In this next edition of Temples of North America series, today we are going to look at Stroudsburg Sri Sharadaambal Temple. This is in the state of Pennsylvania surrounded by the Poconos mountain range having had its Sthaapanam and Kumbabishekam in July 2008. Prior to 2008 this had its presence in a big mansion converted into a temple and moved to it's current location built as per the Agama Shastras. This is modelled on the Sringeri Sharadaambal Temple located in Sringeri, Karnataka, India.
Let us first look at the brief history of Sringeri and Sharadaambal. Adhi Sankara after attaining sanyaasa was doing Bharath Dharshan and was asked to do a debate with Mandana Mishra by Kumarila Bhatta in Prayaag. So Adhi Sankara proceeded to meet Mandana Mishra who was residing in today's Madhya Pradesh and a follower of Mimaamsa philosophy. Mimaamsa philosophy in layman terms would be following all the rituals strictly as per its prescribed edicts. Mandana Mishra to some is a reincarnation of Brahma and his wife Ubhaya Bharathi (Sarasavaani) of Saraswathi. Whenever there is a debate, there needs to be a judge and Sarasavaani acted as the judge. The term of the debate is the loser has to become the winner's disciple and the subject is Advaita. Adhi Sankara won the debate in 15 days and Mandana Mishra started to leave with Him as his disciple Sureswara. Sarasavaani asked Adhi Sankara to debate with her also. After a long debate she too was won. Sarasavaani said she will join them and will follow them but they should not look back to see if she is following. If they did she will stay there for ever. This way they proceeded southward and reached the banks of Tungabhadra. There are two versions here - one, Sarasavaani when walking in the river sand, her anklet's sounds couldnot be heard. So Adhi Sankara and Sureswara looked back and so Sarasavaani stayed there. Another version is Adhi Sankara saw a cobra a predator for frogs providing shelter to a pregnant frog from the scorching sun. Adhi Sankara decided this is the best place for establishing his mutt as this place is a paradise where predators and preys lived in amity. This place is present day Sringeri and Sarasavaani is Sharadaamba. Adhi Sankara established his Dakshinaamnaaya Mutt here and called as Sharaada Peetam with Sureswara as the first Achaarya. As a side note, Sureswara belongs to Abasthamba Sutra (a division like Gothra and mentioned in Abhivaadaye recital). Smartha marriage rituals are as per the Abasthamba Griha Sutra codified by Sureswara.
ஸ்ருதி ஸ்ம்ருதி புராணம் ஆலயம் கருணாலயம்
நமாமி பகவத் பாதம் சங்கரம் லோக சங்கரம்
Once we enter the main entrance of this Sringeri temple of Stroudsburgh, we go through a small passageway where we have two large pictures of Adhi Sankara and Sharadaamba. Straight ahead on entering the main hall we have the three divine sannidhaanams - one for Sharadhaamba with Her vahana of Hamsa bird (அன்னப் பறவை), Adhi Sankara and Chandramouleeswara (Lord Shiva) with His vaahana Nandi. Sharadaamba is in a seated posture with her saree pleats nicely covering her seat. While starting our Pradakshina, we start with the Panchayatana parikrama. Panchayatana puja is a Smartha sampradaaya started by Adhi Sankara which consists of worshipping five deities - Shiva, Vishnu, Paarvathi, Surya and Ganesha. Shiva is placed in the center with a Shiva Linga to do abishekams and the other four are placed on the four corners of the square. In the Prahaaram, we have the deities of Lord Ganesha with his vaahana mouse, Lord Subramaniar with consorts Valli and Deivaanai and vaahana peacock, Chandikeshwara, Hanumaan, Devi Bhavani facing south (in fact in all temples the non major deity of Devi Paarvathi will be facing south as per the shloka in Lalitha Sahasranaama Dakshina Dakshinaradhya ..), Lord Krishna and Navagrahaas. In all the Sankara mutts the presiding deity of Shiva will be Chandramouleeswara and the Achaaryas do puja this deity daily without fail. There is the Swarna Ratha in an enclosure which is run around the deities indoors on special occassions. Every evenings there is recital of Sri Lalitha Sahasranaama. In the walls of the temple the shlokas from Devi Mahatmiyam are engraved.
Close by is the Temple Kitchen and the old temple. In the old temple walls, we have the pictures denoting the various life stages of Adhi Sankara like His parent's prayer at the Trichur Vadakkumnaathan temple, a crocodile catching hold of Adhi Sankara in the Poorna river and Him pleading His mother to give him permission for Sanyaasa, his pilgrimage and meeting Kumarila Bhat. As per the mutt traditions, food is offered to visitors at noon and evenings.
The present Achaarya of Sringeri mutt is Sri Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal. Today April 09th is his Shastyabtapoorthi and his Varadhanthi (Birthday) was celebrated in a grand scale today. Rudra paarayanam, Veda and Upanishad Paarayanam were all recited and Homams were held for his longevity. My prostrations to Pujya Swamiji on this occassion.
Currently this temple is ably managed by Shri. Yegnasubramanian and all anushtaanas and being followed as per the Sringeri temple. The website for this temple is at http://www.svbf.org/home_page.php.