VISHWESHA TIRTHA

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A revered Seer who was also liberal (1931-2019)

Vishwesha Tirtha, popularly known as the Pejawar Mutt Seer was born as Venkatramana Bhat, son of Narayanacharya and Kamalamma at Ramakujna in Dakshin Kannada on 27th April, 1931. He was ordained as a monk at the age of seven and had his spiritual education under the renowned seer, the late Vidyaramanya Tirtha at Sri Palimaru and Sri Bhandarkera Mutts.

Thirty-third in the lineage of the Pejawar Mutt seers, he took over the reins of the Mutt as the seer of the Guru Parampara of the Pejawar Mutt and founded the Poornaprajna Vidyapeeta 63 years ago. The Pejawara Akshata Mutt of which he was the presiding, Swamiji was one of the Ashtamathas belonging to the Dwaita School of Philosophy founded by Madhvacharya devoted to the preservation and propagation of Indian philosophical texts. After completing his traditional education in Sanskrit he mastered several Hindu texts including the Vedas, Upanishads, Shastras, and Granthas and became well versed in the teachings of Guru Madhvacharya. He was also a scholar of Nyaya and the Vedanta philosophies.

Considered as a liberal voice in the highly conservative religious sphere, the Pejawar seer was closely associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and was a vocal proponent for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. He was one of the spearheads of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Incidentally, he was also a bitter critic of the Emergency that was declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. He wrote a protest letter to the PM and even offered to be jailed in solidarity with those who had been incarcerated. The seer’s popularity transcended all religions and he could reach out easily to communities other than his own. He once stirred a hornet’s nest when he hosted an iftar in the premises of the mutt. He shared an excellent rapport with other religious heads as well and indulged in parleys with them. As a reformist seer who abhorred untouchability he often visited Dalit colonies. He started several educational institutions in cities including the Akhila Bharat Madhva Mahamandal where free education was provided to poor children. The mutt also ran a number of social service organisations including free hospitals. A number of pilgrim centres at places of pilgrimage were also funded by the Mutt where again poor pilgrims were housed and their requirements including food were catered to.

The Pejawar seer also ran a sustained campaign for banning cow slaughter and demanded that the cow is recognised as the country’s national animal. Vishwesha Tirtha earned the distinction of being the only seer among the Ashta Mutts of Udupi which propagates the Dwaita philosophy to have performed five biennial Paryayas.

Swami Vishwesha Tirtha passed away on 29 December 2019 after a brief illness at the age of 88. The frail and diminutive seer was known to be a workaholic who was on his feet for more than eighteen hours a day even at an advanced age.

After his passing, the Government of India honoured him with the second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan. While hailing the government’s decision to confer the coveted honour on the late seer his successor Vishwaprasanna opined that it could have been conferred on him during his lifetime. An appeal was also made to the government to honour him by conferring the Bharat Ratna. The seer’s entire life was devoted to social service and the pursuit of his reformist agenda and he touched thousands of lives with his humane and considerate demeanour.

Leading the nation in mourning the demise of the seer Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled his long and fruitful association with him and observed that Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji will remain in the hearts and minds of lakhs of people for whom he was always a leading light.


C.V. Aravind

C.V. Aravind is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist.

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