The 111th birthday of Lingayat seer Shivakumara Swami, head of the Siddaganga Mutt, was celebrated on Sunday by thousands of devotees who thronged the Mutt in Tumakuru, about 70km northwest of Bengaluru, and sought his blessings.
"Swami blessed nearly one lakh devotees who visited the Mutt since morning. The devotees wished him a long and healthy life," the Mutt's Administrative Officer S Vishwanath told IANS.
Known among his followers as a "walking god" and an incarnation of 12th century renowned social reformer Basava, Swami heads the Sree Siddaganga Education Society, which runs about 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 given free board and lodging.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah hailed the seer on the occasion. "... may Swami's work towards empowerment of the poor and social service through education continue for long," he tweeted.
Born on April 1, 1907, in Veerapura village of Ramanagara district in Karnataka, Swami is involved in philanthropic activities, and was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Union government in 2015.
"Even at 111, he (Swami) eats and lives healthy and works hard for the Mutt activities while performing his prayers thrice every day," Vishwanath added.
On March 26, BJP President Amit Shah had paid a visit to the Lingayat seer and sought his blessings for the party's success in the ensuing assembly elections in the state due in April-May.
"I felt like seeing God when I met the revered pontiff. I sought his blessings for our party's success in the state assembly election," Shah had told reporters later after meeting the revered seer.
Shahâ€™s meeting had assumed significance since it came just a week after the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state decided to recognise Lingayats and Veerashaiva-Lingayats as a separate religion.