Karnataka”s revered Hindu pontiff Vishwesha Tirtha Swami of Pejawar Mutt passed away at the state”s coastal Udupi town on Sunday, an official said. He was 88.
Thousands of people bid a tearful adieu to the seer in Bengaluru where his last rites were held.
“The seer”s body was interned in a sitting posture at the mutt”s Vidyapeetha centre in the southern suburb as per his wish, amid chanting of Vedic hymns by scores of priests,” an official told IANS.
Before the last rites were performed, a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute were accorded to the seer at the National College grounds here, where his body was kept for public homage after it was flown in a military helicopter from Udupi, about 400 km west of Bengaluru.
Among those who paid floral tributes to the seer were Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Congress leader Siddaramaiah, state ministers and other dignitaries.
“Paid respects to #PejawarSeer in Bengaluru at the National College Grounds. Placed a wreath each on behalf of @PMOIndia @narendramodi and @AmitShahOffice Home Minister @AmitShah. A saint who guided all is no more among us,” tweeted Sitharaman, who is a Rajya Sabha member from the state.
According to the official, the seer had breathed his last in the mutt around 9.30 a.m. after he was shifted from the Kasturba Hospital at nearby Manipal earlier as his health condition deteriorated despite being on ventilator.
He was admitted to the private hospital on December 20 after he was diagnosed to have pneumonia.
Yediyurappa, who was at Udupi since Saturday, rushed to the mutt on hearing the seer”s demise, declared a three-day mourning in the state and that the last rites would be held with state honours.
In his condolence message, he said that in the pontiff”s death, “Hindu religion lost a guide”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also mourned the seer”s demise and said Swamiji was a powerhouse of service and spirituality.
“I consider myself blessed to have got many opportunities to learn from Sri Vishvesha Teertha Swamiji. Our recent meeting, on the pious day of Guru Purnima was also a memorable one. His impeccable knowledge always stood out. My thoughts are with his countless followers,” Modi said in a tweetn.
Vishva Hindu Parishad”s working President Alok Kumar said in a statement that the seer was a frontline leader of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
“Deeply pained to learn about the demise of Swamiji. He was an epitome of humanity, kindness and knowledge. His selfless contribution towards the welfare of people and society has no parallels,” tweeted Amit Shah.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also paid tributes to the seer, saying that he was sorry to hear his passing away.
“My condolences to all his followers around the world,” Gandhi added.
Union Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and former Union Minister Uma Bharati and BJP”s Lok Sabha member from Chikkamagaluru Shobha Karandlaje paid floral tributes to the seer at Udupi earlier in the day.
Born on April 27, 1931 to M. Narayanacharya and Kamalamma at Ramakujna in what is now Dakshina Kannada district, Vishwesha Tirtha was ordained as a monk at the age of 8 in 1938 in the lineage of guru parampara of the Pejawar Mutt.
According to junior pontiff Vishwaprasanna – who will soon succeed him, he was the only seer among 8 other Ashtra Mutts who propagated the dvaita (duality) philosophy like Madhvachar, the 13th century Hindu philosopher.
Considered as a reformist by many, the seer visited Dalit colonies when it was a taboo.
His solutions to problems caused within the Hindu faith, ignoring caste system, were reforms without abandoning tradition.
Though he was rooted in Hindu causes such as cow protection and played an active role in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, he organised Iftar for Muslims during Ramadan in the ancient Sri Krishna temple complex at Udupi.