The alleged sex scandal involving Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru of the Chitradurga Murugha Mutt is going to be a blot in the history of the mutt, which has been revered by people and rulers alike from the pre-Independence era.
Lakhs of devotees who follow the mutt are shell-shocked with the arrest of Murugha Sharanaru, the prime accused in the case of alleged sexual assault of two minor girls.
The premises of the mutt, always abuzz with devotees and activities, has turned into a police fortress now.
Many devotees are now saddened with the turn of events, with Murugha Sharanaru now left to defend himself.
Parashu, one of the founders of Odanadi, the NGO which exposed the alleged sex scandal, said that the accused seer always hid behind the 'khaavi' (spiritual attire).
BJP MLA and former minister K.S. Eshwarappa, however, said that he still revers the accused seer. He maintained that he comes from a culture which respects the heritage of spiritual gurus and he can't think of seeing the seer accused of rape.
"Gurus are like gods to me," he said.
Basavaraj Sulibhavi, a social activist and political analyst, claimed that the scandal is an attempt to destroy the heritage of Lingayats, the community to which the seer belongs.
"The debate over Veerashaiva-Lingayat and Linagayat-Hindu religion should be carefully observed at this juncture. There will be an all-out effort to use this episode against the Lingayat movement and its structure as an independent religion," he said.
"The case no longer remains just a case now. It has become part of politics," he said.
"Lingayat philosophy does not see any difference between man and woman. Breaking the shackles on women imposed by orthodox Hindu tenets, Lingayat tradition gave power to women to speak up for the first time in the country," Sulibhavi said.
"The concept of mutts headed by a person who practises celibacy is not Linagayat tradition. Lingayat tradition is close to nature; it will not suggest anything against nature such as the practice of celibacy. There are several Lingayat mutts which are run by married religious pontiffs. This is the religion which propagates union and integration of male and female. Going against this natural principle has created problems," he added.
"This scandal has taken place at the level of an individual in the backdrop of personal weakness. This one act should not be equated with the entire Lingayat heritage or the heritage of the mutt," Sulibhavi said.
Historically, the Murugha mutt is a prominent Lingayat mutt located in Chitradurga. The mutt was established in 1703 and has been contributing to cultural, religious and academic fields for three centuries. Presently, more than 150 spiritual and academic institutions are run by the mutt. It has 3,000 branches all across the country.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on his recent visit to this mutt had stated that he likes the tradition and heritage of the mutt to empower the oppressed classes.
He also remembered how the mutt was close to his father, late Rajiv Gandhi, and his grandmother, late Indira Gandhi.
Interestingly, when most Lingayat mutts and seers identified with the ruling BJP, Murugha Sharanaru chose to identify with Congress.
The attempts to shift him to Bengaluru, the local court ordering him to be present before it from the ICU, rejecting his demands to have 'satvik' food from the mutt and the authorities refusing to allow him to conduct pooja inside the prison have proved to be a nightmare, not only for the rape-accused the seer, but also for his lakhs of devotees.
(With inputs from IANS)