Adichunchanagiri Math’s Balagangadharanatha Swami (68) was a multifaceted humanist known the world over.
He endeared people by establishing 495 educational institutions all over the State, including medical, engineering and degree colleges, where over 95,000 students study. He was known as ‘tridasohi’, one who provides food, hostel and education facilities to rural children.
Born as Gangadhariah to Chikkalingappa and Boramma at Banandur village near Bidadi in 1945, he did his schooling in Banandur, Bidadi, Ramanagaram. He studied B.Sc. with the assistance provided by Chidghanananda Ashram in Bangalore.
He was initiated to sanyas by Ramanandanatha Swami of Adichunchanagiri Math in 1968 and became its 71st mathadhipathi in 1974.
Ramanandanatha Swami had called for applications to select his successor and Kumara Chandrasekharanatha Swami of Vishwa Vokkaligara Math was also an aspirant. The then Minister H.K. Veeranna Gowda had monitored the selection of Balagangadharanatha Swami as Ramanandanatha Swami’s successor.
Adichunchanagiri, known as Jwalapeetha earlier, became well-known after Balagangadharanatha Swamiji’s induction into the math as he identified himself with the masses, especially Vokkaliga farmers. He studied Sanskrit under the guidance of Shivpuri Swami of Kailasashram.
A Padma Bhushan recipient, the swami set up orphanages, hi-tech hospitals and the math’s branch offices in all districts of Karnataka and in New Delhi and Varanasi.
He had maintained cordial relations with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and also heads of the other religions.
Balagangadharanatha Swami took the lead in greening the environment by establishing a Santh Samavesha under which five crore saplings were planted with the help of the government.
The initiative was lauded by the Department of Forests and he was felicitated with the Parisara Ratna award by the State. He was also presented the Vivekananda Memorial Award by his devotees in the U.S.
The former MLC and former Chief of Bureau of The Hindu P. Ramiah, a close associate of the swami, said farmers donated land for construction of buildings to carry out the seer’s social work.
The swami built hostels for the visually challenged and widows who did not have caretakers. The Adichunchanagiri Math Sanskrit College was developed under his stewardship.
He did not hesitate to take a stand on political issues and openly backed H.D. Deve Gowda to be Chief Minister in 1994 at a huge rally of the Janata Dal at Cubbon Park.
Another monumental achievement of the swamiji was the reconstruction of the ancient temple of Kalabyraveshwara, the presiding deity of the math, at Adichunchanagiri built at a cost of around Rs. 75 crore.