Shivakumara Swami: A seer to the core

I wanted to pursue a 'Kannada Pandit' course 45 years ago and there were only two institutions that offered it. One was in Mysore and the other was the Siddaganga Mutt, Tumkur. I chose the Siddaganga Mutt as I could not afford to study at the Mysore institution. 

Through a common friend, I was introduced to Shanthakumar, who was pursuing the course at the Mutt. I had visited the Mutt twice on the pretext of meeting Shanthakumar.The Mutt premises was big. The Sanskrit College was housed at the foot of a large hill. There were holy graves (gadduge) of senior pontiffs on both sides. A large peepal tree near the college always drew attention. There were ragi fields in the neighbourhood. Towards the east, there was a big banyan tree. The environment was totally simple and it caught my attention.

Every student there would be clad in a saffron-coloured dress with vibhuti (holy ash) on their forehead. There were students of different age groups. Some of them were four years old, while others were 24. They would often walk around holding books in their hands. It was a sight that I never wanted to miss in the 1970s. Even today, these scenes are still fresh in my memory.

I joined the Mutt to pursue the course in 1971. Before I could meet Shivakumar Swami, I had already met Pandith D Gangaraju, who was one of the course teachers. He had assured me of a seat for the course. He took me to the Swami. It was my first meeting with him. 

He looked at me and smiled for a while and nodded, giving a green signal for my admission. For a while, I felt I was in heaven. I bowed to him and returned.

I would meet him almost every day. His presence always brought positive energy and enthusiasm. He would walk with such a spirit that even a physically disabled person wanted to walk by his side.

For many years, I felt that a being with a positive spirit and energy always walked around me.

I stayed at the Mutt for two years as I relocated to Kyatasandra. My visits to the Mutt reduced after I completed the course.

On day one after I joined the Mutt, I went to the dining hall with a plate in my hand. There were many students holding plates in their hands. It was a different scene for me, but I was attracted to it.

Students would sit in lines to consume the food. Senior students would serve ragi balls and sambar. It was my first meal at the Mutt. In those days, I mean 45 years ago, about 800 people would consume food daily! Those were the days when the Mutt was slowly grabbing the limelight. Many farmers in rural areas of Tumkur district would donate ragi, rice and vegetables to the Mutt.

I was an eyewitness to many farmers who donated as much as they could of their produce voluntarily.

That way, the Mutt received less financial donations. Food grains were donated in large quantities. Hence, there was a place to store these materials. The Mutt had maintained a ledger to record donations. 

Women would clean the ragi before milling and there was a ragi milling machine at the Mutt.

Shivakumar Swami would pay at least six visits to the kitchen for inspections. Just his one smile at those who prepared ragi balls would double the enthusiasm.

Ragi ball preparation is a tedious process. At times, the number of visitors to the Mutt would cross 500, but none of them returned hungry. It was an unwritten rule that every visitor should be offered food. For the visitors, it was prasadam, not food.

On many occasions, the pontiff himself would personally verify quality. He would often visit the dining hall. He would inspect the way in which the food was offered. Visiting the kitchen and the dining hall for inspections was his daily routine.

The Siddaganga Mutt was also famous for its education. Tumkur connected South Karnataka with North Karnataka. So, there were a large number of people from the Veerashaiva community.

Gubbi, Gulur and other places became the centre of Veerashaiva culture. However, a majority of the students did not belong to the Veerashaiva community. The Mutt always promoted secularism. 

The pontiff himself had obtained higher education. He was deeply influenced by Swamy Vivekananda's philosophy. He often quoted Vivekananda's sayings and recited the vachanas of Basavanna, Allamaprabhu, Siddarama and Nijaguna Shivayogi and explained the meaning and spirit of those vachanas. He gave equal prominence to food and education. Lakhs of students have benefited from his service. I believe that Shivakumara Swami continues to bless us every second.

THE HISTORY OF SIDDAGANGA

Gosala Siddeshwara (1300-13500) of Shoonyapeetha, Haradanahalli, travelled extensively to spread religion. He came to this place along with his 101 disciples, all virakthas. He meditated and founded the Siddaganga Mutt.

According to a myth, one of his disciples fell ill while meditating in a cave. He remembered Siddeshwara. Siddeshwara ventured out of the old Mutt and reached the cave. He kicked the boulder of the cave, which led to cracks. Drops of water gushed out of cracks.

The water came to be known as the Ganges and it was possible due to Siddeshwara. Hence, the centre came to be known as Siddaganga.

Devotees even today visit the place called Jalodhbhava atop Siddaganga Hill. They believe that the water is capable of purifying ailments and fulfilling their dreams.

There is a belief that Yediyur Siddalingeshwara meditated here between 1470-80.

Siddaganga Mutt is a centre for spiritual personalities and saints. Many devotees feel fortunate to spend time here and this belief has attracted a large number of people from across the state.

Jalodhbhava and Siddalingeshwar Swami Temple attract people in large numbers. Down the hill, there are Dodda Basava and Shivalinga temples that were constructed in 2014.

During the jathra mahotsav, devotees visit the old Mutt, Uddana Shivayogi Gadduge, Pakashale, Atavi Swamy's Gadduge, the pure holy pond, a mass prayer meeting of students, a book exhibition and a farming equipment exhibition.

The Mutt has a Yatri Nivas facility so that accommodation can be provided to devotees visiting the centre.

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