Kaladi, on the banks of the river Purna, is a small village in the state of Kerala, India, where Adi Sankaracharya was born some twelve centuries ago. Sankaracharya is widely venerated as an incarnation of the silent Guru, Lord Dakshinamurti Himself. The Madhaviya Sankara-Vijayam says that abandoning His silence out of compassion, Sri Dakshinamurti incarnated on earth as Adi Sankaracharya, to speak, write and teach the essence of the Upanishads to people caught in the darkness of ignorance.
Sankaracharya became a sannyasi and left Kaladi at a tender age, in search of his guru. He returned only once, for his mother's last rites. Having been a travelling monk who had shed all his attachments, he did not leave any clue about the location of his birth-place in any of his writings. Consequently, over the centuries, the exact location of Kaladi had grown uncertain, although it was known that Kaladi was near Trichur in Kerala.
It was Jagadguru Sri Sacchidananda Sivabhinava Narasimha Bharati, the 33rd Sankaracharya of Sringeri Sarada Peetham, who identified the village. Within a few decades, Kaladi grew into a famous pilgrim site, visited by large numbers of people.
After convincing himself of the location of Kaladi in the early 1900's, Sri Narasimha Bharati Mahaswamigal directed the Sringeri matha officials to make efforts to develop the village. The Mahaswami also identified the old temple to Lord Krishna, where Sankaracharya was traditionally said to have worshipped, and the site where Aryamba, Sankaracharya's mother, had been cremated. He constructed a Brindavana Samadhi for Aryamba at this site, and initiated the practice of celebrating Sankara Jayanti annually. At the time, Kaladi village was part of the kingdom of the Maharaja of Travancore. Sri Rama Varma Moolam Tirunal, the ruler of Travancore, donated the village land and its surroundings to the Sringeri matha. In 1910, the old temple for Lord Krishna was renovated, and new temples were built in the traditional Kerala style of architecture, in which beautiful vigrahas of Goddess Sarada and Adi Sankara (in the form of Dakshinamurti) were consecrated with Vedic ceremonies.
In 1912, Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati, the renowned jivanmukta ascended to the Sringeri title. He had a special reverence for Kaladi. He started a Sastra Pathasala at Kaladi, and had an agraharam developed for the community of pundits and students here. He also visited Kaladi many times and spent a lot of time in meditation here. Another temple for Sakti Ganapati was constructed later, and an Ashram was built where scholars and students could stay and pursue the learning of the Sastras. His disciple, Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha, the next Sankaracharya of Sringeri, made extensive tours during his tenure. He visited Kaladi many times and started educational institutions here. The Sri Sankara Sanskrit College was established at Kaladi.
A research institute and the Sri Sankara Memorial Hall were built. The Sanskrit College prepares students for the Prak-Sastri and Sastri examinations of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan. Jagadguru Sri Bharati Tirtha, the current Sankaracharya of Sringeri, has been instrumental in setting up the Sanskrit University at Kaladi. He is the Chief Counsellor of the University, and guides this center of learning personally. As a result of all these efforts of the successive Sankaracharyas of Sringeri, Kaladi has grown into a great pilgrim center now. In 1988, the Adi Sankara Jyoti, a flame commemorating Adi Sankaracharya's 1200th birth centenary, was taken in an All-India tour, starting from Kaladi and ending at Kedarnath, where Sankaracharya breathed his last. The Kaladi branch of the Sringeri matha runs a guest house for pilgrims, and offers boarding and lodging in the village. Pilgrims come in large numbers to have a darshan of Saradamba, Sakti Ganapati, Adi Sankara and Lord Krishna here.