Siddaganga seer a timeless spirit

Siddaganga seer a timeless spirit

Siddaganga is a symbol of the socio-religious movement initiated by Basaveshwara in the 12th century.

“I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels,” said American writer and novelist Pearl S Buck. True to these words, Shivakumara Swami of Siddaganga Mutt was so dedicated to the welfare of poor children for the last 90 years that he forgot his own biological age.

There's no dearth of religious teachers today, but what we lack are religious heads who are sensible enough to respond to the problems plaguing society and dedicate their lives to a cause. The seer of Siddaganga had filled this void. His life was an embodiment of selfless service and he was a role model for many religious teachers.

The 'Jnana-Anna Dasoha' (serving food to the hungry and providing knowledge to the needy) is in itself a service par excellence. If Allama Prabhu was known as the 'wonder' of the 12th century, it's no exaggeration to say that Shivakumara Swami was the 'wonder' of the present day. He is popularly known as the “walking god.”

Siddaganga is a symbol of the socio-religious movement initiated by Basaveshwara in the 12th century. The mutt belongs to the 'Shoonya Simhasana' tradition and was founded by Gosala Siddeshwara in the 14th century. The activities of the mutt assumed significance during the time of Tontada Siddalingeshwara.

It was Atavi Swami who heralded the culture of devotion at Siddagangna and his successor Uddana Shivayogi crowned it with divinity. Shivakumara Swami took the institution to new heights after succeeding Uddana Shivayogi in 1930.

Shivakumara Swami was born in Veerapura, a tiny hamlet near Siddaganga. After graduating from Central College, Bengaluru, he took over the affairs of the mutt and transformed it into a hub of devotion, knowledge and education. Today, Siddaganga is a renowned educational and religious centre.

The swami has been instrumental in ensuring access to education for the poorest of the poor. Apart from this, the mutt also serves free food to the students. Come summer, needy students flock to Siddaganga with a tattered bag, seeking admission at the school run by the mutt. They are from places such as Bidar, Belagavi and neighbouring states such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Swami has never sent anyone back.

The mutt places emphasis on discipline, with the Swami himself talking to students every day with an aim to shape them into responsible citizens who are an asset to society. In tune with this objective, the seer has created an environment at the mutt that is conducive to the all-round development of the students, which includes physical fitness. Yoga and other exercises are part of the routine.

The mutt also serves free food to a whopping 9,000 children every day, apart from the more than 1,000 devotees who visit the mutt every day. This 'Dasoha' has been uninterrupted for the past 110 years. The hearth lit by the late Atavi Swamiji continues to burn brightly, serving thousands of people every day.

The swami, while he was physically fit, used to personally supervise all the work at the mutt. There are instances when he carried stones for the construction of buildings. His leadership served as a motivation for many. Students say he has helped them acquire commitment towards their work. 

Over the years, the mutt grew by leaps and bounds. It now has guesthouses for devotees, a Sanskrit college, educational institutions for students from pre-primary to postgraduation, a spacious auditorium, a well-equipped library, staff quarters, post office, bank and the list goes on.

Education and 'Dasoha' are the two most noteworthy achievements of the Siddaganga Mutt. The Sanskrit College is one of the largest Sanskrit institutions in the world. More than 4,000 children learn this ancient language without any caste barrier. The Mutt also runs a prestigious institute of technology.

The alumni association is a lifeline for all activities. This association comprises thousands of people from all walks of life - farmers, litterateurs, teachers, doctors, lawyers and industrialists, who had their humble beginning at the Mutt.

Even at 111, the Swami performed the daily pooja and interacted with thousands of devotees. He expected all religious centres to transform themselves into social service centres.

During the 100th birthday celebrations, I had questioned him: Are religion and politics different? Or do they complement each other? If they complement each other, what is the nature of the relationship?”

The seer replied thus: “Religion is a way of life. Politics is an arrangement for worldly affairs. Religion is eternal and is never subject to adversities of time. But the political system is impermanent and dynamic. Religion is essential for the personal life of an individual. The political system is also necessary for public welfare. There should be religion in politics. But, there should be no place for politics in religion. Religion and politics backed by ethics are complementary to each other. Though the basic nature of the two and their functions appear to be different, public good should be the objective of the two. Both the systems should strive in its way for realising this goal.”

The Swami was a phenomenon.

(The author is a folk scholar and Kannada writer)