Sri Sathya Sai Baba, whose spiritual clout ran far and wide, passed away on Sunday morning in Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district due to cardio-respiratory failure.
Sai Baba, who was 86, breathed his last at 7.40 AM at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, its Director A N Safaya said in a bulletin on Sunday.
“Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is no more with us physically. He left his earthly body on April 24, 2011 at 7:40 AM due to cardio-respiratory failure,” it said.
The body will lie in state at Sai Kulwant Hall for two days — Monday and Tuesday, it said, adding that arrangements will be made for darshan after 6:00 pm Sunday at the Hall.“We appeal to all not to rush to the hospital, but to remain calm and have Darshan in an orderly manner,” it said.
Baba will be buried at the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanti Nilayam on Wednesday morning in line with the practice adopted for spiritual leaders in India, contrary to the Hindu custom of cremating bodies. The exact time will be announced later.
A pall of gloom descended on this town, 450 km from Hyderabad, as the news of Sai Baba’s death spread.
His family members, four ministers and government officials rushed to the hospital following reports that the Sai Baba’s condition had deteriorated further.
There has been a complete shutdown in Puttaparthi since morning following reports about deterioration in the condition of Sai Baba.
Sai Baba was hospitalised on 28th March following problems related to heart and respiration.
Anxious devotees of the Sai Baba, whose followers range from top politicians to industrialists, gathered at ‘Prashanti Nilayam’, the spiritual resort of the leader, 6 kms from the hospital.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy has rushed for Puttaparthi from Hyderabad following the Baba’s death.
Police, which has been deployed in large numbers in Puttaparthi , has put up barricades for crowd control.
Born as Sathyanarayana Raju in a humble backward caste family in 1926, Baba emerged as one of the most popular godmen in India in modern times initially through acts like producing articles like sacred ash and ‘lingam’ through sleight of hand and also founding institutions of learning and philanthropy.
Baba, who considered himself a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, was hospitalised on 28th March following problems related to heart and respiration and had been lying critical following multi-organ failure.
Surviving on ventilator support, his kidneys stopped functioning and his health suffered deterioration a few days ago when his liver also stopped functioning.
Police reinforcements were rushed to the town as VIPs started descending on it but it was not clear as to the mode of last rites for the Baba.
A decision whether to bury the Godman in line with the practices adopted for Hindu spiritual leaders in India and to build a memorial on it will be taken by Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, which manages an estimated Rs 40,000 crore empire that includes various institutions and property mostly in southern India and some outside the country.
An array of personalities, including Vice President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BJP leaders L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari, condoled the Baba’s death, saying he was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy and Governor E S L Narasimhan rushed in Puttaparthi from Hyderabad on learning the news of the death of the Baba.