Bengaluru: Sri Balagangadharanatha Swamiji, the hugely popular seer of the Adichunchanagiri Math, who played a pivotal role in guiding the Vokkaliga community-the second largest in Karnataka – to a position of prominence in the last four decades, passed away at BGS Global Hospital in Kengeri here Sunday evening where he was admitted following kidney ailments and a lung infection. He was 68.
There were noisy scenes at the hospital which was swamped by Janata Dal (S) activists who heckled NICE chairman Ashok Kheny over a controversial remark he allegedly made against party supremo H.D. Deve Gowda. Mr Kheny beat a hasty exit from the hospital where he had arrived to pay his respects to the pontiff and claimed he had made no remark of the sort attributed to him.
The Swamiji who pioneered the efforts of the math to set up a network of educational and social institutions, was a much sought after figure for politicians and others because of the clout he enjoyed among the Vokkaligas who dominate in Bengaluru and other districts in Old Mysore. He will be succeeded by Sri Nirmalananda Swamiji, who presently heads the Chikkaballapur unit of the math.
After taking over the reins of the math in 1974 when he was just 30, Balagangadharanatha Swamiji engaged in social and philanthropic activity, mobilising contributions to set up schools and colleges. The math now runs over 400 educational institutions, besides orphanages and free hostels for poor children.
The Swamiji was also involved in the environmental movement, launching Vanasamvardhana Trust, which took on itself the taks of planting five crore saplings across the state.
A Padma Bhushan awardee, the Swamiji was conferred an honorary doctorate by the US based International Hindu Vedic University.