Prominent Lingayat seer of Tumakuru-based Siddaganga Mutt, Shivakumara Swami, passed away on Monday at the age of 111. His last rites will be performed with full state honours on Tuesday at 4.30 pm, Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy told the media on Monday.
The demise was condoled by President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and a host of other leaders, who hailed him as a saint who worked for the upliftment of the poor and vulnerable.
Soon after the demise, hundreds of grieving followers started making a beeline at his hermitage to pay their last homage to the seer. As news of his death spread on Monday, several men and women followers broke down outside his ashram.
Devotees carried Shivakumara's body in a palanquin and held a grand procession around the mutt before placing it on a platform for people to pay their last respects.
Karnataka: Devotees and saints, in huge numbers pay tribute to Shivakumara Swami of Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur. He passed away at the age of 111 yesterday. pic.twitter.com/Rh1i4zkeBV
" ANI (@ANI) January 21, 2019
The state government declared a three-day state mourning from Monday. All schools, colleges and government offices will remain closed owing to Shivakumara's demise. The seer will be laid to rest at the mutt on Tuesday, in view of which the district authorities have made elaborate security arrangements.
Police officers from other districts have also been directed towards the mutt premises, Bangalore Mirror reported. Helipads have also been set up in Tumkuru Industrial Area and College Grounds for VIPs who will be arriving to pay last respects.
The New Indian Express reported that traffic along NH-4 will be diverted at Dabaspet, via Sira in Tumakuru district. The report quoted Inspector General of Police B Dayanand as saying, "Only those vehicles carrying devotees to offer last respects to the seer will be allowed to enter Tumakuru city limits, while other vehicles will have to take diversions." Drivers won't have to pay any toll charges on Tumakuru highway and around Nelamangala. The South West Railway will operate two special trains from Bengaluru to Tumakuru on Tuesday at 7.30am and 12 noon and return trips by evening.
There will be no screening of films in multiplexes, single-screen cinema theatres and studios on Tuesday. Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce president SA Chinne Gowda told The Hindu that every section of film industry is in a state of mourning and every one whole heartedely agreed to close down their functioning for a day.
Kumaraswamy had said on Monday that the state government will arrange for buses in every village for those who want to visit the mutt to pay their final respect. The Karnataka State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) will be operating more than 100 buses to let devotees travel from Bengaluru to Siddaganga mutt.
The highly-revered pontiff of the influential Lingayats, the major community in Karnataka, is a recipient of Padma Bhushan and Karnataka Ratna, the highest state civilian award.
Following his death, the demand grew for bestowing the country's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna on the seer.
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge told ANI, "He was very much committed to improving the level of education among poor and downtrodden people. He used to feed thousands of boys every year. I request the Government of India to honour him with the Bharat Ratna, which he truly deserves."
"His loss has created a great void in the field of education. All Prime Ministers have themselves seen his work, particularly in the field of education. Even he taught Sanskrit to the downtrodden sections of the society. He had come from a very poor background, but he left a great service behind him," said Kharge. Kumaraswamy had earlier said that he will write, as well as meet Modi to push for the demand.
With inputs from agencies