Born, 1908: Hindu of the Year, 2013
Sree Sree Dr. Shivakumara Swami, head of Siddaganga Math, is honored for his decades of leadership in religion, education and character building
HEN SWAMIJI WAS BORN, MAHATMA Gandhi was a 39-year-old lawyer in South Africa, Swami Sivananda a 21-year-old medical student in Tanjore and Jawaharlal Nehru a 19-year-old science student at Cambridge. World War I ended when he was 11; the Soviet Union formed when he was 14; World War II began when he was 37 and Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon when he was 61. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Sree Sree Dr. Shivakumara Swami was 83—well beyond normal retirement age, but anything but retired. At that point in his life, as the head of Siddaganga Math, one of the foremost Lingayat maths (home of the guru) in Karnataka, he continued to not only fulfill his religious duties as he had since 1941, but was teaching mathematics, Sanskrit and English in the Siddaganga school system. He remains today completely immersed in the affairs of the math, the running of its 132 educational institutions with 9,000 students drawn from the poorest regions of the state and the needs of hundreds of thousands of devotees. For his exemplary leadership with an impact not only in Karnataka but around the world, HINDUISM TODAY honors Sree Sree Dr. Shivakumara Swami with the Hindu Renaissance Award as “Hindu of the Year” for 2013.
Learning of the award, Sri Jayendra Puri Swami, head of Kailash Ashram in Bengaluru noted: “Swamiji is most deserving. How fortunate we are to be in the midst of such a siddha purusha (God-Realized being) in these times. He is truly an incarnation of Siva, or else he cannot be doing so much at this age.” For our full story on Swamiji in the April/May/June, 2013 issue, go to: bit.ly/Siddaganga.
Though the 106-year-old pontiff adheres to the tradition of not crossing the ocean, he has an immense global reach through his devotees, according to Choodie Shivaram who wrote HINDUISM TODAY’S report on Swamiji. Hundreds travel to India each year for his birthday celebrations. Thousands have embraced the philanthropic service of Swamiji, especially in the fields of education and feeding the poor. Many supporters have themselves risen from the humblest of backgrounds with Swamiji’s help.
PHOTO COURTESY SIDDAGANGA MATH
A life devoted to education: Sree Sree Dr. Shivakumara Swami of Siddaganga Math
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One such devotee, Dr. Veerana, now a senior research scientist at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in New York, writes, “I was born into a poor family in Karnataka. I was admitted to the math at the age of ten and shortly thereafter lost both my parents in an epidemic. Swamiji became my default parent, as he had for thousands of destitute orphans like myself. A close watch on Swamiji’s relentless schedule spanning 18 hours a day, his compassion for the poor and needy and sermons during daily mass prayers preaching the tenets of life based on Hindu philosophy, especially the Basava philosophy, had a profound influence on my life.”
Dr. K. N. Thimmaiah of Memphis, Tennessee, tells a similar story. “My poor and illiterate parents sent me to the math for a free secondary education. The serene atmosphere inspired me and thousands of other poor students to pursue our education. With Swamiji’s support, I eventually earned a PhD in chemistry and pursued a successful career in cancer research. But for Swamiji’s support, many professors, engineers and doctors now serving the international community would never have embarked upon their careers.”
Dr. Shambhu Banic, now living in Washington DC, attended the math’s schools in the 1950s. Founder of the Veerashaiva Samaja of North America, he writes, “Swamiji’s service to humanity and in educating hundreds of thousands of impoverished and orphaned students for over 80 years is matchless in the history of mankind.”
Sajjan Shiva, president of the Siddaganga Humanitarian Mission, USA, praised Swamiji’s egalitarian efforts, “He does not pay attention to the caste, creed or religion from which the students arrive at the math. All of them are equal. It is not a small feat to maintain so many students and provide them a spiritual and career-oriented education.”
The Hindu Renaissance Award for Hindu of the Year was created in 1990 by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, founder of HINDUISM TODAY, to recognize and strengthen Hindu leaders worldwide.
Previous awardees are Swami Paramananda Bharati (’90), Swami Chidananda Saraswati (’91), Swami Chinmayananda (’92), Mata Amritanandamayi Ma (’93), Swami Satchidananda (’94), Pramukhswami Maharaj (’95), Satya Sai Baba (’96), Sri Chinmoy (’97), Swami Bua (’98), Swami Chidananda Saraswati of Divine Life Society (’99), Ma Yoga Shakti (’00), T. S. Sambamurthy Sivachariar (’01), Dada J.P. Vaswani (’02), Sri Tiruchi Mahaswamigal (’03), Dr. K. Pichai Sivacharya (’04), Swami Tejomayananda (’05), Ramesh Bhai Oza (’06), Sri Balagangadharanathaswami (’07), Swami Avdheshanand (’08), Swami Gopal Sharan Devacharya (’09), Sri P. Parameswaran (’10) and Jagadguru Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji (’11) and the Silpa Parampara of temple builders (’12).