Sringeri, located on the banks of the river Tunga in the Malnad region of Karnataka, houses the first matha established by Sri Adi Shankaracharya, the greatest proponent of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. According to tradition, when Adi Sankaracharya was walking by the Tunga river, he saw a cobra with a raised hood, providing shelter from the hot sun to a female frog that was about to spawn. Impressed with the sanctity of the spot where even the natural enemy of the frog had turned protector, he decided to found his first monastery here. Later he established three other mathas at Dwaraka, Puri and Badrinath.
Sri Sankara learnt that there was a great learned person by the name Mandana Mishra who lived in Mahishmati and who followed the Karma Mimaamsa method of devotion. Sri Sankara arrived at his house and found his house was closed and Mandala Mishra was carrying out some rituals inside his house. Sri Sankara entered the house by using his powers and entered the house. Mandala Mishra became very angry and shouted at Sri Sankara. But Sri Sankara smiled and explained the uselessness of such rituals.
However, Mandala Mishra admired the intelligence of Sri Sankara and started discussions with him after completing the rituals. Sri Sankara said that there should be a judge to decide the winner and suggested that Sarasawani, the wife of Mandala Mishra, to be the judge. Sarasawani, who was extremely intelligent and learned, realised that Sri Sankara was none other than Lord Shiva, did not want to declare her husband as the loser. She suggested that both of them should wear a garland of flowers and whichever garland fades first, that person would be the loser. Naturally, Sri Sankara won.
As per the original condition, Mandala Mishra became an ascetic and started to leave the house. Unable to bear the separation, Sarasawani stood transfixed and told Sri Sankara that according to our faith, the husband and wife, even though have two bodies, are spiritually one and she would be incomplete without her husband.
Sri Sankara accepted this and started discussion with this lady. Saraswani showered questions like rain and Sri Sankara gave very beautiful answers and Sarasawani acknowledged him, and followed Sri Sankara and her husband's footsteps.
In their travels, they reached Sringeri in Karnataka, which is on the banks of Tungabadra. While Sri Sankara and Mandala Mishra were walking, Sarasawani did not move and stood fixed in the sands of Tungabadra. Sri Sankara turned back and realised by his divine powers that Sarasawani did not want to proceed any further and created a seat for her for spreading the Advaita. This seat is today called the Sharada Peetham or the Seat of Sharada. This was the first Mutt installed by Sri Sankara, with the direction that all the heads of the Mutts will be called Sankaracharayas and they will have a lineage of Shishyas or disciples.
The Saradamba temple is constructed in the modern Dravidian style, with a gopuram at the entrance, and broad covered walkways for pradakshina. The beautiful image of the Goddess can be seen from the distance as one enters the temple from the main gopuram. She is seated on the Sriyantra on a golden throne, inside the garbha-griha, which is made of polished granite. In front of Her Sanctum is a spacious hall supported by pillars with exquisite carvings on them. Within the temple of Saradamba is kept the Vyakhyana Simhasanam, which represents the sarvajna-pitha, the throne of transcendental wisdom. The Acharyas ascend this simhasanam when they are first initiated into sannyasa, when they take charge at the matha, and also on ceremonial occasions like the nine days of the Navaratri festival.
Sharada is Guru Rupini – she is of the form of the guru. Through the person of the Jagadguru she dispenses her grace. In the Prapancasara, Adi Sankaracharya describes Goddess Sarada as Brahmavidya, which is identical to the Incommensurable Brahman Itself. She transcends the three qualified conceptions, known as Trimurtis, and their corresponding Saktis known as Saraswati, Lakshmi and Iswari. She encompasses all these. This accounts for the fact that Sri Sarada reigns alone in the temple at Sringeri. She is also called Sarada Parameswari and pooja is done reciting the Lalithasahasranamam. The Sarada Navaratri festival is specially devoted to the Mother Goddess throughout India. She is worshipped as Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati. The festival occurs in the beginning of the autumn season (Sarad ritu) and is therefore special for Goddess Sarada.