A man of miracles and divine sagacity

Undying spirit

A man of miracles and divine sagacity

 A file photo of Sai Baba in his early years.India had, and has, several godmen but none could match his name and fame.
In fact, Sathya Sai Baba’s influence had no barriers as his millions of followers spanned the globe.

Top-ranking politicians including prime ministers, Union ministers, governors, chief ministers, filmstars, sportspersons, industrialists and virtually the 'who's who' of the country rank among the high-profile devotees of the Baba.

Born as Sathyanarayana Raju, on November 23, 1926, in the dusty village of Puttaparthi in the arid Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh,  Sai Baba is described by his devotees as an avatar, godman, spiritual guru and a miracle maker.

His acts of apparent materialising of “vibuthi” (holy ash) and small objects such as rings, “Shivalingas,” necklaces and watches has been a source of both fame and controversy. Sceptics consider these as simple conjuring tricks, while devotees count them as evidence of divinity.

Satya Sai Baba has claimed to be the reincarnation of spiritual guru Sai Baba of Shirdi whose teachings were an eclectic blend of Hindu and Muslim philosophies.
Baba had declared in 1969 that he would live till 2019 and also fixed his own “muhurtam” for his death.  Since 2005, Baba has used a wheelchair and his failing health has forced him to make fewer public appearances. In 2006, he suffered a fractured hip when a student standing next to him during a prayer on an iron stool slipped, and both boy and stool fell on Baba. In later years, he gave “darshan” from a car or his portable chair.

Philanthropist

Sai Baba and his organisations support a variety of free educational institutions, hospitals, and other charitable works in India and abroad. Most prominent among them was his Sai Water Works for Anantapur district—bringing water in pipelines from a local river and distributing them via reservoirs and protected tanks to people in the district at a cost of Rs 350 crore. Sai Baba had undertaken  similar water projects in  four semi arid districts of Andhra Pradesh—Anantapur, Kurnool, Kadapa and Chittoor—besides Chennai city in Tamil Nadu .

The number of active Sathya Sai Baba adherents was estimated in 2009  to be around 12 million. The Sathya Sai Organisation reports that there are an estimated 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba centres in 178 countries. In India, Sai Baba draws followers from predominantly upper middle class and urban sections of society.

In 1944, a mandir (temple) for Sai Baba's devotees was built near his village.  It is now referred to as the old mandir. Now there are approximately 25,000 temples of Sai Baba across the country.

Much has been written about the murders in Sai Baba's apartments on June 6, 1993. Six deaths occurred in his  apartments that night. Two of Baba's attendants, his personal valet Radhakrishna Menon and  young male servitor Sai Kumar Mahajan and then chief of Puttaparthi Police were killed, allegedly by some of five intruders into the temple in a knife struggle. Most of them were his  jealous disciples.

They were let off after Sai Baba withdrew his complaint. In an official letter made public in December 2001, the then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and several others, including chief justices, had made a signed statement hailing Baba as a person revered globally as an embodiment of love and selfless service to humanity. The statement also described the attack on him as wild and reckless. It also criticised allegations made by certain vested interests against Sai Baba.

The huge assets of Baba in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi and at Puttaparthi have been the bone of contention among his large number of disciples and ashram managers.

According to an assessment made by some radical groups,  Baba owns Rs 27, 000 crore in assets.

A group of Japanese disciples in early ‘90s  tried to take over the Prashanti Nilayam at Puttaparthi, but their attempts were stalled by Sai Baba with the help of the then Telugu Desam Party government and his disciples in the state police.

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