According to this site, Adi-Shankaracharya's Guru, Govinda Bhagavatpada, was an incarnation of Sheshnaga:

According to the legend, Adi Shankara's Guru was an avatar of Lord Vishnu's Shesha nAga. How can he teach asat shastra or mAyAvAda. GovindapAda, in his earlier avatar was Maharshi Patanjali.

Do Smarthas indeed consider Shankara's Guru to be an incarnation of Sheshnaga? Is Maharishi Patanjali also considered to be an incarnation?

  • 1
    As per legend (from discourses i heard), Patanjali is considered as Avatar of Sheshanaga. Patanjali's mother was in Anjali Mudra and he fell (पत = falling) in her hands from Vaikunta.
    – The Destroyer
    Feb 5, 2018 at 18:13
  • @TheDestroyer Why did Sheshnaga fall?
    – user9969
    Feb 5, 2018 at 18:19
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    I think he wanted to see tandava dance of Shiva when Vishnu said it is very beautiful. Looks like i can find it from Sthala Purana of Chidamabaram. let me search.
    – The Destroyer
    Feb 5, 2018 at 18:23
  • @TheDestroyer Sure...
    – user9969
    Feb 5, 2018 at 18:24

2 Answers 2


As per Sthala Purana of Chidambara Nataraja Swami Temple, Adi Sesha manifested into saintly Patanjali to see Aananda tandava of Lord Shiva.

Adhisesha, the serpent who serves as a bed for the Lord in his manifestation as Vishnu, hears about the Änanda thaandava and yearns to see and enjoy it. The Lord blesses him, beckons him to assume the saintly form of 'Patanjali' and sends him to the Thillai forest, informing him that he will display the dance in due course.Patanjali who meditated in the Himalayas during krita age joins another saint, Vyagrapathar / Pulikaalmuni (Vyagra / Puli meaning "Tiger" and patha / kaal meaning "feet" – referring to the story of how he sought and got the feet and eyesight of a tiger to help climb trees well before dawn to pick flowers for the Lord before the bees visit them).

The story of sage Patanjali as well as his great student sage Upamanyu is narrated in both Vishnu Puranam as well as Siva Puranam. They move into the Thillai forest and worship Lord Shiva in the form of Shivalinga, a deity worshipped today as Thirumoolataneswarar (Thiru - sri, Moolatanam - primordial or in the nature of a foundation, Eswarar- the Lord). Legends say that Lord Shiva displayed his dance of bliss (the Aananda Thaandavam) - as Nataraja to these two saints on the day of the poosam star in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan – Feb).

Book Preceptors of Advaita, which has collection of articles collected by Kanchi Kamakoti peetam, says Patanjali came to Gaudapada as Chandra Sharma aka Govinda Bhagavadpada. This book was published on diamond jubilee of Sri Chandraseksharendra Saraswati's ascension to the Pitha.

Govinda Bhagavadpada section says:

According to the Patañjali-vijaya, a work by Rāmabhadra Dīkṣita written about 200 years ago, Chandra Śarmā is none other than Patañjali himself. Feeling that Gauḍapāda was not likely to secure a suitable disciple and thus might have to languish under his curse, Patañjali took pity on him and was himself born as Chandra Śarmā. This was but one more of the many roles that Patañjali played. Patañjali is none other than Ādiśeśha. Among the roles he played, those of Lakṣmaṇa and Balarāma may be remembered.

So, this makes Govinda Bhagavadpada same as Adi Sesha.


Yes, Advaitins consider Patanjali and Govindacharya to be incarnations of Vishnu's serpent Adiseshan. In this excerpt from Vidyaranya's Madhaviya Shankara Digvijaya, Adi Shankaracharya recites the following hymn upon meeting Govindacharya for the first time:

I worship thee, the incarnation of the great serpent Sesha, who is the bed of Mahavishnu, an ornament of Shiva, and the one on whose head the earth with all its mountains and rivers rest. Thou art the same sage Patanjali, a manifestation of Adisesha, whose thousand faces put his disciples to fright and who thereupon assumed a gentle form with a single face. Thou alone, as Patanjali, produced the great work on Yoga, as also the exegesis of the grammatical treatise of Panini. O far-famed one! Thou didst attain the highest spiritual realization from the instruction of the great Gaudapada, a disciple of Shuka the son of Vyasa. Praying to Thee for instruction in the truth of Brahman, I salute Thee, the repository of all great virtues.

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