PUTTAPARTHI, April 24 � Godman Sathya Sai Baba, a cult like figure who had a phenomenal following, including the high and mighty, across the globe died here today battling illness caused by a multi-organ failure for nearly a month, reports PTI.
The 85-year-old Baba, whose clout ran far and wide with millions of followers but had more than his own share of controversies, died at 7:40 am following multi-organ failure at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences founded by him in this backward Anantapur district town in Andhra Pradesh, the place from where he ran his spiritual empire.
�Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is no more with us physically. He left his earthly body on April 24 at 7:40 am due to cardio-respiratory failure,� AN Safaya, Director of the Institute, said.
�Baba�s body will lie in state at the Sai Kulwant Hall for two days � Monday and Tuesday, he added.
Baba will be buried at the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanti Nilayam on Wednesday in line with the practice adopted for spiritual leaders in India, contrary to the Hindu custom of cremating bodies.
State Major Industries Minister J Geetha Reddy said the members of Baba�s family and the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust have decided that his burial will take place on Wednesday morning. The exact time will be announced later.
Considering his huge following and the social and developmental work he had undertaken in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere, the State Government announced a four-day State mourning. The Government also decided to give a State funeral in honour of Baba.
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, who along with Governor ESL Narasimhan paid homage to Baba, announced that Anantapur district will have a local holiday on Wednesday when Baba will be buried.
Born as Sathyanarayana Raju in a humble backward caste family on November 23, 1926, Baba emerged as one of the most popular godmen in India in modern times. Initially, he attracted attention through acts like producing articles like sacred ash and lingam which his detractors claimed was a sleight of hand, but later he came to be known for his founding institutions of learning and philanthropy.
Baba, who considered himself a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, was hospitalised on March 28 following problems related to heart and respiration and had been lying critical following multi-organ failure.
Surviving on ventilator support, his kidneys stopped functioning and his health suffered deterioration a few days ago when his liver also stopped functioning.
The Sai Baba leaves a big empire estimated from a conservative figure of Rs 40,000 crore to a staggering Rs 1.5 lakh crore raising questions over who will manage the trust.
However, Reddy, who has been camping here for the past two weeks, said there is no controversy on the issue of trust activities.
Reddy said: �I have not seen any infighting. It is just media creation. The trust activities will go on as usual. The Sai Baba has put in place everything. He has taken care of everything. He knew when he will leave his body.�
�Baba has put in place everything, the whole missionaries in-charge. All his activities will run as it is. We have no suspicion about any differences over running the trust,� she said.
Police reinforcements were rushed to the town as VIPs started descending on it. An array of personalities, including Vice President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, BJP leaders LK Advani and Nitin Gadkari and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi condoled Baba�s death, saying he was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life.
Advani may pay homage to Baba in Puttaparthi.
Star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who calls the Baba his spiritual guru, did not celebrate his 38th birthday and chose to remain in his hotel room in Hyderabad.