UDUPI: The pontiff of the Shiroor Mutt in Udupi, Sri Lakshmivara Theertha (54), who had recently created ripples in the political as well as religious circles by announcing his intention to contest the assembly election, died in a hospital on Thursday. Police have filed a case of unnatural death following suspicions raised over his death. The seer had a running feud with some of the other mutts over returning an idol of Lord Vittala which belonged to his mutt.
On Tuesday, the seer was admitted to Gandhi Hospital after he complained of diarrhoea. Around 1 pm on Wednesday, he was shifted to Kasturba Medical College and Hospital in Manipal as his condition worsened. He was administered blood transfusion and dialysis and put on a ventilator.
He was declared dead at 8.30 am on Thursday. Kasturba Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Avinash said the seer died due to breathlessness and massive gastrointestinal bleeding. He said Lakshmivara Theertha may have consumed food laced with poison. The Shiroor Mutt is one of the Ashta (eight) Mutts established by Dvaitha philosopher Madhwacharya and they take turns once every two years to perform puja at the over 800-year-old Sri Krishna Temple. Lakshmivara Theertha Swami stood out because of his unusual activities -- riding bikes, burning crackers by holding it in his hands, playing guitar and drums. He would also teach swimming to youngsters.
His advocate Ravikiran Murdeshwar said the seer had spoken to him about a threat to his life over the issue of the idol. “He had asked to a file criminal case against all six seers and I had prepared for it. He had spoken to me for almost two hours about a threat to his life,” Ravikiran said, demanding a high-level inquiry into the death.
Additional SP Kumara Chandra told TNIE that investigation into the death of the seer has already begun. The forensic lab report is expected from Mangaluru in 15 days and it will give a clear picture as to what caused the death of the seer, he added. The seer’s death has led to several conspiracy theories as, just two days before he got admitted to the hospital, he had threatened to file a criminal case against the seers of six of the Ashta Mutts, barring the Puttige Mutt seer, for not returning the idol.
Since he had not been keeping well, he had handed over the idol to Sri Ishapriya Theertha, junior seer of Adamar Mutt, to perform daily puja, sometime back. Later, when he asked to return it after his health improved Ishapirya Theertha reportedly refused and the seers of the six other mutts backed him. Public entry to Shiroor Mutt has also been restricted in view of the ongoing investigation.
Ansar Ahmed, president of Udupi district unit of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, who was close to the seer, said, “He was served food by the people who knew him and who were in his close quarters. Now it is being said that food poison caused his death. How can that happen to a seer?’’
Thousands of devotees paid their last respects to the seer at Shiroor Mutt where the body was kept for public viewing at 3 pm. The last rites were held at Shiroor Moola Mutt near Hiriyadka around 6.30 pm and his body was cremated as per seer’s wish. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara said, “Many have expressed suspicions about the Swamiji’s death. If there is a need for an inquiry, we will do it.” "No one has come to us so far seeking an inquiry,” he added.