Bengaluru: Shivakumara Swamy, popularly known as the ‘Walking God of Siddaganga Mutt’, died at the age of 111 on Monday.
A remarkable personality, he stood out among thousands of small and big religious leaders in Karnataka.
He was not just a religious leader of the Lingayats, but a social reformer who truly believed in the teachings of Basavanna, the founder of Lingayat religion or sect.
He took charge of once-small Mutt Siddaganga at Tumkur, 70 km from Bengaluru in 1941. He became a sanyasi in 1930.
A well-educated man, Shivakumara Swamy was a firm believer in two of the most important tenets of Lingayat sect or religion — Shikshana (education) and Dasoha (mass feeding).
He converted a small Mutt into a huge educational institution over 50 years through his dedication and hard work. His hostel was free for all children irrespective of their caste and religion; Hindus to Muslims were welcome to study there free of cost.
Almost 10,000 children were fed at the Mutt every day. The seer established 128 educational institutions, where more than 10,000 children get free education. That made him a living legend in Karnataka.
The seer also managed to stay away from controversies in his long life.
A true believer in secularism and diversity, Shivakumara Swamy always fought for social justice. He was one of the first to condemn the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.
Presidents, Prime Ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers used to visit him, seeking his advice.
During the last Assembly elections in Karnataka, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited him at his Mutt.
Even though Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa was accused of trying to appropriate him, the Mutt stayed cleared of all controversies.
Both during his long life and even after death, he united different political ideologies, castes and religions. It was party of his power and charm.
The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.