Pejawar Math head Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji, one of the prominent religious leaders of South India, died on Sunday after a brief illness, math sources said.
The 88-year old swamij, a prominent face of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Ramjanmabhoomi movement, breathed his last at the premises of the Pejawar math in this holy town, they said.
The Karnataka government announced a three-day state mourning. The last rites of the seer will be performed at the Vidyapeetha in Bengaluru, founded by him, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said.
Vishwesha Theertha, the most senior pontiff of the Ashta (eight) maths here established by Dvaita philosopher Sri Madhwacharya 800 years ago, was admitted to KMC Hospital in nearby Manipal with respiratory problems on December 19.
On Saturday night, he suffered multi-organ failure following which he was shifted to the Pejwar Math here as per his wish expressed earlier, the sources said.
From there, the mortal remains of the swamiji were taken in a bamboo basket to the eight centuries old Udupi Sri Krishna Math where a bath was given in Madhawa Sarovara (holy tank).
After a darshan of Lord Krisha, the body of the swamiji kept in the bamboo basket was taken in a procession in an open jeep amid chants of "Govinda" "Govinda" to Ajjarjad stadium where a large number of public gathered.
Yediyurappa paid his respects to the departed seer and placed a national on his body, wrapped in saffron colour cloth and adorned with Tulsi garlands, even as police personnel gave a gun salute.
A host of state ministers and senior Bharatiya Janata Party and Sangh Parivar leaders were among those who offered floral tributes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Yediyurappa condoled the death of the seer, who was the 33rd swamiji in the lineage of the Pejawar Math heads.
"Udupi will remain in the hearts and minds of lakhs of people for whom he was always a guiding light. A powerhouse of service and spirituality, he continuously worked for a more just and compassionate society. Om Shanti," Modi tweeted, condoling the death of the swamiji.
Yediyurappa said: "Hindu religion has lost a major guide in the passing away of the seer."
He had held 'sahabhojana' with Dalits, which was a step to lower the voice of inequality in Hindu religion.
"His contribution to the upliftment of Hindu dharma is immortal. It is saddening that he did not live to witness the construction of Rama mandir in Ayodhya," the chief minister said in his message.
Math sources aid the body of the swamiji will be airlifted to Bengaluru later in the afternoon where it would be kept for public viewing from 4 pm at the National College grounds.
The 'Brindavana' final rites according to traditional rituals will be held at the Vidyapeeta in Bengaluru in the evening.
Pejawar Swamiji was born at Ramakunja to a Shivalli Madhwa Brahmin family on April 27, 1931.
He was ordained into Sanyasa in 1938 under guru Sri Vidyamanya Tirtharu of Shri Bhandarkeri Mutt and Palimaru Mutt.
He was the 32nd in the lineage of the Pejawar Mutt, starting from Sri Adhokshaja Tirtharu, who was one of the direct disciples of Sri Madhvacharya.
Vishwesha Theertha has completed five Paryaya titles in Udupi Sri Krishna temple starting from 1954 and the only Swamiji to complete five Paryayas after Shri Vadiraja Swamiji of Sode Mutt.
He started his fifth Paryaya on January 18, 2016 and completed it on January 18, 2018.
The 'Paryaya' system denotes transfer of power of exclusive rights of worshipping the presiding deity at the famous Lord Krishna temple here and management of Sri Krishna Mutt from one seer to another of the Astha (eight) Mutts once in two years by turns.
Pejawar Swamiji had earlier appointed Sri Vishwaprasanna Theertha, as his successor as the chief of Pejawar Mutt.
The swamiji, who took an active part in the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, was hailed for his social initiatives, including visiting Dalit colonies decades ago.
After the Supreme Court verdict on Ramjanmabhoomi case, the seer has attended a peace meeting along with Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders and others last month.