The 'Nadedaduva Devaru' or 'Walking God', Shivakumara Swamy, the seer of the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumakuru, passed away on Monday. The 111-year-old seer was on ventilation support until recently and was brought back to the mutt on January 16 after undergoing treatment for a lung infection that he developed after a liver bypass surgery in Chennai. Although his condition was stable and was responding to medication, the seer's health further deteriorated on Monday.
The seer passed away 11.44 am on January 21, Monday, and the funeral rites will be held at 4.30 pm on Tuesday, officials of the Mutt confirmed. Three-Day mourning will be observed in the state. The seerâ€™s demise was condoled by senior leaders in the state and by his followers. Many prominent politicians from the state, including Home Minister MB Patil and Leader of Opposition BS Yeddyurappa, among others, visited the mutt upon hearing the news.
Commoners to political figures, followers galore
Shivakumara Swamy was an influential Lingayat seer and had hundreds of followers visiting him every day at the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumakuru in Karnataka. Even at 111, he continued to meet devotees at the 'Hale Mata' or Old Mutt inside the Siddaganga Mutt until his health deteriorated.
Political leaders cutting across parties would often make a visit to the seer a priority on their visit to Karnataka.
Even though the seer chose to remain apolitical, he remained a constant presence in Karnataka's political circles. Almost all political figures, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, visited Shivakumara Swami in the lead-up to the Karnataka elections earlier this year.
Even when the demand for a separate Lingayat religion flared up this year, Shivakumara remained non-committal about his stance on the issue. The seers at the Mutt were divided on the issue; however, Shivakumara Swamy had refused to clarify his stance.
The Congress leaders had claimed that the seer was in support of Lingayat becoming a separate religion. In the past, Shivakumara Swamy had condemned violence in Ayodhya in connection with the building of a Ram Mandir, claiming that no one deserved to see their place of worship destroyed. He was hailed as a progressive seer for his stance on issues.
Running a tight ship since 1941
Born on April 1, 1907, in Magadi in the present-day Ramanagara district of Karnataka, Shivakumara Swamy was initiated as a Lingayat seer in 1930 and assumed responsibilities of the Mutt in 1941. He reportedly observed 'tapas' or penance for 76 years.
Around 50 years ago, he had opened a free boarding school for poor children at the Mutt. The gurukul, as it came to be known, houses more than 8,000 children in the age group of 5-15 and accepts students irrespective of caste, creed and religion. The Mutt also runs medical and engineering colleges.
The seer used to head the Siddaganga Educational Society, which runs around 125 educational institutions ranging from engineering to business schools/colleges in the state. The society also runs nearly 20 institutions, where the Sanskrit language and the Vedas are taught, and students are given free board and lodging.
The humanitarian work of the seer earned praise in 2006 from then President of India APJ Abdul Kalam, when he visited Tumakuru in 2006 during the celebrations of the seer's 100th birthday.
The Mutt was established to spread the thoughts propagated by Lingayats, followers of the 12th-century philosopher-social reformer Basaveshwara, who rebelled against the established Hindu traditions by defying the caste system and Vedic rituals. Shivakumara was also seen among his followers as an incarnation of Basaveshwara.
He was the recipient of a doctorate of literature from Karnataka University in 1965, the Karnataka Ratna - the highest civilian honour in the state in 2007, as well as the Padma Bhushan in 2015 by the Union government. Karnataka CM had recently said the Central government should confer the Bharat Ratna on the seer.