Born on April 1, 1907 in Veerapura village of Ramanagara district in Karnataka, Shivakumara Swamiji of Siddaganga Mutt in Tumakuru was the most influential leader of the Lingayat community. The 111-year-old revered seer breathed his last on Monday after a prolonged illness.
The ailing Swamiji had been in and out of hospitals in the recent years. Having undergone a critical liver bypass last month, he had had been suffering from lung infection for the past few weeks and was put on life support on January 11. However, he was shifted to his ashram on 16 January on his own request, though he had not fully recovered.
He died at 11.44 am at the Siddaganga mutt, and his last rites will be held with state honours on Tuesday.
The Karnataka government has declared a holiday in the state on Tuesday, besides a three-day state mourning.
Shivakumara Swamiji was known as a “walking god” among his followers who also called him an incarnation of the 12th century social reformer, Basavanna, due to his secular outlook.
The seer spoke fluent English, Kannada and Sanskrit, and was known for strict discipline, scientific diet, and simple lifestyle and hard work, which his followers call the secret of his long life.
When his followers celebrated the seer’s 100th birthday in April 2007, the then President A P J Abdul Kalam was in attendance.
Widely respected for his charitable activities, he was also known as “trivida dasohi” for his commitment towards the three basic human requirements of food, shelter and education.
Swamiji headed the Sree Siddaganga Education Society, which runs about 125 educational institutions, including engineering colleges and business schools, in Karnataka, and many of them offer free education and boarding facilities to poor students.
He even taught English and Sanskrit at his institutions.
Swamiji was also popular among farmers as he would regularly organising cattle and agriculture fairs.
He was conferred the honorary “Doctor of Letters” Degree by the Karnatak University, Dharwad.
The Lingayat seer was awarded the prestigious “Karnataka Ratna”, the state’s highest civilian award. He was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2015, and Karnataka leaders have urged the Union government to confer Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, on the seer for his philanthropic work.
Born to Honnappa and Gangamma as Shivanna, he was among the 12 siblings. Shivanna was only eight years old when he lost his mother, and since then he started turning to spirituality.
Swami completed his primary education at his native village and did his matriculation from Tumkuru. He then went to Bengaluru to pursue graduation.
Shivakumara Swamiji succeeded his Guru Sree Sree Uddana Shivayogigalu Shivakumara Swami and took over as the pontiff of Siddaganga Mutt around 76 years ago.
He would be visited by politicians cutting across party lines, though the influential Lingayat seer had remained politically neutral.
The popularity and followership of Shivakumara Swamiji could be gauged from the number of mourners who descended on the hermitage after the news of his death spread.
From Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to Congress president Rahul Gandhi to regional leaders from states, political leaders from all spheres mourned his death.
(With agency inputs)