The cremation of a Hindu religious leader in South Africa was telecast live for his followers who could not attend the last rites due to the 21-day national lockdown amid coronavirus pandemic.

Swami Premananda Puri, 74, died of pneumonia and two COVID-19 tests conducted as a precautionary procedure by specialists treating him were both confirmed negative, officials of the Sri Ramakrishna Dham, which he established in 2001, said on Monday.

Swami Premananda was one of the most revered Hindu religious leaders in the sprawling Indian suburb of Lenasia, south of Johannesburg.

Hundreds of devotees of Sri Ramakrashna Dham were asked to stay away from the cremation service, as only 50 people are allowed at funerals due to lockdown restrictions in South Africa.

The Swami was lauded by a number of speakers for his humanitarian work and guidance, especially to children.

A video presentation by the Swami recorded by the national public broadcaster, SABC, is now used across the globe to teach peace and tolerance, said producer Yashika Singh.

Swami Premananda was renowned for initiating programmes especially for children at the Dham, including an annual Children’s Cultural Festival at which children from across the country participated.