PUTTAPARTHI: Godman Sathya Sai Baba, whose message of universal love and brotherhood attracted millions of followers across the globe, was on Wednesday interred at the very spot from where he used to meet and address his disciples for years.
The mortal remains of the 85-year-old spiritual leader, whose clout spread far and wide among both the commoners and the high mighty, were buried after the last rites were performed by his nephew RJ Ratnakar in accordance with vedic customs following full police honours.
Watched by a galaxy of political personalities including Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka chief ministers N Kiran Kumar Reddy and BS Yeddyurappa, governors ESL Narasimhan and Shivraj V Patil, BJP leaders LK Advani, M Venkiah Naidu, Bandaru Dattatreya, former AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan and hundreds of his followers, Sai Baba’s body was buried amidst chanting of "Sai" mantras.
Once the last rites were performed by vedic pandits, red curtains were drawn around 9:45 am and the process started for laying the body in a pit created at the spot in Sai Kulwant where the spiritual leader used to make his preachings for his followers for a number of years. It lasted about 25 minutes.
The spot where he was buried is now expected to become an eternal memorial for Sai Baba, who at the age of 14 announced himself as a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. He made his mark initially with miracles but later founded institutions of excellence in education and medical facilities besides undertaking development work and philanthropy.
Sai Baba died on Sunday morning after fighting illness for nearly a month caused by multi-organ failure.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, political leaders from various parties, chief ministers and personalities from various fields including cricket and films had visited Puttaparthi in the last two days to pay their homage.
An estimated five lakh people from various parts of the country and abroad had filed past the body to have a final glimpse of their spiritual guru.
The curtains were removed after 40 minutes for the people to have a glimpse of the ‘samadhi’ where the body was laid to rest in line with the practice adopted for Hindu spirital leaders. Normally, Hindus cremate their bodies.
Governor Narasimhan, chief minister Reddy, Advani, Chandra Babu Naidu and other leaders went to the samadhi had a word with Ratnakar and sprinkled sacred ash at the spot.
Earlier, a little before 9 am, the glass casket in which Sai Baba’s body was lying in state from Sunday night was removed and the body was wrapped in national tri colour for a brief while.
Men of the Andhra Pradesh Armed Police sounded the last post and fired 21 shots in the air as a mark of respect.
Then the tri colour was removed and verses from Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Sikh, Judaism and Buddhist scriptures were read out by leaders from these sects. Later, they joined in sprinkling the sacred ash at the samadhi spot as ‘mangal aarti’ was performed.
With Sai Baba’s body draped in his favourite saffron robe, the last rites were performed by Ratnakar, who wept inconsolably, while priests recited vedic chants.
Ratnakar is a member of the powerful Sathya Sai Central Trust, estimated to be possession of wealth to the tune of Rs.40,000 crore, and is believed to be a contender in the race to head the trust.
Water from sacred rivers from all over the country were sprinkled on Sai Baba’s body along with cow urine. Cow, honey, ghee and silk were given as gifts to priests.
After the ceremony was over, people gathered at the hall rushed to have a look at the samadhi, which was open for public viewing after 11.45 am.(PTI)