At the tol
Sankara was admitted to the tol (boarding-school) of renowned Sanskrit scholar Mahendra Kandali. There were several such tols established at that time, most of them by famous learned men bearing titles like Misra, Kandali, Bhattāchāryya, Saraswati, etc.
From the beginning, Sankaradeva made a brilliant impression on his teacher. One of the biographers informs us that during the first days of Sankara's coming to school, the teacher asked the senior students, by whom Sankaradeva was sitting, to compose a few verses by themselves at home on the deities whom they adored. Sankaradeva, who now knew the consonants alone and not the vowels except the first, and was yet to be acquainted with them, taking it to be an injunction on himself too, composed a beautiful poem on Hari with only the consonants and the first vowel.
To leave alone the miracles narrated by the biographers, evidences are enough to show that Sankaradeva as an early scholar was of outstanding merit and for this he was held in high esteem by his teacher and classmates alike. Rāmacarana even names certain students who were really senior to Sankaradeva in classes but whom he presently surpassed. The teacher was so pleased with him that he made Sankaradeva a pupil teacher.
The bigraphers describes a whole-hearted concentration on learning, telling us that Sankaradeva studied all the sastras, doing nothing else but speak of them. He pursued a method of comparative study of the scriptures. He soon excelled all the other pupils in studies, just as he had done his playmates in games and sports. As he possessed extraordinary talent, within a very short period, he completely mastered the Sāstras, the Kāvyas and the grammar, taking only five years for the task, “which for others ”, in the words of his teacher, “would require a hundred ”.
The teacher Mahendra Kandali could find some rare qualities in Sankara during the course of his studies. One day, after school-hours, the teacher saw a serpent providing shade with its hood over Sankara's face to prevent the sun's rays from scorching him, while he (Sankara) lay asleep on the floor of the school. This sight at once reminded Kandali of the serpent Ananta spreading its hood over Nārāyana, and his mind was filled with extreme wonder. Soon after this divine vision, Kandali directed all his students to address Sankara as Sankaradeva, the epithet 'Deva' meaning 'God' and he was also excused of all extra-curricular duties.
While still in school, Sankaradeva wrote his first narrative poem, the Harischandra Upākhyāna
Sankaradeva returned home an accomplished scholar at the age of 17 years.Top ↑