Story of Sringeri
Sringeri is hallowed for all times by the ancient legend of the sage Sri Rishyashringa.
Sage Vibhandaka and his older brother Sage Prabhandaka, were the sons of Maharishi Kashyapa. Sage Vibhandaka as a boy left home for his education. After several years of intensive education returned to his brother Prabhandaka, who by then had got married. Prabhandaka was overjoyed to see his brother after several years. But Vibhandaka's return was not well received by his sister-in-law who thought that he was more of a burden to her. Noticing her displeasure, Vibhandaka with full of sorrow felt that he should leave his brother once and for all.
He left his brother's ashram to proceed to a far off forest. In his new environs he built an ashram and started living in it without any worldly contact.
Seeing Sage Vibhandaka's peaceful life, Urvashi, the heavenly damsel, smitten by his serene life, wanted to marry him. Vibhandaka refused but Urvashi was adamant. At last, Vibhandaka relented and soon he and Urvashi started living in the ashram as husband and wife. In course of time, Urvashi bore a son who was named as Rishyashringa. This child was born with a small horn in the forehead.
Sage Vibhandaka realised that Rishyashringa would be a great sage and would bring prosperity to the world. A few days after the child was born Urvashi returned to the heavens. Vibhandaka found himself responsible for the proper upbringing of the child. Since Vibhandaka was dejected by the attitude of his sister-in-law and Urvashi's way of life, he thought that the easiest way to keep his son innocent of the worldly ways was to keep him in forest isolation. He succeeded to such an extent that when the boy matured into manhood, he had never set eyes on any human being other that his own father. He was even unaware of sexual distinction.
It so happened that the neighboring kingdom of Anga suffered from a severe drought. The king Romapada was advised by his ministers that there would be copious rains if Sage Rishyashringa blessed his kingdom with the touch of his holy feet. Romapada, under the leadership of his daughter, Shanta, sent a number of fair damsels, all dressed as sanyansins, to the forest to bring the sage. They were however afraid of sage Vibhandaka, and so approached the hermitage in his absence.
The innocent boy was struck with the contrasts when he saw them. The delicious sweets with which they fed him were different from the fruits available in the hermitage. Instinctively he was attracted towards the women whom he regarded in his innocence as sages of a different kind. Apprehensive of the sudden return of the father, they left Rishyashringa hastily with a parting invitation to visit their hermitage.
After that meeting the mind of the Rishyashringa began to dwell upon them and became restless. He finally decided to go to their hermitage. He felt they would be able to remove his mental oppression.
King Romapada, learning that the boy-sage had started from his hermitage, waited to receive him at the entrance to his kingdom. The instant the holy sage stepped on the soil, the heavens opened up and poured life-giving rain. The king, thankful for the favour conferred on him, showed his gratitude by requesting the sage to remain as his guest for some time. Shanta, out of her own will, confided in her father that she wanted to marry the sage. The king readily agreed as he thought that he and his kingdom will be more blessed by having Rishyashringa as his son-in-law. Rishyashringa accepted her as his wife and remained in the king's palace as an honoured guest.
It was during this period that Dasharatha, King of Ayodhya, and a relative of King Romapada, invited Sage Rishyashringa to officiate in the Putrakameshti sacrifice, by which he was blessed with four sons - Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrugna. Sage Rishyashringa felt that his life was not without its merits. It gave him an opportunity to usher into this world Sri Rama, the personification of Dharma and an incarnation of Vishnu.
From Ayodhya, Sage Rishyashringa returned to his forest, only to find his father's absence in the hermitage. He went in search of his father who was later found to have gone to another place to meditate on a hill.
Sage Rishyashringa along with his wife returned to his father who by now was very old. Both Rishyashringa and his wife looked after the sage with devotion. After Sage Vibhandaka's union with the Lord, Rishyashringa and his wife meditated nearby for a long time to spend the remainder of their lives in divine contemplation. When Sage Rishyashringa shuffled off his mortal coil, a lightning issued forth from his body and disappeared into the Linga he was worshiping as a symbol of formless Absolute. This Linga can be seen even today in the temple at Kigga, a village about 10 km from Sringeri. Unlike others, this Linga is invested with a horn on its head, to commemorate the merger of the Sage Rishyashringa.
The place where Sage Rishyashringa meditated till his last days was in later days called as Rishyashringagiri, Shringapura, Shringagiri and now known as Sringeri. The Linga known as Malahanikareshvara that was worshipped by Sage Vibhandaka and into which he himself disappeared in the end is on the summit of the hill, known as Malahanikareshvara Hill, located in the centre of present Sringeri.