Sea of devotees at Baba's abode

Sea of devotees at Baba's abode

In the vicinity of the ashram, devotees faced hardships as police and paramilitary forces intensified the security in view of the visit of VVIPs. Devotees thronged Puttaparthi in large numbers to get a last glimpse of the man they revered.
 
Among the host of VVIPs who paid homage to the Baba on Monday was cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, accompanied by his wife,  who flew in to Puttaparthi early morning and got the last glimpse of the Baba at 10:30 am. He could not control his emotions and broke down.

 The cricketing maestro wasn’t alone in expressing his emotion. Playback singer P Susheela and Andra Pradesh Minister for Heavy Industries Geetha Reddy were also disconsolate at the sight of Baba’s mortal remains.

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev was also among the high-profile visitors. On the occasion, Ramdev exuded confidence that the Sri Sathya Sai Trust would continue to function as it did during the times of the Baba. He also hoped that the Andhra Pradesh Government won’t take over the trust.

The ashram’s main entrance was closed and devotees were let in through exit gate. The stretch between the exit gate and the far-end of Samadhi Road was out of bounds  for people and one had to walk through the wooden barricades to reach the Gopuram where the devotees’ queue extended up to the village where Sai Baba was born.

The bus stand near the ashram did not operate any vehicle as its space was taken away by vans of media houses. Instead,  Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation operated the buses near the airport on the outskirts of Puttaparthi. Unlike on Sunday, a handful of hotels did open, bringing relief to the new batches of devotees arriving at Puttaparthi, though their rates were double. Most devotees were not affected by their closure as they were given food and water for free on the way to Gopuram.

Among those who supplied free food was K Radhakrishna Naidu, a teacher who also runs a lodge. Naidu bought 40 bags of packaged water and distributed them free. Naidu says he was helping the devotees because the Baba had “cured” him of a deadly blood cancer in 2000.  Among the VVIP visitors, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi will visit Puttaparthi at 4:30 pm on Tuesday.

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