Vice President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a host of dignitaries on Sunday condoled the passing away of Sathya Sai Baba, saying he was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life.
They also lauded the work done by various institutions set up by the Baba to promote egalitarian values, education and public health.
The Baba's "words and actions have lit the lamp of love in the hearts of devotees. His message of service to humanity as service to God and as a means of destroying narrow- mindedness is of eternal relevance," Ansari said, adding, his message of love should be the guiding light in this trying hour.
Expressing "deep and profound sadness" over the death of the 86-year-old Baba in Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh, the Prime Minister said that he was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life even as they followed the religion of their choice.
"Sri Sathya Saibaba as a preacher of the highest human values was an iconic figure for over five decades. He endeared himself to the people through various institutions, with headquarters at Prashanthi Nilayam, that promoted egalitarian values, education and public health," Singh said.
The Prime Minister said the Baba believed that it was the duty of every person to ensure that all people have access to the basic requirements for sustenance of life.
He was "an inspiration to people of all faiths," Singh said, adding that his passing away was an "irreparable loss to all."
Congress President Sonia Gandhi also condoled the death of the Baba. Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari, in separate messages, expressed their profound grief and sorrow at the passing away of the Baba.
Advani said in modern times stalwarts like Swami Ramakrishna Paramhans, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayanand and Mahatma Gandhi are reckoned as ideals for the country and of the titans in the spiritual field in present day India, few have had the phenomenal following that the Baba had.
"I first came in contact with him shortly after my incarceration in the Bangalore Central Jail during the 1975-77 Emergency. After that I have been meeting him frequently. Along with my family, I had my last darshans of the saint a few months back when I visited Puttaparthi," he said.
Gadkari, who condoled the Baba's death on his behalf and that of BJP, said, "The departure of such a great cultural and social icon of global fame from the spiritual world has left a void which will remain unfulfilled for a long time to come."
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief Jayalalithaa also expressed grief over the death of Sai Baba.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has rendered service through numerous educational institutions and hospitals for half a century now and his demise was a great loss for humanity, she said in a release in Chennai
Union Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde expressed grief over the death of spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba, who passed away on Sunday.
"It is a sad day for the entire world. It is hard to describe his deeds in words," Deshmukh said in a statement. "We have lost a great pious personality.
His contribution to social causes was immeasurable," the Union Rural Development Minister said. Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said Sai Baba was a great source of strength for his devotees.
"His passing away is a tremendous loss for everyone. Organisations set up by him did a lot for providing free education, hospitals and other charitable works in India and abroad," he said.
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who has been an ardent devotee of the spiritual leader since the last 45-years, said Sathya Sai Baba's death was a "moment of grief" for him.
"He would continue to guide us and will always be a source of inspiration. His teachings will always be remembered. Baba worked selflessly for the mankind," he said.
Chavan, who had hosted Sai Baba during his tenure as chief minister at his official residence 'Varsha', said he always received advice and guidance from the latter, which helped him to carry on, whenever he faced ups and downs.
Chavan said he had last met the spiritual guru on November 23 last year. "He appeared weak. He held my hand," he added.
Condoling Sai Baba's death, Maharashtra Public Works Development Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said the spiritual leader will always remain in everyone's heart through his preachings.