Shri Shankara started for the south of India where he hoped to undermine the common belief in the non-Vedic religions and to gain a following for the metaphysics of Advaita.
He was accompanied by a number of disciples including Sureshvara and Padmapada. At every main centre on his route he established the superiority of Advaita and refuted the dualistic opponents who attempted to stand against him. In the course of his triumphant journey, during which he lived a life of extreme simplicity, study, devotion and meditation, he came to a mountain called Shri Parvat where there is today a famous temple. It is said that Nagarjuna, the Madhyamic Buddhist teacher, lived near this mountain and acquired great powers.
The celebrated poet Bhavabhuti calls it the abode of perfect Yogis in his play “Malati-Madhava”. At that time Shri Parvat was the headquarters of the Tantric worshippers, both Hindu and Buddhist, of that district. The chief local cult, of which the local Raja was an adherent, was the worship of Bhairava. In the primitive ceremonies associated with this cult, wine was drunk out of human skulls and human sacrifice is said to have taken place. Shri Shankara stayed here for a time and a large number were influenced by his teachings – so much so that one of the leaders of the cult was enraged and planned to assassinate him. This man became outwardly a disciple of the holy Acharya until one day he revealed his real purpose and demanded the head of Shri Shankara as a sacrifice at the altar of Bhairava.
The holy Acharya offered no resistance to this villainous demand. Shortly afterwards the man entered the chamber where Shri Shankara was meditating alone. He wore a garland of human skulls, was half drunk and held a dagger in his hand. Shri Shankara sat quietly meditating on the oneness of Brahman, repeating the holy name OM. As the assassin was about to strike, Shri Padmapada appeared and overpowered him. It is said that thereafter, as a result of the influence of the holy Acharya’s teaching, the tantric cult died out. This incident is not related by Anandagiri in his “Shankara Vijaya” but it is mentioned elsewhere.