Shankara was born in the eighth century on the west coast of south India. After devoting himself to yoga practices and meditation, Shankara wrote commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, some of the Upanishads and other scriptures, and traveled throughout India declaring the oneness of a supreme reality and refuting erroneous philosophical doctrines. He reorganized the ancient, renunciate swami order and established permanent monastic centers in four regions of India: Sringeri (Mysore) in the south, Puri in the east, Dwaraka in the west, and Badrinath in the Himalayas.
Shankara lived during an era when Sanatana Dharma (the Eternal Way of Right Living) was beginning to be more widely emphasized, authoritative leadership was lacking, and conflicting religious sects were promoting a variety of philosophical opinions. His emphasis on the oneness of a supreme reality and the divinity of each person was a harmonizing influence.
Besides expounding his nondualistic views as presented in Self-Knowledge (Sanskrit Atma Bodha), he also wrote poems and composed hymns to reverently honor a variety of gods and goddesses (real or imagined aspects of cosmic powers and their influences) to inspire and encourage people in all walks of life to be devoted to right living and spiritual practices.