Thousands of people, including prominent leaders of all political parties and devotees of the Balagangadharanatha Swami, who died on Sunday, paid their last respects on the Adichunchanagiri Math’s premises at Vijayanagar here, before the body was taken in a procession to Adichunchanagari, Nagamangala taluk, where he was laid to rest with State honours.
The swami, who had a large following cutting across all sections of society, reflected his secular nature in his yeoman service to the rural poor. Over the last three decades, he built educational institutions, hostels for students and hospitals.
Prominent among the senior leaders who visited the math and paid tributes were Union Minister for Labour and Employment M. Mallikarjun Kharge, Union Minister for Minority Affairs K. Rahman Khan, Deputy Chief Minister R. Ashok, the former Chief Ministers H.D. Kumaraswamy and B.S. Yeddyurappa.
Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha president Vatal Nagaraj, the former Minister H. Chaluvarayaswamy, the former Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee working president D.K. Shivakumar, and BSR Congress Party MLA B. Sriramulu placed wreaths on the body. The entire area around the math was littered with flowers and garlands and the traffic was diverted to facilitate movement of VIPs and others.
The former External Affairs Minister and senior Congress leader S.M. Krishna, hailing from Mandya district himself, brought a letter from the All-India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi condoling the death of the swami, and handed it over to his successor Nirmalanandanatha Swami.
In her letter, Ms. Gandhi said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Balagangadharanatha Swami. I deeply revered and loved the religious leader of the Vokkaliga community, and swamiji also had a strong sense of social responsibility, establishing several schools and hospitals in Karnataka and working tirelessly for the welfare of farmers and marginalised sections of society. In his death, India and Karnataka have lost a source of guidance and inspiration. The most fitting tribute to him would be for the Adichunchanagiri Math to carry on the work with the same compassion and dedication that marked swamiji’s mission throughout his life.”
She also said that she deeply mourn his death and shared the grief of the Vokkaliga community. KPCC president G. Parameshwara, Leader of Opposition in the Legislation Assembly Siddaramaiah and KPCC vice-president B.L. Shankar paid their last respects to the swami at Adichunchanagiri.
Union Minister of State for Small and Medium Enterprises K.H. Muniyappa, the former president of KPCC R.V. Deshpande and Housing Minister V. Somanna, in their condolence messages, expressed their grief over the sudden demise of the swami. They said the State had lost a great saint, who contributed in rich measure to the development of educational institutions and hospitals benefitting rural people. The Congress leaders said they would miss the valuable advice they had been receiving from the seer for the past several decades.
The police, who were deputed in large numbers at Vijayanagar and throughout the route of the procession, went right up to Adichunchanagiri to provide security.
The devotees, who waited at different spots on Chord Road and Mysore Road, offered floral tributes and raised slogans eulogising the service rendered by the swami for the welfare of the community.