Adi Shankaracharya was born in the 5th century BC at Kaladi in Kerala. He was a brilliant scholar in Vedic lore and a great revolutionary. During a short span of 32 years of his life he travelled the length and breadth of Bharatavarsha and re-established the pristine unity in diversity of various sects of Hinduism and made the religion shine with luster unprecedented.
Once while in Varanasi, Acharya had been to Ganges for his usual holy bath during early hours of dawn. He was just ascending the steps to the bank after finishing his bath, chanting the holy name of Lord Shiva. All of a sudden he happened to strike with a rough and tardy looking person with four dogs held in hand by leash.
It being a dawn, the surroundings were not quite visible. But with little effort, Acharya could make out that the person hailed from a low caste and that he looked shabby.
“Hey you have desecrated me, can’t you see that I am coming after a holy dip in Ganga? Go, get lost,” said Acharya with little irritation.
The sombre looking person smiled a while. He did not budge aside. On the contrary, with unusual intrepidity he asked Acharya, “Who has desecrated whom? Please tell me”.
“Obviously you yourself have laid me impure with your dirty touch,” argued Acharya.
“You mean to say the flesh of my body touched the flesh of your body. Flesh, be it mine or yours, is by itself perishable, transitory and impure. How can one impure tarnish another impure?”
Acharya was taken aback at the argument of hunter-like person.
The person went on arguing further, “If my soul has touched your soul, both being pure, how can one tarnish the other?”
“In case your soul has touched my flesh, how can a purifier get itself impure? As you always say the soul is omnipresent. If so where does a question of touch and desecrate arise?”
The man further made clear to Acharya that he was arguing strictly within the ambit of the philosophy enunciated by Acharya himself.
Acharya went on gazing at the eyes of that person. The person’s eyes were glowing with divine luster.
Acharya realised the lacuna in his precept and practice. He was further shocked to see that the person standing before him was nobody else than Lord Shiva himself and the four dogs held in grip by the person were the four Vedas.
Acharya fell down at the feet of Lord Shiva and he was soon immersed in heavenly joy. He composed a beautiful hymn called Maneeshapanchakam in praise of Lord Shiva to let the stream of knowledge flow eternally for emancipation of human kind.