Monday, April 25, 2011

Sai Baba to be buried on Wednesday, 5 Lakh expected for funeral

PUTTAPARTHI: One of India's most revered spiritual leaders with a following of kings and commoners alike, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, passed away on Sunday morning at 7:40 am of cardio-respiratory failure at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences here. He was 85. 

Sai Baba's death was announced at 10.15 am by hospital director Dr A N Safaya, who said, "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." He was admitted to the hospital 28 days ago with cardiac problems and his condition deteriorated with many of his organs failing. 

The Baba's body will lie in state at Sai Kulwant Hallin Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram until Tuesday for his devotees and followers to have a last darshan. He will then be buried close to his Yajur Mandir residence on Wednesday in line with the practice adopted for Hindu spiritual leaders. Sanyasis are said to symbolically submit their bodies to fire at the time of renunciation by donning saffron or flame-coloured robes. 

"The exact time of burial will be announced later," said Andhra's industries minister Geeta Reddy. Five lakh people are expected for the funeral that will include national and international dignitaries.

Before announcing Sai Baba's demise, the police ordered a complete shutdown of Puttaparthi. All shops were closed and roads barricaded. Those arriving from Bangalore (barring mediapersons and government officials) had to stop 8km out of town. 

"His body was wrapped in orange clothes and covered up to the eyes. Nobody uttered a word. Everybody wept," said Sai Kumar, 33, a local businessman and a devotee. "I spoke to him on March 18 for two minutes and took his photograph," he said, tears rolling down his cheeks. 

At 3 pm, the body was shifted to Sri Kulwant Hall in Prasanthi Nilayam (the highest abode of peace), where Sathya Sai Baba gave discourses and met devotees daily for over four decades.

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