Bihar is also, sneeringly, perjoratively, called Laloo-land. After Laloo Prasad Yadav. The ex-chief minister of Bihar. The fodder-scam man. But that is another story.
And in this Laloo-land, one came across Mandan-land. At Mahishi. Around 17-18 kms. from Saharsa, is this ancient village of Mahishi. Archaeological Survey of India’s findings dates this village to be 2000 years old. One can quite believe it. It looks rather untouched by the chaos of the so-called outside world. Mahishi is the birth land of the scholar Mandan Mishra, a great philosopher of the eighth century. It is here that Shankaracharya, who came from the South, had a philosophic debate with Mishra and then his wife Bharathi. Legend has it that Shankaracharya aced Mandan Mishra in the debate. His arrogance began showing through. He was however challenged by Bharati, Mandan’s wife, who told him that his victory was only on her husband. He however still had to contest her, Mandan’s ardhangini, the better-half.
During the debate, Bharati posed questions related to sex and physical relations between man and woman. Shankaracharya, being a Brahmachary, i.e. celibate, did not know the answers. And hence was defeated by her.
Shankaracharya, decided to understand this aspect of life. He left his body in care of his disciples, and entered the dead-still-to-be-cremated-body of a prince. He lived as the prince, with his wife and children for 2-3 years, getting embroiled in the moh and maaya of sansara. Eventually, he returned to his own body, challenged Bharati again. This time he could speak from experience and won the debate.
Even today, there exists the site where the debate was held, so say the people of Mahishi.