In what appears to be ritual suicide, three devotees, including a teenager, immolated themselves inside the Sri Ganeshwar Avadhoot Maharaj Math in Chowli village in Bidar taluk in the early hours of Monday. Chowli is about 7 km from Bidar.

Jagannath Swami (30), Eera Reddy Swami (45) and Pranav Swami (16), are believed to have sat on a mound of firewood and set fire to it after dousing it with kerosene around 4.30 a.m., the police said. They were all followers of the late Sri Ganeshwar Avadhoot Maharaj, a Lingayat pontiff, who himself died in a possible suicide from self-poisoning on February 28.

Inmates of the math alerted the police about the fire. “Loud cries woke them up. They saw flames and alerted our constables. They called the New Town police station and the Fire Services personnel, who arrived within minutes,” said a police officer who was present in the math. Fire fighters struggled for nearly an hour to put out the blaze. “Once we started removing the firewood, we noticed the bodies. Only then did we know of the suicide,” the officer said.

Mystery

While the reasons for the death of the 55-year-old Ganeshwar Avadhoot Maharaj remain a mystery, the three devotees left a note stating their reasons for committing suicide. In the two-page, partly printed and partly handwritten note, they state: “Unable to bear the pain of separation” they are “going to meet their departed Guru.” They also state that they have “no relatives, friends or foes in this world”. They said their Guru’s spirit had instructed them to go to him through the route of Agni (sacred fire).

A police van has been stationed in the math since the pontiff’s death. But the van was parked outside the math premises and the personnel were sleeping in the math’s community hall when the incident occurred, police said.

“The firewood was stocked for the mass feeding to be organised on the math’s annual fair scheduled for April 11,” Shantappa, a devotee from Bhalki said.

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