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IANS

Dwarka peeth Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, once known as a "revolutionary sadhu" for participating in freedom struggle, who spoke his mind on religious and political issues and questioned the "deification" of Saibaba of Shirdi, died of cardiac arrest in his ashram in Madhya Pradesh on Sunday.

He was 99

Swami Swaroopanand, who was the Shankracharya of Dwarka-Sharda Peeth (in Gujarat), and Jyotish Peeth (in Uttrakhand), was not keeping well for over a year, his aide said.

He breathed his last at his Ashram in the Narsinghpur district around 3:30 PM, Swami Sadanand Maharaj, second-in-command (known as Dandi Swami) of the Dwarka Peeth, told PTI.

An Ashram release said the Shankaracharya died of cardiac arrest.

He was on dialysis and used to be on and off ventilator for the last couple of months. He was also suffering from age-related issues and was a diabetic, the Ashram sources said, adding that a special facility was built at the Ashram to treat him.

He will be given a "bhoo samadhi" (burial) on the campus of the Ashram around 3 to 4 pm on Monday, the release said.

His bhoo Samadhi in sitting position which is given to 'sanyasis' will take place around 3-4 pm at his Paramhansi Ganga Ashram, Jyoteshwar, in Gotegaon in Narsinghpur on Monday," it said.

Swaroopanand Saraswati was born as Pothiram Upadhyay in Dighori village in the Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh in 1924.

He had left his home in pursuit of God at the age of 9. He became a freedom fighter in the Quit India movement in 1942 and was called as "Revolutionary Sadhu". He was jailed twice, once for 9 months and another of 6 months.

Pothiram Upadhyay became Shankracharya (of Dwarka Peeth) in 1981, his followers said.

His 99th birthday was celebrated on teej that fell on August 30, they said.

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh was one of the thousands of followers of the Shankracharya.

One of his disciples, a former Congress MLA and ex-Jabalpur Mayor Kalyani Pandey told PTI that the Shankracharya had prevailed over the then Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi to get the locks of the then Babri mosque, which housed the idols of Lord Ram, in Ayodhya opened.

"He yearned for a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. He wanted it to be constructed on the lines of Lord Shiva temple at Angkor Wat in Cambodia," she said.

The Shankracharya was once detained when he was leading a yatra for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, his followers said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed deep sadness at his death and offered condolences to the seer's followers.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted in Hindi, "Dwarka peeth Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati ji's death has caused a feeling of anguish in me. Besides making India's cultural and religious traditions prosper, he also worked for social welfare. My deepest condolences to his followers from the bottom of my heart."

MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the seer was among the "tallest figures" of the Sanatan Dharma.

The news about the death of Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, revered Shankaracharya of Paschim Amnaya Shri Sharada Peeth, established by Adi Shankrachayra, is very saddening. Revered Swamiji was among the tallest figures of Sanatan Dharma and ascetic tradition, he tweeted.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said the Shankaracharya was a "great saint" who illuminated the earth.

Shankaracharya is a commonly used title of heads of monasteries called mathas in the Advaita Vedanta tradition of Hinduism.

It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya had established four mutts at Badrikashram Jyotirpeeth in the north, Dwarka's Shardha Peeth in the west, Govardhan Peetha in Puri in the east, and Sringeri Sharada Peetham in Chikkamagalur district, Karnataka.

Known for speaking his mind, Swami Swaroopanand in June 2012 told the then Uttarakhand chief minister about his stance against having hydro projects, dams, and barrages on the River Ganga.

He had advocated the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and framing of the uniform civil code in the country.

In 2014, he had stirred a controversy by questioning the "Godly status" of Saibaba of Shirdi. He had said there was no mention of Sai Baba in the Shastras and the Vedas" and he should not be worshiped with Hindu gods.

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