Because he reflects, as no other son of India, the quintessence of the Hindu outlook. He was not partisan like Ramanuja and Madhava. He corrected our failings and set the country on a new course. We are still on that course.
But he has his critics in this country. Some want to bring him down. Others are partisan?pleading for their favourites. For example, it has been said that Shankara drove Buddhism out of the country (he is also called a crypto-Buddhist) and gave new life to Hinduism, which was almost dying. True, he played a major role in reviving Hinduism, but he was not hostile to any other faith. In fact, he absorbed the best elements from all faiths into Hinduism.
It has also been said that he was wrong in choosing jnana as the supreme path to salvation. He certainly gave great importance to jnana. In fact, he believed that jnana was the royal road to liberation. And he himself put into the hands of those who were travelling along that road his immortal commentaries on the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Bhagavat Gita. To make them easy to understand, the prepared manuals like Vivekachudamani, Atmabodha and others. No wonder he was called Bashyakara. But he knew that jnana (vichara marga) was not for the common men but only for the educated. For men like him.
Was Shankara, then, indifferent to the common men? He was not. He declares that among the techniques for emancipation, devotion (bhakti) alone holds the supreme place for the common people. Why? Because the common man wants to surrender to God, he wants to worship Him, not meditate upon Him.
So, was he a bhakta? He was not. He was in fact the author of a huge literature on bhakti. They are among the most profound. What is more, they are so musical that they charmed the Indian humanity. Sivananda Lahiri and Saundarya Lahiri are monumental works, showing his abiding efforts to draw the poor and the wretched to the divine.
But bhakti was many negative features. It makes a distinction between the lover and the loved. In other words, it goes against our philosophy of Advaita. In Monism, there is no scope for love, worship and emotion. It is surprising that Shankara let the black spots pass.
Did Shankara do away with the meaningless Vedic rituals? He did not. He did what he was best at. He created six new forms of worship. He merely purged the old ones of their excrescence. If today we have more refined forms of worship, we must be thankful to Shankara.
As an Advaitist, he did not believe in and anthropomorphic God. Nor did he believe in worship. But he knew that the common men wanted a deity of their own?an Ishtadevata. So, Shankara introduced and Ishwara into his system as a compromise. It was a major concession.
And he himself visited the famous temples of India. For what purpose? To convince the common man that his Ishtadevata has a place in his evolution to Advaita.
Was Shankara less enthusiastic about mediation? It is true he had chosen an active life. We cannot think of another person in our history, who was more active than Shankara. He made the whole of India his theatre of activity, walked from end to end of the country, debated with scholars of all faiths, and met with the ordinary people. He set up mutts (hermitages) in the four corners of India and created armed forces to protect Hinduism?all in the 8th century AD when there was not even any transport. And do you know that he chose the Shudras for these para-military forces and not the Kshatriyas? Even today the role of the Nagasadhus is to protect Hinduism.
Even after this, he was not sure whether he had done enough for the common people. So he composed popular songs for propagating bhakti. Who has not heard the bhajan ?Bhaja Govindam??
Shankara was essentially a unifier of India, not one who sought to divide our people. He tried to carry with him almost all streams of our civilisation. In the process, he might have made compromises. In fact, he even accepted the best features of tantra!