Tumakuru: Amidst a sea of humanity, Karnataka's iconic Lingayat seer Shivakumara Swami was on Tuesday laid to rest with state honours in the Siddaganga Mutt after about 10-lakh people paid homage to his mortal remains here.
After a three-round gun salute by the state police as a mark of respect, playing of the National Anthem and sounding of bugles by a music band, the seer's frail body clad in saffron robes was lowered in the ground in a sitting posture as per the customs in the Mutt's newly-built temple.
The 111-year-old popular and influential seer of the powerful Lingayat community died on Monday in the Mutt after a protracted illness.
Though ceremonies related to the last rites began earlier in the day with the purification of the final resting place and special rituals, the last journey began at 5.00 p.m in a flower-bedecked wooden chariot from the open ground in the Mutt where Swami's body was kept in a glass showcase for public viewing since Monday afternoon.
According to Mutt's head priest M.N. Chandrashekharayya, Swami had wished to be buried in the temple, as it was located facing the Vedic-cum-Sanskrit school in the heart of the Mutt.
"The body has been buried in the 6-by-6 feet dug up area in the Rudrakshi mantap, with about 1,000kg of sacred ash, 900kg of salt, 50kg of river sand and one sack of herbal (Bilva) leaves," a Mutt's official told reporters.
Junior seer Siddalinga Swami of the 600-year-old Mutt performed the last rites, amid chanting of the Vedic hymns and religious mantras of Shaivas by about 50 priests.
About 100 seers and swamis of various Lingayat and Vokkaliga Mutts from across the state were present on the occasion along with thousands of the seer's devotees from all over the country.
As the temple premises could not accommodate more than 100 people inside, the last rites, including seer's burial, was beamed live on giant screens erected in and around the Mutt for viewing by thousands of people.
State Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy handed over the Tricolour the seer's body was draped with to Siddalinga before the last rites.
Baba Ramdev, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Union Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, state Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara, state Home Minister M.B. Patil, state BJP's unit President B.S. Yeddyurappa and former Congress chief ministers Siddaramaiah and S.M. Krishna were among the several prominent leaders present on the occasion.
Elaborate security arrangements were made around the Mutt and about 3,000 police personnel were deployed in the town to ensure peaceful movement of people for the last glimpse of the seer and divert vehicular traffic from the Mutt area.
Defence Minister Nirmal Sitharaman flew to Tumakuru, about 70km northwest of Bengaluru, in a military helicopter from the state capital and paid her respects to the seer by laying a floral wreath on behalf of the President, Prime Minister and the Union Government.
Chants of "Swamiji ki jai" and "Bharat Ratna beku" (we demand Bharat Ratna for Swami) by hundreds of devotees and students of the Mutt's schools rent the air.
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