaṁ (Nandavara) piṭhaṁs and Mulaṁnaya Sarvajnapīṭhaṁ (Kanci) among others.


aṇmatam (Six-folded thought domains) as interrelated and thought-domains enriching the Bhāratīya values; is still one of the most observable synchroniser. Ācarya had synthesised the thought-domains of various intellectual groups prevailing in those times and of past; thereby refined, through the process of rationalised applicability, making the resultant as more sustaining and agile to the demands of various times. The intellectual thought - currents prevailing in those days, primarily along the lines of Saiva, Vaiṣṇava, Śakteya, Gaṇapatya, Saura and Kaumara were becoming antagonistic among the certain groups of intellectuals with vested interests.


Synergising all these six-folded thoughts, besides interlinking them with as well under the umbrella of Advaita Vedantaṁ using the intricacies/tools of Tantrasastraṁ can be considered as one of the most creative proposition initiated by Ācarya.


Below is a preliminary attempt through a prosodic depiction of these interlinkages by me in saṁskr̥taṁ, followed by a self-explanatory note in English.


अनावृत उदीर्णऋजुविद्येश्वरतनु विघ्नरिपु अन्नादगाणापत्योऽहं प्रथमपुष्पैः 

मोहान्धकारनिर्मुक्त सत्यप्रकाशधवलितसौरोहमेकचक्षुः जगतीमध्ये पुनः

शस्त्रास्त्रसुब्रह्मण्योऽहं षड्कोणमदनवपु संघर्षप्रबन्धशुश्रुवस्

भवाभवलोकव्यावहारिकक्षेमस्थैर्यवीर्यविजयवैष्णावोऽहं सर्वभूतहितकरं श्रुत्या

देहरूपविहारप्रकडित समापथयोगानुग्रहकुशलभौमशैवोऽहं नयनकमलभूः

तत्वज्ञानादि प्रकृतिजिज्ञासा स्वानुभव अध्यात्मविषये ह्र्द्शाक्तेयोऽयमहं मम मातरं सर्वदा


प्रतिसंहृत देवगन्धर्व यक्षकिन्नरसिद्धचारण अप्सरसादि गणैः

पशुपक्षिमृगादि सुधारेणुरियं स्मृत्या

सनातनधर्मकौतुकविद्याधरोऽहं सदा 


Anāvr̥ta udīrṇar̥juvidyeśvaratanu vighnaripu annādagāṇāpatyo'haṁ prathamapuṣpaiḥmso

Mohāndhakāranirmukta satyaprakāśadhavalitasaurohamekacakṣuḥ jagatīmadhye punaḥmso

Śastrāstrasubrahmaṇyo'haṁ ṣaḍkoṇamadanavapu saṁgharṣaprabandhaśuśruvasmso

Bhavābhavalokavyāvahārikakṣemasthairyavīryavijayavaiṣṇāvo'haṁ sarvabhūtahitakaraṁ

Deharūpavihāraprakaḍita samāpathayogānugrahakuśalabhaumaśaivo'haṁ nayanakamalabhūḥ

Tatvajñānādi prakr̥tijijñāsā svānubhava adhyātmaviṣaye hrdśākteyo'yamahaṁ mama mātaraṁ sarvadā
Pratisaṁhr̥ta devagandharva yakṣakinnarasiddhacāraṇa apsarasādi gaṇaiḥ

Paśupakṣimr̥gādi sudhāreṇuriyaṁ smr̥tyā

Sanātanadharmakautukavidyādharo'haṁ sadā


1) Gāṇāpatyaṁ - Anchoring thought-domains; visualised through forms of Gaṇapati


अनावृत उदीर्णऋजुविद्येश्वरतनु विघ्नरिपु अन्नादगाणापत्योऽहं प्रथमपुष्पैः 

Anāvr̥ta udīrṇar̥juvidyeśvaratanu vighnaripu annādagāṇāpatyo'haṁ prathamapuṣpaiḥ


Translation - Unlimited unfolding of excited and proud frankness, arising out of simplicity; embodiment of constructive situational-responses and of knowledge; demolisher of the obstacles,  eating the most- like the fire; thus I am in the mind-processes, anchored in  the spectacular forms of Gaṇapati, while blooming of first flowers are observable.


Be it the traditional familial puja at home performed by every Hindu on daily basis or Mahāyāgaṁ conducted at large by learned scholars; the primal reverence is always meant for the lord who is the remover of all obstacles and approachable at all levels in the most benevolent ways. Worshipping Gaṇapati as a devata with innumerable variants of forms and names, unique customs and practices, seasonal offerings were all codified and followed even to this date with the zeal of fervour unparalleled. No village, group, community or occasions exist in this part of geography, where ‘dear bappa’ in his indomitable forms are not invited. Simplicity, frankness, agility with the knowledge impregnated and as the presiding lord of the first cakram (muladharam) - Gaṇapatyaṁ still offers its strong channel of strength and thought-domains to the eternal dharma.   


2) Sauraṁ - Anchoring thought-domains; visualised through forms of Surya


मोहान्धकारनिर्मुक्त सत्यप्रकाशधवलितसौरोहमेकचक्षुः जगतीमध्ये पुनः

Mohāndhakāranirmukta satyaprakāśadhavalitasaurohamekacakṣuḥ jagatīmadhye punaḥ


Translation - Free from the delusional darknes (of ignorance and avidya), illuminated with the light of truthfulness (true or truthful vidya); and then amongst this earthly planes (acknowledging as one among billions of earthly beings), son of Atma (Surya is Atmarupa/ Pratyakṣabrahma as per scriptures) and worshipper of Sūrya (as per traditions) who aspect unequivocally (Sun sees/provides light impartially and unambiguously through the laws of nature).


Historically the human civilisation always had the natural affinity to put the forces of celestial nature in high esteem and worship thereby acknowledging the laws of nature connecting every being with the cosmos. Surya dēvatā, as a manifested and ‘one of the most easily observable forms of cosmos’ (Pratyakṣabrahma) is considered as part of daily awakening or realisation by worldwide Hindus. Along with the sacred agni (Agnisvarupaṁ), the traditional rituals and practices of Sauraṁ includes various facets of reverential references to multitudinal nature of cosmic energies.


An offshoot in later years of this also resulted in the expansion of the understanding of nine-folded modeling (nine grahas) which is ever-influencing all manifestations of the entire cosmos. Besides part of the daily offerings through arghyaṁ (water impregnated with intentions resonated in specific mantras) and yogic prostrations visualised as various haṭhayoga asanaṁ; there exists elaborated processes of worshipping and references of various devatabhavaṁ (being and resonating particular state) under the Sauraṁ streams of thought domains.


3) Kaumaram - Anchoring thought-domains; visualised through forms of Kumara


शस्त्रास्त्रसुब्रह्मण्योऽहं षड्कोणमदनवपु संघर्षप्रबन्धशुश्रुवस्

Sastrastrasubrahmaṇyo'haṁ ṣaḍkoṇamadanavapu saṁgharṣaprabandhasusruvas


Translation - Amidst the weaponry (responsiveness) of guided warheads (of situations and life) - one who is commanding, powerful, knower and most realised pragmatic executor is me; star(of six domains/corners) of enchanting quintessential, the inquisitive scholar managing all frictions and intractable(Dilemmas in life).


The ever-propelling multitudinal dilemmas in everyday life are to be managed with the channelisation of right energies and in right propositions. The knowhow to manage such frictions demand the acquisition of weaponry and of guided warheads. The stock of such weaponry includes not only to quintessentially match the capacity of one’s own enemies but also to counter-attack if necessary. Battlefields are both externally visible as well as one’s own internal conscience. Anchored in the thought domains of Kaumaraṁ, various forms of Kumara as devata-referred by innumerable names; most popular ones being likes of Skanda, Muruga and Kārtikēya.


Kaumaraṁ is still one of the most insightful cultural streams channelising various sections of the population throughout this country. Natural inquisitiveness for knowledge acquisition and expansion, proactive management of conflicts of various nature and if situation demands to use the energies for striking the forces of enmity are some of the unique features of Kaumaraṁ. Siddha traditions of yore, facets of Śasta worship and aligned with Yajna culture; Kaumaraṁ is one of the most vibrant undercurrent of Bharatiya cultural prisms.


4) Vaiṣṇavaṁ - Anchoring thought-domains; visualised through forms of Viṣṇu


भवाभवलोकव्यावहारिकक्षेमस्थैर्यवीर्यविजयवैष्णावोऽहं सर्वभूतहितकरं श्रुत्या

Bhavabhavalokavyavahārikakṣemasthairyaviryavijayavaiṣṇavo'ham sarvabhutahitakaram-srutya


Translation - Sourced through the tenets of Sruti (vaidika/vedic) and most benevolent to all beings; I am all pervasive- tranquility and welfare, continuance, with valorous efficacy and victorious amongst the perceptually existential as well as non-existential worldly affairs.


One of the most fascinating streams of thoughts which are always a part of Bharatiya culture is the synchronised and interdependent coexistence of human beings, acknowledging the roles of all the other beings. A friendly, responsible, proactive, welfare seeking attitude is thus inevitable for the seekers of truth while executing their productive efforts in the earthly plane of operations. Exposition of one’s identified joint responsibilities will certainly be more strengthened and clarified through the insightful explorations of Śruti. 


Sprouting from the intentions of natural benevolence-all the human thoughts and deeds can get aligned which if followed consciously by all, will lead to victories or successes in the perceptually existential as well as non-existential worldly endeavours. Sustenance, continuance of the welfare for all beings as well as valorous efficacy will be a natural resultant and observables of those who proactively follow the tenets, undercurrents and resonance which are part of the continuum ever-present in Śruti.


Comely and various forms of Viṣṇu along with avatararupaṁs (earthly descended forms as per puranaṁ) as devata is considered as a natural alignment with which one can transform the thought processes to greater heights and channelise the spending of intentional energies towards executing premeditative deeds anchored always in generic welfare to all contextual beings.


5) Saivam - Anchoring thought-domains; visualised through forms of Siva


देहरूपविहारप्रकडित समापथयोगानुग्रहकुशलभौमशैवोऽहं नयनकमलभूः

Deharupaviharaprakaḍita samapathayoganugrahakusalabhaumaśaivo'haṁ nayanakamalabhuḥ


Translation - In the outward appearances and in observable forms of transpositions; I am earthly auspicious- dexterous in bestowing integrative conjunctions with lotus like eyes/visions emerging out of rising lotuses(various chakras in body).


One of the most fascinating skillsets of the human beings seems to be the competence to innately comprehend; thereby expanding the inner conscience. Reflecting such extroverted and reinforced inner beauty; the exterior forms of bodily actions are moulded, which would certainly be auspicious and also conferring such exquisiteness. Yogaśastraṁ with its various operational prisms enables one to align for visions of beneficial ascendency- ranging from a small mundane task to the exploration of the very purpose of the life’s existence. Externally strengthened by the raised awareness of inner beauty, the body-mind dexterously integrates various conjunctions of life-experiences and thereby enabling/resulting in transformational and non-linear transpositions of human consciousness. Ever auspicious- Śiva visualised through innumerable forms and degrees of formlessness expand the human consciousness, bestowing the visions emerging out of integrative conjunctions at every sphere of life situations. 


6) Sakteyam - Anchoring thought-domains; visualised through forms of Sakti


तत्वज्ञानादि प्रकृतिजिज्ञासा स्वानुभव अध्यात्मविषये ह्र्द्शाक्तेयोऽयमहं मम मातरं सर्वदा

Tatvajnanadi prakr̥tijijnasa svanubhava adhyatmaviṣaye hrdśakteyo'yamahaṁ mama mataram sarvada


Translation - And with philosophical inquisitive explorations as well as self-experiential transcendence; I am always the heartfelt-efficacy of vigorous-liveliness at all times of my mother-eternal.


Compassionate nature of human beings may certainly guide the instinctive quest for the expansion of knowledge and to understand the nature with all its principles and processes. Philosophising the explorations will be more reflective with the multitudinal life experiences gained, either through consciously-taking situational-responses or through the inferred presence/absence of perceived life situations. Transcending or rising above the mundane state of the human-mind naturally need to be initiated with the guidance of suitable processes. People who have compassion towards the others would certainly be willing to guide like a mother also in due process the blossoming of self-experiential transcendence  will be observable creating an aura of vigorous liveliness. Worshipping Śakti in innumerable forms and visualisations are always part of the natural expression of human beings in every civilisation. Bharatiya culture instills the eternal beauty, love, care of motherhood through the active promotion of meditative forms/ cosmic presence of Śakti. 


प्रतिसंहृत देवगन्धर्व यक्षकिन्नरसिद्धचारण अप्सरसादि गणैः

पशुपक्षिमृगादि सुधारेणुरियं स्मृत्या

सनातनधर्मकौतुकविद्याधरोऽहं सदा  


Pratisaṁhr̥ta devagandharva yakṣakinnarasiddhacaraṇa apsarasadi gaṇaiḥ

Paśupakṣimr̥gadi sudhareṇuriyaṁ smr̥tya

Sanatanadharmakautukavidyādharo'haṁ sada


Comprehensively inclusive of various groups like that of forces of sustenance (Deva), of rhythm and symphony (Gandharva), of supernaturals (Yakṣa), of beyond human imaginations (Kinnara), of saintly proven and attainable (Siddha), of various courses of motion (Cāraṇa), of yore and fairytales (Apsaras); thinking upon all creatures, birds, animals and even to the level of the welfare of cosmic particles; always I remain the preceptor and receptacle of knowledge, inquisitor of eternally sustained Dharma.



Some of the gainful blossoms of Acarya’s Ṣaṇmatam include-


1.Synchronised and integrated six-folded thought domains thereby enabled wider inclusion of populace who are seekers of truth in their own ways and in their own levels; under the benevolent umbrella of Advaita Vedantaṁ.


2.Recognised and contextually reinvigorated utilisations of various facets of thought-streams; thereby naturally strengthening the vaidhika fabric, amongst scholars and practitioners of various thought-domains.


3.Resonating the ever evolving synergistic approaches towards the interlinkages of precepts of various śastraṁ including Vedantaṁ, Tantraṁ, Yogaṁ, Dharmaśastraṁ and Bhakti among others.


4.Re-emergence and efforts towards popularisation of Pancayatanaṁ-mode (being five-folded devata) of worship specifically for the familial seekers as well as process-dominant guidelines emancipated for the temple-communities to this date.


The truthful words of Acarya (Acaryavayaṁ) are still pulsating and reverberating in every cell; and ‘in each and every protoplasm’ of those ‘truly curious and inquisitive minds of eternal dharma’ (Sanatanadharmautsukaḥ). 


श्रुति स्मृति पुराणानामालयं करुणालयं
नमामि भगवत्पादशंकरं लॊकशंकरं

śruti smr̥ti puraṇanamalayaṁ karuṇalayaṁ
namami bhagavatpadaśaṁkaraṁ lokaśaṁkaraṁ


The author Dr.K.Subramanian is a young and dynamic academician, author and management consultant. He is the founder of Centre for Studies in Temple Administration and also a fellow of Centre for Conflict Management Studies

Receive Site Updates