Shankara lost his father at a very young age. He wanted to renounce the worldly life and wanted to be an ascetic (sanyasi). His mother refused to give his consent. One day while bathing in the river Poorna a Crocodile caught the young lads foot in his mouth and dragged him slowly to the bottom as he was yelling for help to his mother. Shankara’s mother who saw this helpless event folded her hands and prayed to Lord Shiva. If you free him, I will let him be a Sanyasi. Immediately the crocodile let go the boy. This is how Shankara got permission to become a Sanyasi. He died at the age of 32 in 820 AD. Other researchers show that, He may have lived from 509 BC 70 477 BC
At this time in India, the Hindu’s were divided in their method of worships and philosophy. Regional sects had their own understanding of the sacred books and followed their own culture. It was Sri Sankaracharya who was the unifier of the religion and standardized the religious practices. He travelled on foot from the southern end of the continent to the northernmost part of India. He had debates with local scholars to preach home the philosophy of advaita.