Thousands grieve as Karnataka’s 111-year-old ‘walking god’ dies

Tumakuru: Karnataka’s 111-year-old revered seer, Shivakumara Swami of Siddaganga Mutt here, the most influential leader of the Lingayat community, died early on Monday following protracted illness.
Thousands of grieving followers gathered at his hermitage where he was shifted to on January 16 on his own request although he had not fully recovered in the hospital where he was warded. He miraculously recovered but breathed his last on Monday morning.
As news of his death spread, many men and women broke down outside his ashram.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, BJP President Amit Shah and scores of political leaders in Karnataka, including Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, mourned his death.
“His holiness passed away at 11.44 am at the Mutt during treatment for lung infection,” Kumaraswamy told the media in Tumakuru, about 70 km northwest of here.
The seer was suffering from lung infection for the past few weeks and was put on life support on January 11. He had been in and out of hospitals in recent years due to various health issues.
The last rites will be held with state honours on Tuesday, Kumaraswamy said. “Swami did great service to the poor by providing hundreds of children education and food.”
The Karnataka government has declared a holiday in the state on Tuesday.
Known among his followers as a “walking god” and an incarnation of 12th century social reformer Basava, the seer also headed the Sree Siddaganga Education Society, which runs about 125 educational institutions in the state — from engineering colleges to business schools.
Many of the institutions offer free education and boarding facilities to poor students.
Fluent in English, Kannada and Sanskrit, the seer was widely respected for his secular outlook and the charitable activities he presided over.
Karnataka leaders urged the Union government to confer the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, on the seer for his philanthropic work.