To understand this story I would like to give a short introduction on how the vedic study and hinduism evolved. After years of intense instruction on existing philosophy, if one chooses they can propound new philosophy. But they have to defend their thesis with existing theologist and philosophers by seeking “vaada bhiksha”(Seeking to debate). Upon convincing the theologist the new philosophy gets accepted into vedic theology or hinduism as we know it today. Thus hinduism is a way of life which underwent several centuries of refinement and sophistication.
Kumarila Bhatta was considered as a leading expert in Purva Mimansa. Many buddhists and other neo theologists argued with him to establish their philosophies. In those days if you are successful in defending your thesis the kingdom accepts that philosophy for practice. On one occasion Buddhist pundits challenged him that if vedas were all powerful it would protect him even from a fall from a tower. Thus accepting challenge Kumarila Bhatta proclaims from the top of the university tower in prayag “If vedas were supreme truth and all powerful it would protect me from the fall”. There was not even scratch in body however he lost his eye. He was told that since he uttered the word “If” he lost his eye as well as was considered defeated. In deep remorse he chose to accept samadhi. While he sat down to burn himself Adi sankara who then had propounded advaitha philosophy sought vaada bhiksha. Since he was in the process of burning himself down he refused the alms and redirected him to Mandana Mishra who later on known as Sureswara ( more popularly vaartikakaara)
Legend has it that while giving directions to Mandana Mishra’s(Student of Kumarila Bhatta) house says
The house in which even the parrots and mynas discuss vedas and vedantas.
As Sankara reached his house it was the day of shraardha in Mandana’s house and it is considered inauspicious to see a sanyasi that day and Mandana was very rude to Adi Sankara to which Adi Sankara gave cryptic answers. The elders in the surrounding understood the intelligence that Sankara beheld and convinced Mandana to accept the request for vaada bhiksha.
The following day Mandana and Sankara debate with Mandana’s wife Ubhaya Bharati as moderator. After several days of debate while mandana was losing the debate Ubhaya Bharati proposed that they should discuss kama saastra. Since he was sanyasi he never experienced it so he had to transcend his body and experience it in a kings body and won Mandana Misra over and took him and his wife as a disciple and he became one of the four main disciples of Adi Sankara.