Following the suspicious death of a seer in Udupi, several theories have emerged about what could have led to his death. Lakshmivara Theertha Swami, the 30th head of the Shiroor Mutt in Udupi, died on Thursday morning, and doctors raised suspicion that he may have been poisoned.
The police cordoned off the Mutt on Friday, and his brother – Lathavya Acharya – filed a complaint in Hiriadka Police Station asking the police to probe the death of the seer, rejecting the notion that he died a natural death.
And as the police launch their probe, these are the different angles that are being investigated in the case:
1. Lakshmivara’s endorsement of a woman managing administrative affairs of the mutt: Ramya Shetty, a resident of Kalsanka in Udupi, was reportedly among the people questioned by the Udupi police in connection with the seer's death. A former manager of the mutt said that Ramya was not only an acquaintance, but also managed the day-to-day administrative affairs of the mutt.
"She was managing the hundi, bank accounts and the daily expenses. Swamiji was treating all the employees well. We were respecting him like a god. But everything changed after the entry of Ramya," Sunil Kumar, a former manager of Shiroor mutt told the Times of India.
Sunil also claimed that Lakshmivara had faced opposition in the mutt because of Ramya, since it is uncommon for women to manage affairs at the mutt.
2. The fight over ‘custody’ of the presiding deity: The seers of the Ashta Mutts are currently at loggerheads over the custody of the ‘Pattatu Devaru Vittala’ or ‘presiding deity’.
Lakshmivara Theertha’s lawyer confirmed to TNM that his client was planning to file a criminal case against Vidyadheesha Theertha Swami, the chief of Palimar Mutt, who currently holds power at the Krishna Mutt in Udupi. A caveat petition had been filed at the Senior Civil Judge and Civil Judge Courts against all Ashta Mutt seers except the Puttige Mutt seer.
3. Audio tapes about the seer’s ‘children’: In March this year, a Kannada news channel released a clip in which a voice, purportedly of Lakshmivara Theertha, calling out corruption at the Ashta Mutt. In the clipping, the voice claimed the seer has children, and alleged that pontiffs at other Mutts, too, had children and families.
Further, he also threatened the Pejawar seer Vishvesha Teertha Swami. According to the Times of India, there is another audio clipping, again said to be that of Lakshmivara, claiming that the ‘ajja’ in the mutt was also not celibate. “In mutt, sex was common,” the newspaper quoted the seer as saying.
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4. The moneylending angle: Lakshmivara had reportedly lent Rs 26 crore to two Mumbai-based entrepreneurs, and had not been paid back. According to Deccan Herald, a video of the seer appealing to ‘daiva’ went viral, where he wanted help in recovering the money from the two entrepreneurs. According to TOI, the police said they would probe the matter.
5. ‘Unpolished utensils’ caused death?: After allegations of the seer being poisoned emerged, Vishwesha Theertha of Pejawar Mutt denied suggestions that a member of the mutt in Udupi was involved in the death.
“The Shiroor seer’s brother, Lathavya Acharya, called me and said the seer had eaten from unpolished utensils (those without ‘kalai’) and he would recover. But, unfortunately, he has passed away. I don’t think it was a murder,” he said, speaking to The Hindu.
6. The seer’s assets: The police are reportedly also questioning a number of businessmen in Udupi. The seer allegedly also handled real estate deals apart from his activities in the mutt. The mutt has also formed a committee to look into the seer’s assets.
Vishwavallabha Theertha Swami, the seer of the Sode mutt currently overseeing affairs at the Shiroor Mutt, told Deccan Herald: “A five-member committee is constituted to accumulate the details of the assets of the Shiroor Mutt. It would also be in charge of the Shiroor Mutt during my absence.”