Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi, hailed as a social reformer and known for his efforts for resolution of the vexed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, died at a hospital here on Wednesday at the age of 82.
The Hindu seer, who was the 69th acharya of the mutt, which many believe was founded by Adi Shankaracharya himself nearly 2,500 years ago, had his share of both glory and controversy, as he was arrested in 2004 connection with the murder of a temple manager.
He was acquitted by a sessions court in the case in 2013.
Jayendra Saraswathi had been unwell for the past few months. He complained of uneasiness on
Wednesday morning and was rushed to the nearby Adi Bhagavadpada Cardiac and Dialysis Centre, a facility sponsored by the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. He breathed his last at the hospital, according to mutt officials.
His mortal remains, in a traditional seated posture as followed for seers, have been placed at the mutt for people to pay their last respects.
Condolence poured in for the revered seer, with many recalling his contribution to philanthropic activities and his efforts to reach out to Dalits and other socially backward communities.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other leaders condoled the death of the seer.
According to officials, the body will be kept for people to pay their respects till Thursday morning before it is taken for last rites.
Jayendra Saraswathi was heading the mutt since 1994, after taking on the mantle from his predecessor, the late Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi.
The junior pontiff Vijayendra Saraswathi will succeed Jayendra Saraswathi.
The body will be laid to rest adjacent to his predecessor within the mutt premises on Thursday, its manager Sundaresa Iyer said.
“Tomorrow morning at 8 am we will be starting the formalities as per the rules of the mutt. Rituals will be performed similar to the way they were done for Mahaperiyava (Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi)”, he told reporters.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami, his deputy O Panneerselvam and DMK working president MK Stalin among others who condoled Jayendra Saraswathi’s demise.
DMDK founder Vijayakant and sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran visited the mutt to pay homage to the late seer.
Born as Subramanian in Irulneeki village in Tiruvarur district, Jayendra Saraswathi was appointed as junior pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in 1954 by Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi at a young age of 19.
Jayendra Saraswathi was credited for his outreach to various sections of the society. Once considered close to the late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, he even attempted at finding an amicable solution to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue.
He held discussions with stakeholders on both sides in 2003, during the then BJP-led NDA regime at the Centre but could not make much headway.
The pontiff had earlier courted controversy in 1987 when he suddenly disappeared from the mutt, only to be found out later.
However, his most challenging period came in 2004 when he was arrested on eve of Diwali in connection with a murder of a temple manager, A Sankararaman, during the Jayalalithaa regime.
The trial court had later acquitted him and others including his deputy Vijayendra Saraswathi in the case. Sankararaman, manager of the Sri Varadarajaperumal temple here, was brutally murdered in his office room in the temple on September 3, 2004.