Dalit outreach that didn’t violate tenets of sainthood

Dalit outreach that didn’t violate tenets of sainthood

Vishweshateertha at a colony of the poor and the oppressed.

One major reason why the Pejawar seer stands out among the Madhwa pontiffs is that he did not restrict himself to the community, but went beyond to become the undeclared leader of the larger Hindu fraternity.

His social service, especially his Dalit outreach, may have led to criticism from the orthodox among the Madhwa Brahmins. However, the pontiff ensured that his service did not violate the tenets of sainthood.

He realised long ago that a Mutt head cannot himself to the daily rituals and be aloof. A pontiff also had the duty to bring in reforms in the larger society, Vishwesha Theertha believed and that, perhaps, made him a Hindutva icon.

The seer, realising the importance of the Gurukula system of education, started the Poornaprajna Vidyapeetha in Bengaluru. The Vidyapeetha has grown into a national-level institution.

The pontiff relentlessly fought against untouchability and for the rights of Dalits, arguing as to why they should be denied entry to temples, homes and public places. He undertook padayatras in Dalit colonies.

The seer succeeded in putting the focus on conversions of Dalits to Islam in Meenakshipuram of Tamil Nadu. He undertook relief and rehabilitation measures for the victims of famine in Kalaburagi in 1975, by opening a gruel centre.

The Pejawar Mutt constructed 150 houses for the shelterless who lost houses to heavy winds at Hamsaladeevi in Andhra Pradesh. Rehabilitation work was undertaken for the victims of earthquake in 1993.

Hospitals and educational institutions for the poor were established in Bengaluru. The seer established tourist homes in pilgrimage centres across the country like Badrinath, Haridwar, Vrindavan, Puri and Tirupati.

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