By Swami Harshananda
Śañkara (CE 788-820) established four Maṭhas or monasteries in the four cardinal directions of the country with a view to consolidate and continue his work of rejuvenation of Vedāntic religion. The one which he established in the north is known as Jyotir Maṭha or Uttarāmnāya Maṭha. Toṭakācārya, one of the four chief disciples of Śaṅkara, was its first abbot.
The place where this Maṭha is situated is called Jośīmath. It is 32 km (20 miles) below and away from the well-known Himālayan place of pilgrimage, Badarīnātha or Badarī. Badarīnātha is at a height of 1800 meters (6100 ft.). Since it is impossible to stay at Badari during the winter, the chief priest known as ‘Rāval’ of the Nārāyaṇa temple shifts to Jyotir Maṭha along with the Utsavamurti (procession-idol) and other essential articles in November. He shifts back during May.
There is an ancient temple of Narasimha here. There is also a Śiva temple known as Jyotīśvara. A cave where Śaṅkara used to sit in meditation and a mulberry tree under which he used to worship are also located here.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore