The Saint as a Student

There are several different accounts of the education of Sankaradeva, ranging from accounts of an industrious scholar to those of a spontaneous genius. Sankaradeva pursued a method of comparative study of the scriptures. According to Bhusana Dvija, he fastened two lamps (bāti) at the sides of his bed and placed trays (thagi) holding books beneath them making it possible for him to read two books simultaneously at night.

Daityāri Thākur describes a whole-hearted concentration on learning, telling us that Sankaradeva studied all the sāstras, doing nothing else but speak of them. Despite this dedication, we are told, one day,preferring a change of pace, he 'bribed' his teacher to be released from school for the day:

ekadina umalibe mane icchā kari,
ektuka bastra eka takā hāte dhari;
āra kari niyā tāna guruka dilanta,
anumati laiyā umalibāka gailanta.

One day he felt like playing. Taking a piece of cloth and a silver coin in his hand he gave them to his teacher and getting permission [to leave], went out to play.

The teacher said to Sankara's grandmother:

O mother, hear my reply. Sankaradeva's power is immense. Having a mind to play, the noblest of my pupils, Sankaradeva has left for play by bribing me with two rupees and a pair of cloths.

So saying he returned them to the old woman, who heartily laughed and did not take them back. Thus he was brought to bay and played a truant no more. Sankaradeva became more earnest in his studies than ever.

The Master's first masterpiece

According to still another biographer, Sankaradeva was placed together at school with much older students who were asked to compose a poem. He followed suit even though he had only learned the first vowel of the alphabet; the result was his first lyric, karatala kamala kamala dala nayana. Later, while still in school, he wrote his first narrative poem, the Harischandra Upākhyāna.