Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji of Pejawar Math in Karnataka, one of the prominent religious leaders of South India, passed away on Sunday after a brief illness, math sources said.
The 88-year old swamij, who was closely associated with the VHP's Ramjanmabhoomi movement, breathed his last at the premises of the Pejawar math in Udupi, they said.
The Karnataka government announced a three-day state mourning. His last rites will be performed at the Vidyapeetha here, founded by him, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said.
He was admitted to a hospital in Manipal a few days ago for breathing difficulty and his condition had been critical.
On Saturday night, he suffered multi-organ failure following which he was shifted to the Pejwar Math in Udupi as per his wish expressed earlier, the sources said.
From there, the mortal remains of the swamiji were later taken in a bamboo basket to the eight centuries old Udupi Sri Krishna Math.
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.
Born on April 27, 1931 at at Ramakunja as Venkatarama, he was initiated into asceticism on December 3, 1938 after undergoing practices to renounce worldly pleasures and to tread the path of religion.
The swamiji was hailed for his social initiatives, including visiting Dalit colonies decades ago.
"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.