By Swami Harshananda
One of the pioneering works done by Śaṅkara (A. D. 788-820) is the establishment of four maṭhas or monasteries in four cardinal places of the country to spread Vedic religion and Advaita philosophy. They are:
- The Kālikā Maṭha at Dvārakā in the west in Gujarat
- The Jyotir Maṭha near Badarī in the north in Uttaranchal
- The Govardhana Maṭha at Puri in the east in Orissa
- The Śāradā Maṭha at Śṛṅgeri in the south in Karnataka.
The first pontiff of the Govardhana Maṭha at Puri was Padmapāda. He was one of the four chief disciples of Śaṅkara, who is reputed to have rescued his guru from the clutches of the kāpālikas who wanted to sacrifice him. The Veda assigned to this Maṭha is the Ṛgveda. The brahmacārins of this tradition are given the appellation ‘Prakāśa.’ ‘Vana’ and ‘Araṇya’ are the titles reserved for the sanyāsins ordained through this Maṭha.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore