Jnana Yogashrama seer Siddheshwara Swamiji, a noted spiritual leader from Karnataka, passed away late in the evening on Monday, 2 January.
The 81-year-old spiritual leader once refused a Padma Shri citing his ascetic lifestyle, which he said didn’t warrant any recognition.
He had been suffering from age-related health issues for the past couple of weeks.
Despite his refusal to take medical assistance for his failing health, doctors from BLDEA’s BM Patil Medical College, Research Centre, and Hospital had been providing basic medical care and monitoring his health at the Jnana Yogashrama.
The officials of the ashram released a health bulletin on Monday afternoon stating that the religious leader’s health was stable, and that he was responding to treatment.
He was on oxygen support but not on ventilator support, read the health bulletin. However, the seer passed away by Monday night.
Thousands of devotees from neighbouring districts and Maharashtra started flocking to the ashram to get a last glimpse of the seer.
Condoling the death, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said: “I am saddened to hear the news of Jnana Yogashrama’s seer Siddheshwar Swamiji becoming Lingayaka (demise). The seer strived for the salvation of mankind through his discourses is excellent and unique.”
He added: “The seer’s demise is an irreparable loss to the state. May his soul rest in peace. I pray to God to give all the strength to the devotees of Swamiji to bear this loss.”
ವಿಜಯಪುರದ ಜ್ಞಾನ ಯೋಗಾಶ್ರಮದ ಪರಮ ಪೂಜ್ಯ ಶ್ರೀ ಸಿದ್ದೇಶ್ವರ ಸ್ವಾಮೀಜಿಯವರು ಲಿಂಗೈಕ್ಯರಾದ ಸುದ್ದಿ ತಿಳಿದು ಅತ್ಯಂತ ದುಃಖವಾಗಿದೆ. ತಮ್ಮ ಪ್ರವಚನಗಳ ಮೂಲಕ ಮನುಕುಲದ ಉದ್ಧಾರಕ್ಕೆ ಶ್ರಮಿಸಿದ ಶ್ರೀಗಳ ಸೇವೆ ಅಮೋಘ ಹಾಗೂ ಅನನ್ಯವಾದುದು.
— Basavaraj S Bommai (@BSBommai) January 2, 2023
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief at the seer’s death.
Paramapujya Sri Siddheshwara Swami Ji will be remembered for his outstanding service to society. He worked tirelessly for the betterment of others and was also respected for his scholarly zeal. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with his countless devotees. Om Shanti. pic.twitter.com/DbWtdvROl1
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 2, 2023
Union ministers Pralhad Joshi and Shobha Karandlaje, and Karnataka Cabinet ministers Murugesh Nirani and C&C Patil were among those who expressed condolences on the seer’s death.
Vijayapura District Administration has declared a holiday for schools and colleges, and government offices.
The seer’s final rites are expected to be performed with full state honours at Jnana Yogashrama in Vijayapura, claimed sources in the district administration.
When Swamiji refused Padma Shri
In 2018, Siddheshwar Swamiji was conferred the Padma Shri — the fourth-highest civilian award of India — by the Central government for his spiritualism. However, he refused the award.
“I am very grateful to the government of India for awarding me the prestigious ‘Padma Shri’. But with all due respect to yourself (prime minister) and to the government, I want to convey my unwillingness to accept the great award,” Siddheshwar Swamiji wrote in a letter to Modi.
He added: “Being a sanyasi (ascetic), I have little interest in awards. I hope you appreciate my decision to not accept this highly valued Padma Shri award.”
The followers and devotees of the ashram hailed Swamiji for refusing the award.
It may also be noted that the 81-year-old seer never accepted any award from either governments or private institutions.
He returned government grants
The BS Yediyurappa-led Karnataka government announced grants in 2019 to various mutts and religious institutions, including Jnana Yogashrama.
When the government geared up to give ₹25 lakh for the ashram, Swamiji courteously turned it down.
He refused to accept the funds on the grounds that the ashram had neither schools nor hospitals to utilise the money.
The devotees of the ashram applauded and welcomed this decision as well.
Who is Siddheshwara Swamiji?
The seer was born on 24 October, 1941, in an agricultural family of the Bijjaragi village in the Vijayapura district (erstwhile Bijapur), which was under the Bombay presidency in pre-Independence India.
He completed his schooling and college in Vijayapura. He was a postgraduate in philosophy from Shivaji University in Kolhapur, Maharashtra.
Dr VD Aihole, research coordinator at Dr PG Halakatti Research Centre, said: “At the age of 14, Siddheshwar Swamiji was attracted towards spiritual life. He was inspired by the pravachan (discourses) of Mallikarjun Swamiji, who was a popular spiritual leader in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Goa, and took his discipleship.”
He added: “Mallikarjun Swamiji prophesied to Siddheshwar that he would grow to the heights of philosopher Swami Vivekananda. Following the footsteps of his spiritual guru, Siddheshwar made it his mission to spread divine wisdom among everyone. For over five decades, he has been carrying on this mission with a singular mind.”
Aihole also said: “Siddheswar Swamiji became popular through his discourses not only in India but also abroad, such as in the US and Europe. He delivered his discourses in Kannada, English, and Marathi.”
He added: “Mallikarjun and Siddheshwar Swamiji played a key role in setting up Jnana Yogashrama. He was known for his uncanny ability to present the most complex philosophical matters in the simplest language for the common man. His discourses have been turned into books. He has written over 80 books on philosophy and spirituality. He has also written many books on the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Sharana philosophy.”
According to the official website of Jnana Yogashrama, Swamiji’s books include Siddhanta Shikhamani, Allamaprabhu’s Vachana Nirvachana, Bhagvad Chintana, God, World and Soul, and Patanjali Yoga Sutra.
Close association with Suttur Mutt
Elated over the preaching of Siddheshwar Swamiji, the bond with Mysuru’s Suttur Mutt pontiff Shivaratri Deshikendra Swamiji grew. He was invited to deliver discourses in the Suttur Mutt every year.
Aihole pointed out: “The bond between the two seers grew to such an extent that Shivaratri Deshikendra Swamiji made Siddheshwar Swamiji write books on spirituality. The mutt also ensured that the books were published, and they became big hits.”
He added: “Swamiji also gives insights on spirituality to the students of the Suttur Mutt’s Gurukul. Though both the swamijis differed in age, the mutual respect shared among them is admirable.”