Mount Abu (24.36° North, 72.45° East) is a famous place of pilgrimage as mentioned in the puranas. A complete portion (Arbudakhand) in Skanda-Purana describes it in detail. It is mentioned in it that –
Meaning – out of all the holy places Abu is such that it effaces all the sins. The faults of the Age of Kali have not been able to touch this place because of Vasishtha ji’s holy effect on this place. Other sacred places purify a person through bathing-donating etc., whereas Abu takes away all the sins of people just by visiting the place. Vasishtha ji has promised to stay forever on this mountain. On his request, Mahadeva and all the Deities have come and stayed here. There are many divine shrines and ancient places of penance for saints and ascetics in Abu. In ancient times also, Abu has been famous as an important holy place and saints & monks have done penance in its caves and achieved various power perfections. It has also been a pure penance place of Lord Dattatreya.
In the modern age revered saints like Swami Vivekananda also stayed here for religious devotion. Apart from Sanatana Dharma followers, Jainis also believe Mount Abu to be their spiritual place and there are places of various Jain-Sampradaya (sects) situated here and monks perform penance living here. World famous Dilwara-Jain temple also marks its presence in Mount Abu. In the twentieth century, organizations for education of priests & monks from Tibet, Buddhist and Christian were also established here. Even today, representatives from all the major Hindu-sampradayas (sects) are available here. Being the highest mountainous area in the surrounding region, it has also gained importance from the tourism point of view. Although the highest peak of Mount Abu is 5653 feet high, even then where Abu city is inhabited, that is a large valley situated at a height of about 4000 feet above the sea level. Other mountainous areas are like a stony alley, but Abu maintains an extremely expanded area, thus it is possible to spread and reside here at distant places. Climate of Mount Abu is neither too hot nor too cold and the water available here is pure, unadulterated and adequate according to the requirement. Shree Paramahamsa (an ascetic of the higher order, the supreme soul), Parivrajakacharya, Mahamandaleshwar, Swami Maheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj identified the importance of Mount Abu during his elementary pilgrimage only.
After coming to Abu on being appointed as the Mandaleshwar, he performed religious austerity and penance in a cave near the coast of Nakki Lake and finalized the suitability of Abu for devotion & spiritual homage. Afterwards, he selected a house not far from the market and started residing there. At that time the nearby residents called it a “Bhoot-Bangla” (Haunted-House). Swamiji renamed it as “ Sri Shankara Math”. During the years 1960-62 that house was bought and monks started living & worshipping there. Being surrounded by dense verdure on all the sides and due to the distance from residential area, placidity & peace were obvious there. Devotees from Abu were given lessons on Vedanta & small children were taught slokas (verses in Sanskrit) etc. It was here at Shankar Math that the celebrations like Shankar Jayanti, etc., saw commencement in Mount Abu. Only after 1965, it could be made possible for the saints to permanently live there. In the year 1975, there started building of a large Shivalaya (Shiva-Temple), which got completed in 1977. During the year 1986-87, a huge lodging house was built in the Math (temple), where saints & pious householders live. Mostly from then onwards, Swamiji’s stay at Mount Abu kept on increasing and a daily chain of Vedanta elucidation lectures continued. The devotional camps, “Sadhansaptah”, went on from the year 1972 to 1982 in Shankar Math, which were succeeded by the “Sadhanashivira” (devotional camps) of “YuvaMandal” (Youth Association).
In 2003, a nearby house was also bought, (which was named “Shankar Dham”) so that pious householders could have lodging facilities. After the death of prime respected Swamiji in 2008, the daily Svadhyaya (contemplation) activities are being carried out under the guidance of Swami Punyanand Giriji Maharaj Mahamandaleshwar, & there are ongoing efforts to provide the righteous path to the devotees.