The saintly figure who passionately protected the hills of Kodagu and the rivers in the Western Ghats in Karnataka met an unfortunate end — the very hills he loved swept him away in a major landslide.
Swami Anandatheertha, who retired as a teacher from Mumbai and later settled in Kodagu, failed to turn up at the Talacauvery temple — the place where the Cauvery originates — along with the chief priest on Thursday to conduct the morning rituals. When the security guards at the temple went to check on him, they found that his house and that of the priest’s had vanished in a massive landslide.
Anandatheertha and the head priest’s family were asked by the authorities to shift to a safer place as it was pouring and their houses were at the foothill prone to landslides. However, Anandatheertha decided to stay back and not abandon the hills. Even the cowshed he had with over 20 bovines was taken away by the landslide.
While the bodies of the priest and his family are yet to be recovered, Anandatheertha's body was retrieved on Saturday.
Anandatheertha had lived in Mumbai for long and worked there as a school teacher. He returned to his native place over three decades ago and became the traditional trustee and administrator of the temples in Talacauvery and Bhagamandala.
Even as locals mourn the demise of Anandatheertha, Kodagu and Bhagamandala continued to be pounded by heavy rainfall. The Indian Meteorological Department has issued a red alert for four Karnataka districts — Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Shivamogga and Chikkamagaluru.
Rivers continue to flow above the danger mark, inundating lowlying areas in several parts of Malnad, coastal and interior Karnataka.