Bengaluru: Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji of Pejawar mutt was a Hindu pontiff who projected himself as a liberal face despite his strict Brahmanical priesthood as he dedicated his entire life for the propagation of Hindu dharma.
He was strongly rooted in Hindu causes such as protection of cow and played an active role in the Ramjanmabhoomi movement.Yet, he boldly organised Iftar for the Muslims during Ramzan at the ancient Sri Krishna math complex in Udupi.
Vishwesha Theertha, who died aged 88 in Udupi after a brief illness on Sunday, was socially active and had reached out to Dalits with his visits to their colonies even as he carried on his spiritual activities with equal vigour and endeared thousands of devotees with his inclusive approach during his eight decades of sainthood.
Besides being closely associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, he was highly regarded by top BJP leadership including late A B Vajpayee, L K Advani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others.
Though he had several politicians as his disciples and followers, the swamiji was opposed to spiritual leaders taking the plunge into electoral politics, saying it would tantamount to compromising their loftiness.
The most senior pontiff of the Ashta (eight) maths in Udupi established by Dvaita philosopher Sri Madhwacharya 800 years ago and the 33rd swamiji in the lineage of the Pejawar math, the octogenarian swamij was a fragile man yet with remarkable alarcity and an extraordinary scholar in Nyaya, Vedanta, Shastra and other branches of philosophy.
Credited with the rare honour of being only the second seer to complete five Paryayas (exclusive rights of worshipping the presiding deity at the ancient Lord Krishna temple in Udupi and management of the Sri Krishna Math) in its history, he was soft spoken and not afraid of taking path breaking initiatives.
Born on April 27, 1931 as the second child of Narayanacharya and Kamalamma from Ramakunja with the name Venkataramana, he was initiated into asceticism by the then head of the Pejawar Math Vishva Manya Theertha Swamiji at the tender age of eight at Chakratheertha near Hampi.
He had written a Sanskrit poem called Samba Vijaya, and at the age of 25 he became the President of the Agamatraya Conference, organised by the Maharaja of Mysore,in Nanjanagud.
The swamiji has ascended the ‘Paryaya Sarvajna Peetha’ for a record five times in 1952, 1968, 1984, 2000 and 2016.
The Paryaya system denotes transfer of power of exclusive rights of worshipping the presiding deity at the Lord Krishna temple and management of the Sri Krishna Mutt from one seer to another of the eight mutts once in two years by turns at a biennial event.
It was said Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji did not want to ascend the Paryaya Sarvajna Peetha for fifth time considering his age (85 then) and wanted his junior Vishwaprasanna Teertha to take the honour. However, the latter managed to persuade his guru to accept it.
Vishwaprasanna Teertha, the present junior swamiji, is likely to be his successor.
Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji in 1956 established the Purnaprajna Vidyapeetha, a kind of Gurukula in Bengaluru with an aim to preserve the ancient culture and to propagate the philosophy of Madhvacharya.
In a gesture of communal amity, the seer had hosted an Iftar get-together and Namaz by Muslims at a dining hall just outside the Udupi Sri Krishna math during the holy month of Ramzan in 2017, but the move drew protests from Hindu outfits.
Defending the move, the Swamiji, who had personally served dates to Muslims during the Iftar, had urged people to make the region an example of peace and harmony for the country.
He had also faced criticism from some quarters for his association with the VHP and over his statement against eating meat in the past.
Asserting that Dalits were integral part of Hindu society, the pontiff took several social initiatives, including visits to Dalit colonies.
Expressing his voice against conversion, he had taken steps to counter conversion of Dalits in the Meenakshipuram in Tamil Nadu.
He was in the forefront of the Ramajanmabhoomi movement launched by VHP, but did not live to see the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, which has been cleared by the Supreme Court recently.
After the apex court’s verdict in the Ayodhya case, he attended a peace meeting in New Delhi, and had also warned of hunger strike if either the Hindus or the Muslim community held victory procession or resorted to any kind of violence post the judgement.
The swamiji, who had strongly opposed emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975, had also urged Prime Minister Modi to promulgate a strong law for cow protection.
In line with his principles, he had opposed Shiroor Mutt chief Sri Laxmivarateertha Swamiji’s move to enter the electoral fray during the 2018 Karnataka assembly elections.
However, senior BJP leader and former union minister Uma Bharti and and former union minister Uma Bharti, who had taken Sanyasa Deeksha from him in 1992.
Source: Economic Times