Karnataka's popular Lingayat seer Siddalinga Swami has died at Gadag, state's northwest region, a member of his Thontadarya Mutt said today. He was 69.
"Doctors at a private hospital declared Swamiji dead today (Saturday) morning after a massive cardiac arrest," the member told reporters at Gadag, about 390 km from Bengaluru.
State Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, however, told reporters that when the pontiff did not come out of his room till 9 am, he was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead due to cardiac arrest.
"Siddalinga was one of the most revered Lingayat seers in Karnataka and known for his oratory. He had slammed the Veerashaiva-Lingayat seers for opposing the Siddaramaiah-led government's decision to grant minority status to the community," said Mr Kumaraswamy in a statement.
Recalling that the seer was a great writer and a patron of education and literature, the Chief Minister said, "Swamiji was active in various people's movement against blind beliefs, environmental and other issues. He had devotees across all communities. May God bless his soul and give strength to his followers to endure this huge loss."
Mr Kumaraswamy also remembered the pontiff's encouraging words for his public interactions (janata darshan) and staying in villages (grama vastavya) during his first tenure as chief minister over a decade ago in 2006-07 in the state's first coalition government with the BJP.
"As the pontiff advised me to continue them whether in power or not, I will go ahead to pay my tribute to him," added the chief minister.
The state government had honoured Siddalinga with its Rajyotsava and Basavashri awards during his lifetime in recognition of his service to the people and the environment.
A native of Korawad hamlet in the state's northwest Vijayapura district, the Swami was known as 'Kannadada Jagadguru' (Seer of Kannada).
He authored and published many books as head of his mutt.
"Swamaji's opposition to the setting up a steel plant in the district forced Korean steel giant Posco to withdraw its project proposal in 2011," recalled the mutt's member.
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