Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh) April 24 (IANS): Sathya Sai Baba, one of India's most famous spiritual leaders with thousands of followers in the country and abroad, died here today after a prolonged illness. He was 85.
Sai Baba, whom his devotees worshipped as god, was suffering from multi-organ dysfunction. He breathed his last at the Sathya Sai Super-speciality Hospital, where he was admitted on March 28 with cardiac problems.
"Sri Sathya Sai Baba is no more with us. He left his physical body at 7.40 am ... due to cardio-respiratory failure," said a statement from the hospital.
Sai Baba, whose real name was Sathyanarayana Raju, was born on Nov 23, 1926 at Puttaparthi. In 1940, he claimed he is an "avatar" of god. He became famous with his miracles but stopped performing the same after rationalists accused him of fraud. Since then Sai Baba had been focusing on social and charitable work.
The Sai Baba Trust runs a state-of-the-art hospital, university and several other institutions to serve the poor in over 160 countries. His devotees are spread across the world and they include the heads of States and governments, politicians, film and sports personalities, judges and army officials.
President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had attended Baba's 85th birthday celebrations last year.
Sathya Sai Baba's body to be kept for two days: The body of spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba will be kept at Prashanti Nilayam - his ashram in this pilgrim town - for two days to enable devotees to have a "last darshan".
According to the statement released by Sathya Sai Central Trust, the body will be kept at Sai Kulwant Hall at 6 pm on Sunday. The body will lie there on Monday and Tuesday.
The trust is silent about the last rites but it is likely to be performed on Wednesday at Prashanti Nilayam with full state honours. It was at Prashanti Nilayam that Baba has been giving darshan and blessing his devotees for over four decades.
The trust has appealed to devotees not to rush to the hospital and have a last glimpse of Baba in an orderly manner.