Among the most famous hagiographies of Adi Shankara is the Madhaviya Shankara Vijaya. This work has significant importance in advaita tradition.


mAdhavIya Sankaravijaya - The mAdhavIya is probably the oldest available, and also the most authentic and widely known among the different Sankaravijayas today. It is certainly the most popular such text in the advaita tradition, and is also known as the sam.kshepa Sankarajaya. The popularity of this work derives from the fame of its author, mAdhava, who is usually identified with vidyAraNya, the 14th century maThAdhipati at Sringeri.

The Sanskrit version of this work can be found at -


A slightly sanitized translation by Swami Tapasyananda (we will see why sanitization is done) is found at -


According to the madhaviya shankara vijaya, Kumarila, the mimamsa scholar, is an incarnation of Skanda (son of Shiva) and Adi Shankara himself is an incarnation of Shiva. This is mentioned in first chapter.

According to the first chapter of this work (1.60-1.98), there was a king by name Sudhanvan (incarnation of Indra) who was a Buddhist. Kumarila arrives at the king's place, has arguments with Buddhists and defeats them. The king's belief in vedic dharma is established. At the instigation of Kumarila, the king orders his minions to kill all buddhists, including children and elderly, right from Rameswaram to the Himalayas. (This part is sanitized in the translation by the Swami). Some of the relevant Sanskrit text is given below -

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Note the vrddhabAlakam at the end of first line. Every Buddhist right from children to elderly was killed. This perfectly fits the definition of genocide.

Here the translation continues -

He also threatened with dire punishment those officers who showed any hesitation in carrying out this order, however close he might be to him. Indeed; powetful rulers eliminate even friends and relatives, if they tum disobedient or hostile. Did not Parasurama kill his mother under such circumstances?

Thus, the text seems to be justifying the genocide of non-believers (Buddhists).

Adi Shankara himself does not seem to have any qualms in associating himself with this king. For the king was allowed to accompany Shankara during his tour of the country -

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The king helps Adi Shankara in his tour by helping him defeat the kapalikas (another slaughter of kapalikas this time, but at least the kapalikas supposedly brought it on themselves as they were allegedly violent).

My question here is not whether these events are real. They may have been made up, exaggerated or blown out of proportion or partly real or who knows what. However, we see two stanuch followers of the vedas - (Kumarila and Adi Shankara focused on karma and jnana kandas of vedas respectively) - one instigating a king to commit genocide and other having no qualms in associating with such a king, according to this hagiography which is very popular in advaita circles.

If these staunch followers of vedas did not see anything wrong in the genocide of Buddhists (as per this Shankara vijaya), the natural question that arises is

whether the vedas and/or smritis themselves sanction genocide of non-believers like Buddhists? Is genocide of non-believers permitted according to Hindu texts?


Since one of the answers says that the madhaviya shankara digvijaya is not an important one: On the mAdhavIya Shankara Digvijaya's popularity, I have only quoted the website of advaita-vedanta.org. Another indicator of its popularity is its translation into local languages and distribution by Sringeri matha. Even the Sringeri matha website regards this work as very popular and widely accepted, most authentic -


The Madhaviya Shankara Vijayam, the most popular and widely accepted account of Sri Adi Shankara’s life, describes the advent of Sri Adi Shankara thus..


The Madhaviya is the the most authentic and widely known among the different Sankaravijayas today. It is certainly the most popular such text in the Advaita tradition, and is also known as the Samkshepa Sankarajaya. The popularity of this work derives from the fame of its author, Madhava, who is actually Jagadguru Sri Vidyaranya, the 12th Acharya of the Sriingeri Sharada Peetham.

  • Hinduism is not some fixed book religion like new Abrahamic ones with a given one-two scriptures to follow and written heavens later. Hinduism is ancient dharma based on the spiritual laws of nature/Prakriti and is highly dynamic just like the creation itself with every being precious, as a sudden body lost in futile killings is waste of time of body's soul and of nature in long term, because source of creation is one.There is only protection of Dharma like killings in Mahabharata or adopting complete non-violence,peace during Buddha's time,spiritual future evolution of majority is to be seen.
    – user16530
    Jan 17 '20 at 16:20
  • There is nothing like non-believer, its better to be non-believer and following new religion, than being tamsik yet accessing sacred Vedic mantras and spiritual Siddhis for misuse and harming innocents like Duryodhana and Kamsa did despite being Sanatani.
    – user16530
    Jan 17 '20 at 16:25
  • The content of the question is too long and thus hiding the question proper. That is why I had edited your question content @yAdRcchika Jan 20 '20 at 13:42
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    The Veda, to be precise, the Rig Veda contains spiritual aspects, albeit containing historical facts here and there. So how can you expect the Veda to contain sanction of genocide of non-believers? The Veda did mention about followers of other faiths and finally coming back to the core spirituality and getting WISDOM @yAdRcchika Jan 20 '20 at 13:51

Do Vedas/Smritis sanction genocide of non-believers (buddhists etc)?

No, but they sanction the deportation of non-believers, including Buddhists:

Manusmriti 9.225 - Gamblers, dancers, cruel men, men belonging to heretical sects [pāṣaṇḍas], men addicted to evil deeds, dealers in wine,—these the King shall instantly banish from his town.

The word used for men belonging to heretical sects is pāṣaṇḍas, which means followers of non-Vedic religions. This includes Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. According to Hindu scripture, followers of these religions must be immediately deported from any Vedic kingdom.

  • 5
    Interesting. As per Narada Smriti vide Dharmokosha P-870 laid down thus: पाषण्डनैगमश्रेणीपूगव्रातगणादिषु । संरक्षेत्समयं राजा दुर्गे जनपदे तथा ॥ Meaning : The king should afford protection to compacts of associations of believers of Veda (Naigamas) as also of disbelievers in Veda (Pashandis) and of others. Will need to find the verse in Narada smriti. I got the above from the following link - dharmawiki.org/index.php/… Jan 20 '20 at 9:02
  • @Carmensandiego Oh wow interesting.
    – Ikshvaku
    Jan 20 '20 at 18:58

I give below some Mahabharata verses on how to treat others. There is no injunction to commit genocide. As a general rule 'historical' facts mentioned in ancient texts need to be crosschecked with other sources. Do Buddhists accuse Shankaracharya of mixing with a King who allegedly killed all Buddhists in all of India? Most historians will reject such hyperbolic claims in any ancient hagiography.

Vidura on how to treat others

That which is antagonistic to one’s own self, should never be applied in respect of another.

[Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva, Section 39]

Bhishma’s advice

Bhishma said, ‘Knowing how painful it is to himself, a person should never do that to others which he dislikes when done to him by others.’

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CCLX

Highest Morality

Tuladhara said, ‘O Jajali, I know morality, which is eternal, with all its mysteries. It is nothing else than that ancient morality which is known to all, and which consists of universal friendliness, and is fraught with beneficence to all creatures. That mode of living which is founded upon a total harmlessness towards all creatures or (in case of actual necessity) upon a minimum of such harm, is the highest morality.’

(Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CCLXII)

  • 'There is no injunction to commit genocide' - The same Mahabharata also says about the Kalki avatar: "And he will be the Destroyer of all, and will inaugurate a new Yuga. And surrounded by the Brahmanas, that Brahmana will exterminate all the mlecchas wherever those low and despicable persons may take refuge" Jan 20 '20 at 17:32
  • @sv. That is not an injunction to humans to genocide mlecchas, it is saying lord Vishnu will genocide mlecchas at the end of kali yuga. What is permissible for gods is not always permissible for humans.
    – Ikshvaku
    Jan 20 '20 at 18:44
  • 'What is permissible for gods' - until I hear otherwise (this is not enough) have to assume the same rules apply to devas. Also, if you think about it, gods (that take birth as humans) are supposed to set good examples to humans; not violate them and expect special treatment. @Ikshvaku Jan 21 '20 at 0:06
  • @sv. Why is that not enough? That is a statement by Vyasa that says that devas do not have to follow the same rules as humans. And anyways different devas have different jobs. Shiva destroys the universe, Vishnu kills demons, etc. It is perfectly fine for Shiva to kill everyone and destroy the universe at the end of times.
    – Ikshvaku
    Jan 21 '20 at 0:46
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    @sv. If they incarnated to set an example to humans, then they will act like humans.
    – Ikshvaku
    Jan 21 '20 at 1:18

Contrary to your statement, the Digvijaya is not an important work. It also does not exist as a single manuscript, or author. Swami Tapasyananda states in his Introduction to his book you referenced:


Problems Connected With a Biography of Sri Sankara

An Introduction to an English translation of Madhava Vidyaranya's Sankara-digvijaya, known also as Samkshepa sankara-vijaya, requires in the first place an explanation of why it is undertaken. We are presenting this translation not because we consider it a proper biography in the modern sense, but because there is nothing better to offer on the life and achievement of Sri Sankara...

The trouble does not actually lie with these scholars [modern scholars who have tried writing life sketches of Sankara] or the accounts they have given of Sankara's life. It lies in the fact that there is an absolute dearth of reliable materials to produce a biography of the modern type on Sankara, and the 'scholarly writer', if he is to produce a book of some respectable size, has no alternative but to fill it with discussions of the various versions of the dates and of the incidents of Sankara's life that have come down to us through a series of literature known as the Sankaravijayas, which vary very widely from one to another in regard to most of these details...When he was born; where he met his teacher; where he wrote his commentaries; what were the routes he took in his all-India journeys for preaching and teaching; who were all his opponents and where he met them; how and when he came across his disciples; what temples he visited or renovated; what Maths he founded or whether he founded any Math at all; where he passed away--all these ae matters on which conflicting or widely differing views are expressed in the different traditional books concerned with him known as Sankara-vijayas.

[and further] The translation given in this book is of Sankara-dig-vijaya or Sankshepa-Sankaravijaya by Madhava-Vidyaranya. It is, however, to be remembered that this is only one of the following ten Sankara-vijayas listed on page 32 of T.S.Narayana Sastri's The Age of Sankara [list of the ten then given]...

[and further regarding the work done by Madhava-Vidyaranya] Ever since it was first printed in Ganapat Krishnaji Press in Bombay in 1863, it has continued to be a popular work on Sankara and it is still the only work on the basis of which ordinary people have managed to get some idea of the great Archarya, in spite of the severe criticism against it by several scholars.

This is only a few of Tapasyananda's comments. The lengthy Introduction goes into much detail as to the elements of how events conflict with some historically known events, elements of fanciful mythology, and conflicts between different dig-vijayas, and questions whether even Madhava-Vidaranya was the author. The book should be read as a poem.

Finally to answer your other question, the vedas do not address 'other' religions. The sanatana dharma is from the vedas. The concept of 'religion' or 'religions' is a concept that came afterwards.

  • Regarding the importance of madhaviya shankara digvijaya, I have made an addition in my question addressing this point.
    – user17987
    Jan 18 '20 at 10:58
  • 1
    @yAdRcchika Again, it does not have significant importance. Jan 19 '20 at 5:13
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    Tapasyananda may not place importance on it, but the four Shankaracharya Mathams place great importance on it. They think that it accurately describes the events of Adi Shankaracharya’s life. Jan 19 '20 at 16:13

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