On January 21, 2019, India lost one of its supercentenarians. A man who lived an incredible 111 years and 295 days. He was Shivakumara Swami, a man of faith and a social worker. Here is just a small summary of his amazing years on earth.
Shivakumara Swami: A Man of God
The youngest of thirteen children, Shivakumara Swami was born in modern-day Karnataka in 1907. Back when it was still the Kingdom of Mysore. He became a part of the Lingayats, a sect of Hinduism devoted to the worship of Lord Shiva from a young age. In 1930, he became the presumptive successor to the SiddagangaMatha, a Lingayat monastery that also functioned as an educational institute. He took over the Matha in 1941.
Fluent in Kannada, English, and Sanksrit, Shivakumara Swami was recognized as a great academician. Who took up a Bachelors in Arts with physics and maths as optional subjects from the Central College of Bangalore. He was, however, unable to complete his degree as his duties as the head of the Matha were more important for him.
Shivakumara Swami: A Man of the People
As a religious figure, Shivakumara Swami devoted himself to the wellness and benefit of the community. Founding hundreds of institutes and centers for education, ranging from nurseries to vocational training. He emphasized both traditional Indian knowledge and modern sciences, patronizing institutes teaching both Sanskrit and engineering and science. Swami’s gurukula has been know to be a haven for thousands of children. Who are welcomed into its folds no matter what their social identities. He also held an agricultural fair every year for the benefit of the local farming population.
Shivakumara Swami: A Man Celebrated
While Shivakumara Swami worked with no other motive than the benefit of others, the country did recognize his tireless efforts over the decades. He was visited by former President, the late APJ Abdul Kalam in 2006. APJ Abdul Kalam also praised for his humanitarian and educational work. He was conferred with a Doctorate of Letters from the Karnataka University in 1965. Later was awarded the highest civilian award of Karnataka, the Karnataka Ratna, for his work on his 100th year 2007.
In 2005, he was also awarded the Padma Bhushan award.
The Swami’s health began to fail from 2019 onwards. On 16th January 2019, he decided to come back to the Matha and leave the hospital. He subsequently breathed his last on 21st January. Right at the place, he had devoted his life to, surrounded by people whose lives he had changed for the better. The Karnataka Government subsequently declared a public holiday on 22nd January as a mark of respect for the man called the ‘walking god’ by his devotees.
Shivakumara Swami: A Man of Inspiration
Despite his millions of followers, many of them powerful politicians, Shivakumara Swami remained till the very end a humble and dedicated man, focused on his religion and the wellbeing of those around him. In Karnataka, nearly thirty thousand students can get quality and affordable education thanks to his actions, and the broken and scared always knew that they had a place that they could go to.
Despite his age and then declining health, the Swami continued to work for both the social arm of the Matha and the educational aspect of it. He would personally go around and ask for donations to help feed those who knocked on the Lingayat sect’s door.
Many have, and continue to, campaign for a Bharat Ratna award for the great seer, and it would surely be well deserved. Few have served their people and their religion’s principles the way Shivakumara Swami has.