Sheikh Imran Bashir
Agence India Press
Puttaparthi: The famous Indian spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba, has died in hospital, triggering an outpouring of grief from devotees around the globe.
He was 85 and died of heart failure, his doctors said, after being in critical condition for more than three weeks.
Thousands of followers massed at the Institute of Higher Medical Sciences hospital where Sai Baba was being treated in his home town of Puttaparthi, in Andhra Pradesh.
Sathya Sai Baba was credited by millions of followers around the world with having supernatural powers, including an ability to conjure objects out of thin air, remember past lives and cure terminal diseases.
Earlier the roads leading the hospital was blocked, and authorities deployed security forces, as, with emotions running high, they were fearing a breakdown in law and order.
“Millions are devastated by this loss. They’ve been praying for the past many weeks that he would recover from his illness and thousands have been pouring into Andhra Pradesh, the state where he was being treated. They’ve been holding rituals outside the hospital.
Agence India Press’s Adil Akhzer in New Delhi reported that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was greatly pained over the death of Sathya Sai Baba.
Sonia in her condolence message said, “The news of the death of Sai Baba has greatly pained me. He was a spiritual person in whom millions of people had faith. In his lifetime, he inspired the people of this country and those abroad towards spiritualism and religion”
Large number of people seen with tears in eyes outside the ashram when the news of his death was announced and followers began trickling into the temple complex where the Sai Baba’s body lies in state Sunday night through Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands of devotees are expected to pay last respects. A funeral with state honors is planned Wednesday morning.
Sathya Sai Baba had a huge following including high-placed politicians, movie stars, world-class athletes and industrialists.
The devotees, including top politicians, bureaucrats and celebrities began entering Baba’s ashram around 7pm to pay their last respects.
With folded hands, the devotees, mainly VIPs, were seen passing by the body of Baba in Sai Kulwant Hall.
The body was wrapped in saffron colored cloth.
The body was kept in glass casket with a huge portrait installed towards the head. Sathya Sai Central Trust members, close relatives and disciples of Baba and top officials were sitting around the casket while devotees were allowed to have a glimpse of the spiritual leader from a distance.
Police had to repeatedly use force to control the crowd. Some women said they were waiting for four to five hours without food and water.
Sathya Sai baba born as Ratnakara Venkata Sathyanarayana Raju on November 23, 1926 in Puttaparthi. Baba was recognized since early childhood as an extra-ordinarily intelligent boy.
Sathya Sai Baba courted controversy when some of his devotees accused him of sexually abusing them.
In 2004, the BBC aired a documentary titled ‘The Secret Swami’ in which his disciples Alaya Rahm leveled sexual abuse allegations against Baba. Another old bhakt Mark Roche, also alleged abuse by him.
However, neither Sathya Sai Baba nor any organizations associated with him were charged or convicted for sexual abuse or any other crime in a court of law.
Sai Baba was never married and has no children. But with the death of Sai Baba, all eyes are on seven key people associated with his powerful Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, who may call the shots from now on.
Baba has leave a huge spiritual empire of an estimated Rs 40,000 crore ($9 billion) but not a successor, the following people may decide on the coming events at Puttaparthi. (AIP)
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