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Indian "walking god" monk dies at 111

Crowds gather around the body of Indian spiritual leader Shivakumara Swami after his death at the age of 111 in Tumakuru, some 75km northwest of Bangalore, on January 21, 2019.

[NEW DELHI] A 111-year-old Indian monk popularly known as the "walking god" died on Monday, drawing thousands of followers to his monastery in a southern Indian town.

Shivakumara Swami was the head of the Siddaganga monastery and a leader of the Lingayat community, which follows the teachings of 12th century poet and social reformer Basavanna, who rejected the authority of the Brahmins in the Hindu caste hierarchy.

Television showed pictures of the monk's body placed in a sitting position on a chair and garlanded as followers gathered in the town of Tumakuru. The monk developed a lung infection in December, media said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Swami had devoted his life to helping people deal with poverty, hunger and injustice.

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"Prayers and solidarity with his countless devotees spread all across the world," Modi tweeted.

The state of Karnataka, where the monastery was based, declared three days of mourning and ordered schools and government offices shut on Tuesday, media reported.