Matha

An Advaita Vedanta monastery and Vidyashankara temple at Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Sringeri, Karnataka.

A (मठ, IAST: maṭha) is a Sanskrit word that means "institute or college", and it also refers to a monastery in Hinduism.[1][2]

Monastic life, for spiritual studies or the pursuit of moksha (spiritual liberation) traces it roots to the 1st millennium BCE, in the Vedic tradition.[3][4] The earliest Hindu monasteries (mathas) are indirectly inferred to be from the centuries around the start of the common era, based on the existence of Sannyasa Upanishads with strongly Advaita Vedanta content.[5] The matha tradition in Hinduism was likely well established in the second half of 1st millennium CE, as is evidenced by archeological and epigraphical evidence.[6]

Mathas grew over time, with the most famous and still surviving centers of Vedanta studies being those started by Adi Shankara. Other major and influential mathas belong to various schools of Hindu philosophy, such as those of Vaishnavism and Shaivism.[7][8] The monastery host and feed students, sannyasis (monks, renouncers, ascetics), gurus and are led by Acharyas. These monasteries are sometimes attached to Hindu temples and have their codes of conduct, initiation and election ceremonies.[3][9] The mathas in the Hindu tradition have not been limited to religious studies, and historical evidence suggest that they were centers for diverse studies such as medieval medicine, grammar and music.[10]

The term matha is also used for monastery in Jainism, and the earliest monasteries near Jain temples are dated to be from about the 5th-century CE.[11]

Etymology

A matha (Sanskrit: मठ) refers to "cloister, institute or college", and in some contexts refers to "hut of an ascetic, monk or renunciate" or temple for studies.[12] The root of the word is math, which means "inhabit" or "to grind".[12]