BENGALURU, INDIA, January 14, 2013 (Deccan Herald): Balagangadharanatha Swami, pontiff of Adichunchanagiri mutt, was born as Gangadharayya on January 25, 1945, in a Subedar family at Banandur in Bidadi hobli of Ramanagar district.
One of the six children of Chikkalingegowda and Boramma, Gangadharayya completed his primary education at his birthplace. After completing SSLC with a first class in 1963, he joined the Government Arts and Science College in Bangalore to pursue science.
His spiritual inclination drew him to pontiffs of various mutts during his student life and it prepared him for the role he played well after taking charge of Adichunchanagiri mutt at Nagamangala taluk in Mandya district.
He was given diksha by Ramananda Swamy, the then pontiff of Adichunchanagiri mutt, on February 12, 1968 and was renamed as Balagangadharanatha.
After he was anointed as the pontiff of the mutt on September 24, 1974, Balagangadhara went to Kailasashrama in Bangalore and Sri Jayachamarajendra Government Sanskrit School for obtaining scholarship in scriptures.
The mutt witnessed a revolutionary progress under his leadership with several of his flagship projects in education, religion and social service. Hundreds of thousands of children from rural areas are studying in more than 400 schools and colleges run by the Adichunchanagiri Education Trust.
The children of the less privileged are provided with accommodation, food and education, starting from pre- school to MBBS and Engineering. Besides, the students irrespective of their caste and creed, can study Sanskrit and Agama at Kalabhairaveshwara Samskrita Agama Pathashale on the mutt premises at Adichunchanagiri.
Being the main pontiff of Vokkaligas, the second most dominant community in the State, Swami enjoyed immense political following. Political leaders, cutting across party lines and especially from the Vokkaliga community, called on him regularly seeking his guidance. Many political leaders would call on him before launching the election campaign or political conventions.
With the association of State government and different religious leaders, Balagangadharanath Swami launched "Karnataka Vanasamvardhana Trust," to improve the forest wealth by planting five crore saplings. he mutt volunteers under his guidance took up desilting of water tanks as a part of Jalasamvardhana scheme to increase the storage capacity of tanks and improve ground water level.
He also rendered yeoman service in the health sector, opening hospitals that provided free accommodations, treatment and food.
Under a health programme, trained healthcare volunteers visit villages every day, educate, guide the patients and bring suffering patients to the hospital, get them treated and send them back to their places. He also introduced mass marriage system to reduce the burden on the economically deprived sections of society.
Today, the mutt has its branches spread across the State, including Bangalore, Kumbalagod, Archakarahalli, Mayasandra, Mysore, Mandya, Melkote, Hemagiri, Hassan, Shimoga, Chitradurga, Sringeri, Chikkaballapur, Dasarighatta and Kanakapura.
"Balagangadharanatha Swamiji's contribution to the fields of religion, education and social service are unparalleled. During the last three decades, he had built hundreds of educational institutions which have been providing quality education from primary to post-graduate level. His contribution to the field of environment through several afforestation programmes and services in reviving folklore and other rural art forms has been immense."
"Balagangadharanatha Swamiji not only built the Adichunchanagiri mutt but also unified the unorganised Vokkaliga community. Through his hard work, dedication and spiritual power, he brought international recognition to the mutt. He never restricted the mutt to any one community. He believed in oneness and helped all sections of society."
H. D. Kumaraswamy,
JD(S) State President
"His yeoman service for the betterment of the community and education sector is unparallelled."
JD(S) national president
"He hailed from a poor family and dedicated himself to the service of the poor and downtrodden. He was totally committed to provide free education and struggled hard over the last four decades for overall development of the State. I used to meet him whenever I was going through a crisis and he guided me suitably."
B. S. Yeddyurappa,