Karnataka’s Udupi Shiroor mutt seer passes away, poisoning suspected

Mangaluru: The head of Udupi-based Shiroor mutt Sri Lakshmivara Teertha Swamiji passed away on Thursday at a private hospital in Manipal, with doctors voicing "suspicion of poisoning" and the kin suspecting foul play.

The 54-year old pontiff was admitted to KMC Hospital in Manipal in the neighbouring Udupi district after he vomitted blood and complained of breathlessness on Wednesday, the mutt sources said.

Shiroor mutt is one among the 'ashta' (eight) mutts around Udupi, established by 13th-century philosopher Madhwacharya.

As the seer's brother and others suspected foul play and sought an inquiry, the Karnataka government said the demand would be looked into.

According to a hospital statement, the seer was found to be critically ill with breathlessness, severe hypotension and massive gastrointestinal bleeding when he was brought.

"A team of doctors provided medical care in the form of ventilator support, blood transfusion and dialysis. There is suspicion of poisoning and toxicological samples have been sent," the statement said.

The condition of the seer continued to deteriorate rapidly in spite of the best efforts of the medical team and he was declared dead at 8 am on Thursday, it added.

KMC medical superintendent Dr Avinash Shetty said as per norms, the hospital had informed the police about the seer's death and "the post-mortem report will reveal the facts."

The brother of the seer Lathavya Acharya filed a police complaint in Udupi, alleging that he had been poisoned to death.

"A high-level inquiry should be held into the case," he said.

Police said the complaint had been registered and further investigation was underway.

Lawyer of the mutt Ravikiran Murudeshwar also demanded an inquiry.

"There should be an inquiry. We should get to know the exact reason for his death because having a suspicion is not good. We have to get an exact reason from doctors," he said.

In Bengaluru, asked about suspicion being raised about the circumstances surrounding the death, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said, "If there are suspicions and if there is need to conduct an inquiry, it will be looked into."

Expressing grief over the Swamiji death, he said it was a loss to the society and he had died "at a young age".

Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister G Parameshwara said: "Many have expressed suspicion about Swamiji's death. If there is a need to conduct an inquiry we will do it. At present, no one has come to us on this."

The seer had differences over some issues with pontiffs of six of the eight mutts in Udupi in the coastal region.

After he fell ill a few months ago, the Shiroor seer had given the idols of the presiding deities of his mutt to Ishtapriya Theertha Swami, junior seer of Adamaru mutt to keep them at the sanctum sanctorum of the Sri Krishna mutt.

But when he sought the idols back after his recovery, the seers of six of the ashta mutts refused to hand over them.

They agreed to return the idols only after Shiroor seer appointed a junior, which was not accepted by him and he threatened to file a criminal case against other Swamijis.

A versatile figure, the seer, who played drums and was a swimmer too, was at the centre of a controversy recently after he expressed a desire to contest the state assembly polls in May as an independent candidate or from the BJP if he was offered the ticket. Later he dropped his electoral plans.

Police personnel have been deployed in the Shiroor Mutt in view of his death.

Madhwacharya, who founded the 'Dvaita' (dualism) school of Vedanta, had appointed eight of his direct disciples as head of each mutt that were established in eight villages around the Udupi Krishna Temple.

During the Paryaya, a religious ritual that takes place every alternate year, the puja and administration of the Krishna temple is vested with the seers of the ashta mutts in turns.


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