Lakhs of devotees thronged to the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumakuru on Tuesday to pay their last respects to Shivakumara Swamy, who passed away on Monday. The turnout was further evidence of the 111-year old seer's importance in the social and religious lives of people in Karnataka.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid her respects to the revered seer while Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy BJP Leader of Opposition in Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa, Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, MB Patil, G Parameshwara, were among the political leaders to attend the last rites. The body of the deceased seer was kept on display at the Gosala Siddeshwara Vedike at the mutt throughout the day.
The body was then taken to the old mutt, where the seer often met his devotees, in the temple at 5pm. Due to the oncoming stream of devotees, the seer’s body was kept for an additional one hour for public display before it was shifted to the old mutt. Shivakumara Swamy was cremated with full state honours.
Devotees visited the mutt through the night and came as early as 7 am in the morning. People travelling from further away came in later on Tuesday morning, as a number of buses and trains arrived in Tumakuru.
Two special trains travelled from Yeshwanthpur at 7.30am and 12.00pm, while six pairs of trains running up and down the route stopped at Kyatasandra station. Those visiting the mutt also had to walk the last few hundred metres since private vehicles, particularly four-wheelers, were stopped on the main road in Kyatasandra.
Puttaswamy, a devotee from Bengaluru arrived in the special train from Yeshwanthpur at 7.30am. "I studied at the Siddaganga school in the 1970s. The seer is the reason I studied and managed to find work. Many of my classmates have also come from all over the state to see him", he said.
Shops and hotels in Tumakuru were shut, while holidays were declared for schools and government offices across the state. The Siddaganga mutt provided food round the clock for the lakhs of devotees who kept arriving. Residents of Tumakuru also came together to set up kitchens and serve food for the devotees. Many tents were set up by residents of Tumakuru to cater to the influx of devotees entering the city.
Amid the rush of visitors, there were also calls for the seer to be awarded the Bharat Ratna for his humanitarian work.
Dr. Pramod KPR, a former student at the Siddaganga Medical Institute echoed Puttaswamy's sentiments. "Swamiji absolutely deserves a Bharat Ratna. He had a deep connection with people. He was never one for exhibitionism or talking too much. But he was a soulful person to meet always. I have worked in various countries like USA and Canada but I always credit my humility and roots to Swamiji", the doctor said.