TUMAKURU: Tens of thousands of people thronged the streets of an Indian town on Monday (Jan 21) to pay their last respects to the 111-year-old head of a Hindu religious sect known as “the walking god” to his followers.
Shivakumara Swami was the head of Sree Siddaganga Mutt, a highly influential monastery which runs hundreds of schools across southern Karnataka state.
His body, wrapped in saffron robes and flower garlands, was held aloft and paraded through crowds in Tumakuru, an industrial town near Bangalore.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those to pay tribute to Swami, who died on Monday in a local hospital.
“(Swami) lived for the people, especially the poor and vulnerable. He devoted himself towards alleviating ills like poverty, hunger and social injustice,” Modi said on Twitter.
“He represents the best of our traditions of compassionate service, spirituality and protecting the rights of the underprivileged.”
Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi offered his own condolences, describing the religious leader’s death as leaving “a deep spiritual void” in the country.
Swami remained a revered figure in the region even though his advanced age kept him from public appearances for several years.
The many educational institutions established by Swami’s monastery provided free shelter, food and education for poor students in Karnataka.
The state government announced three days of mourning to mark his death.