Spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba died at a hospital in Puttaparthi on Sunday morning. He was 86.
An official announcement said "Sathya Sai Baba is no more physically with us and he left his earthly body at 7.40 am this morning due to cardio-respiratory failure".
He had been admitted to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences super speciality hospital for the past one month.
An official note from the hospital states that Baba will lie in state at the Sai Kulwant hall at Prashanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi for two days (Monday and Tuesday). Arrangements for darshan will be made after 6 pm today. The note also states that no one should rush into the hospital and obtain darshan in an orderly fashion.
At Puttaparthi there is grief and shock. Devotees who had been praying hard are obviously shocked as they expected him to recover. The devotees had expected a miracle and they had always said that he would come out of this. They had stated that a couple of years back he had survived two heart attacks.
Scores of devotees have already started pouring into Puttaparthi. However the area has been cordoned off and no vehicles are being allowed into the town. Devotees would have to walk into the temple town at least eight kilometres to reach the ashram.
The body of Baba continues to remain in the hospital and it would taken to the Sai Kulwant Hall in the next couple of hours where devotees would be allowed a darshan. Presently no devotee has been allowed into the hospital and the security is very tight. Only members of the family have been allowed into the hospital so far.
A host of VVIPs are also scheduled to visit the ashram today. The governor of Andhra Pradesh and chief minister will be the first of the VVIPs to visit the ashram.
Sathya Sai Baba was born in Puttaparthi in the Ananthpur district of Andhra Pradesh on November 23 1926 as Sathyanarayana Raju. Considered to be the second incarnation of Shiridi Sai Baba, he was said to be unique since his childhood.
It was on October 29, 1940 when he was 14 years old, he declared to his family that he would be referred to Sai Baba and his mission would be to bring about spiritual regeneration of humanity. In 1950, the Prashanthi Nilayam Ashram was inaugurated and since than scores of devotees have been thronging the ashram. The ashram has seen several high profile personalities including prime ministers and presidents.
Baba during his childhood had enthralled one and all with some magical powers. His father however wanted him to become a government officer. Records claim that it was during one walk from school that his life changed completely. He fell unconscious and when he woke up he is said to have woken up as a different person.
It is said that his parents had tried a lot to make him a normal boy. However Baba stayed back at home and decided to give darshans in his living room. It was one day when his father shouted at him asking him what he thought of himself did he say that he was Sai Baba.
Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh government on Sunday declared a four-day State Mourning for Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
The body of Sathya Sai Baba will be taken in a short while from now to the Yujuramma temple in Puttaparthi. The body will be bathed over there and after which it will be taken to the Sai Kulwant hall where it will lie in state for two days.
The last rites of the Sai Baba will be performed with State Honours, a state government release said. Baba will be buried at the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanti Nilayam on Wednesday morning.
A government release said a State Mourning till Wednesday has been announced as a tribute to the departed dignitary.
"The chief minister has also announced that the last rites will be performed with State Honours. He also declared Wednesday a holiday for Anantapur district," the release said.
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy expressed grief over the demise of Sai Baba and recalled the "unparalleled services rendered by him to the humanity in myriad ways which are beyond description."
"Sri Sai Baba is a symbol of love, affection and passion. Sri Satya Sai Baba has given his great self to service of humanity in the form of various services not only to our State, our country but also to the entire world," he said in his condolence message.
"He will be remembered for ages to come by all sections of people all over the world," the chief minister added.