Udupi pontiff death: Police begin probe, ban access to mutt

By PTI Published on Jul 21, 2018 03:05 PM IST

Mangaluru: Police have imposed a blanket ban on public access to Shiroor mutt in Udupi as they begin the probe into a complaint suspecting foul play in the death of its head Sri Laxmivara Teertha Swamiji.

The ban, also applicable to the original Shiroor mutt property at Harikandige near Hiriadka in the district, will be in force till the probe into the case is completed, police said.

The 54-year-old seer passed away at a private hospital in Manipal, with doctors voicing "suspicion of poisoning" and the kin alleging foul play. KMC Hospital, where the seer was admitted and died had said there was a "suspicion of poisoning", while his brother Lathavya Acharya filed a police complaint in Udupi, alleging that he had been poisoned to death and demanded a probe.

Top police officials, including IGP (Western Range) Arun Chakravarthy and Udupi district superintendent of police Laxman Nimbargi, visited Hiriadka and Shiroor mutt.

Shiroor mutt, which was established by 13th century philosopher Madhwacharya, is one among the 'ashta' (eight) mutts around Udupi. The Hiriadka police has registered a case under section 174 (c) of CrPc (death under circumstances raising reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence) based on Acharyas complaint.

The seer fell ill after having food at the base mutt in Shiroor on July 18. He had also attended a programme on that day where he had snacks with children. He was first admitted to a hospital in Udupi and later shifted to KMC hospital in Manipal for advanced care.

Sode mutt, the dwandva (parallel) mutt of Shiroor mutt, would be in charge of the affairs of the latter. It's chief Vishwavallabha Teertha Swamiji would pick the successor of Laximvara Teertha Swamiji in consultation with other seers, sources said.

Meanwhile, Pejawar mutt chief Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji said other seers of the ashta mutts in Udupi had some issues with Swami Laxmivara Teertha. He said that the other seers of the Ashta mutt always co-operated with the deceased pontiff, and that they only wanted him to change his lifestyle and make himself 'worthy' of offering poojas to idol.

However, praising Swami Laxmivara Teertha for his pro-poor and people-friendly attitude, the Pejawar seer said he had always mingled with the people.

A versatile figure, Laxmivara Teertha swami was also a swimmer and enjoyed playing drums. He liked cultural activities and had keen interest in art and music, which led some people to feel that he overindulged in these activities, the Pejawar seer added.

He was at the centre of a controversy recently after he expressed desire to contest the state assembly polls in May as an independent candidate or from BJP if he was offered the ticket. Later he dropped his electoral plans.