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Siddaganga seer receives Karnataka Ratna

Special Correspondent

I decided to accept the award following an appeal by my followers, says the swamiji

STATE HONOUR: Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and Minister for Kannada and Culture H.S. Mahadeva Prasad presenting the Karnataka Ratna award to Sri Shivakumara Swamiji of Siddaganga Math in Bangalore on Sunday. — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

BANGALORE: The State Government on Sunday honoured the head of the Siddaganga Math, Sri Shivakumara Swamy, with the Karnataka Ratna award, the highest award of the State. The seer who turned 100 on Sunday is revered in the State for helping thousands of poor students to pursue education.

Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa presented the award to the seer at a special programme held on the frontal steps of the Vidhana Soudha. The award comprises a golden plaque of 50 gm, and a citation and shawl.

The swamiji has been providing free food under the math's "Akshara Dasoha" scheme to 8,000 children from poor families every day to help them pursue education. What makes this programme socially significant is that 30 per cent of these children are destitutes.

Speaking after receiving the award, Sri Shivakumara Swamy said he would not have accepted the award if the Government had consulted him before announcing it. He did not desire the award and he was not very happy about it. He had decided to accept the award following an appeal from his followers, students, writers and industrialists. The swamiji lauded the State Budget for waiving farmers' loans, and banning arrack and lotteries. He urged the Government to work towards elimination of poverty and illiteracy.

On sharing of Cauvery waters, he said the tribunal had done injustice to the State by awarding only 270 tmcft of water. Political leaders of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka should hold talks for an amicable solution to the dispute. Cauvery waters should be shared by both States in a friendly manner, he said.

Earlier, the Chief Minister said that the swamiji had carved a niche for himself by providing free boarding, shelter and education to thousands of children from all sections of society. Over the past six decades, the swamiji dedicated himself to the cause of the welfare of mankind. His simplicity, honesty and dedication towards total welfare had earned acclaim for the centenarian seer-turned saint, he said.

Mr. Kumaraswamy presented a silver chair to the swamiji. The chair was presented to the Chief Minister at a mass marriage ceremony at Davalagi in Muddebehal taluk of Bijapur district.

Mr. Yediyurappa released a 12-page souvenir "Trivida Dasohi" to mark the occasion. He appealed to the Centre to honour the swamiji with the Bharat Ratna award. "On the 100th birthday of the swamiji, the Government has honoured the noble soul with its highest award as a token respect of the people of the State," he said. Minister for Home, Law and Parliamentary Affairs M.P. Prakash recalled the social services rendered by the swamiji.

The swamiji heads 125 educational institutions. He started a Sanskrit College and commenced "Akshara Dasoha" in 1930 for 80 students.

Kannada and Culture Minister H.S. Mahadeva Prasad presided over the function. Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Krishna, Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Council Sachidanda Koth, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly N. Dharam Singh, and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council H.K. Patil were present.

The Karnataka Ratna award was first given to Kannada poet and Jnanpith award winner Kuvempu in 1992.

The other recipients of the award are thespian Rajkumar (1993), former Chief Minister S. Nijalingappa (1999), scientist C.N.R. Rao (2000) and musician Bhimsen Joshi (2005). The award is given to only those who are aged above 60.

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