Bangaru Adigalar, a spiritual leader and philanthropist who was revered as ‘Amma’ (mother) by his devotees, passed away on Thursday at his residence in Tamil Nadu’s Chengalpattu district. He was 82 years old and had been suffering from age-related ailments. He is survived by his wife and two sons who manage education institutions and a medical college run by the family.
Adigalar was known for his life of spirituality and compassion, which he said was inspired by the divine mother Adiparasakthi. He established the Adiparasakthi temple in Melmaruvathur, which became a popular pilgrimage site for Shakti worshippers. He also founded the Adhiparasakthi charitable medical educational and cultural trust, which runs several schools, colleges, hospitals and social service projects.
Tributes from PM Modi and CM Stalin
Condolences poured in for Adigalar from various quarters, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin leading the tributes. PM Modi posted a photo of his meeting with Adigalar on X (formerly Twitter) and praised his work for humanity and education. He said that Adigalar’s life “will forever be a guiding light for many” and that his work “will continue to inspire and guide generations”.
CM Stalin announced state honours for the spiritual leader’s funeral and recalled his meeting with him in 2021. He said that Adigalar deserved to be highly respected for allowing women to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Shakti temples, which was in line with the Dravidian movement’s fight for social justice and equality.
A revolutionary reformer of Shakti worship
Adigalar was born as G Subramaniam in 1941 to a family of farmers belonging to an OBC community. He worked as a school teacher before he had a spiritual awakening in 1966, when he claimed to have been possessed by the goddess Adiparasakthi. He then started preaching her message of love, peace and harmony to the masses.
He transformed Melmaruvathur into a holy town and also helped in opening medical and engineering colleges along with schools. He was of the belief that his spiritualism was to empower women. He initiated a revolutionary reform of allowing women to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Shakti temples administered by him and his followers. He also encouraged women to perform rituals and ceremonies that were traditionally reserved for men.
He attracted millions of devotees from across India and abroad, who wore red garments as a mark of Shakti worship. He also received recognition from several political leaders, such as India’s first Sikh President Zail Singh, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, former Tamil Nadu chief ministers M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa, among others.
A controversy over income tax raids
Adigalar’s family and him were raided by the income tax department in 2010 in relation to the Adhiparasakthi charitable medical educational and cultural trust he ran. The department seized 13 crore of which 9 crore was seized from his house. The raids were seen as politically motivated by some of his supporters, who alleged that he was being targeted for his popularity and influence.
Adigalar denied any wrongdoing and said that he had nothing to hide. He said that he had paid all his taxes and that the money seized was meant for charity. He also said that he was not afraid of anyone and that he had faith in the goddess Adiparasakthi.
In 2019, he was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honours, for his service to humanity.