PUTTAPARTHI: A sea of humanity–from commoners to political leaders, cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar and film personalities–today descended on this little town in Andhra Pradesh to pay homage to spiritual Guru Satya Sai Baba, who died here yesterday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and a host of other dignitaries would visit Puttaparthi in Anantapur district tomorrow to pay their last respects to Sai Baba, who would be buried in the Sai Kulwanth Hall with full state honours between 9 and 9.30 am on Wednesday.
AP Governor E S L Narasimhan and Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy would visit Puttaparthi again tomorrow. BJP leader L K Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi are also expected tomorrow.
85-year-old Sai Baba died yesterday morning at 7:40 after fighting illness caused by multi-organ failure for over a month.
"Jai Sai Ram" rent the air and volunteers sang Sai Bhajans as cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar came with their wives Anjali and Marshneil and children to have a last look at the moral remains of the Baba, who millions of his followers across the globe considered him a "living God".
Both the cricketing heroes, ardent followers of the guru, were overwhelmed emotionally when they took their seat on the floor in front of the glass case in which the Baba’s body was kept. Gavaskar said Sai Baba will continue to live in the hearts of the followers and guide and inspire them.
Cricketers V V S Laxman and Sreesanth also paid their repects to Sai Baba.
The state government has already declared a four-day state mourning for Sai Baba who transformed this tiny hamlet into a self-contained town with excellent educational, medical and other institutions and funded development and philanthropic work in other states as well.
Union Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Praful Patel, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, veteran South Indian playback singer P Suseela and actress Anjali Devi were among the prominent persons who paid homage to the Baba’s body that was lying in state in the Sai Kulwanth Hall at Prasanthi Nilayam here since last evening.
Ramdev told reporters that the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, believed to be commanding wealth to the tune of at least Rs.40,000 crore, should be left to be handled by the present trustees and the government should not not intervene in its affairs.
Sachin, who reached Puttaparthi from Hyderabad this morning, broke down on seeing the Baba’s body. He spent more than 45 minutes at the venue praying at his spiritual guru’s body.
Suseela too wept inconsolably while a wailing Anjali Devi fell unconscious. Bollywood actor Ritesh Deshmukh also paid tributes to the Baba.
State Ministers Mopidevi Venkata Ramana, P Sabita Reddy, Sunita Laxma Reddy and D K Aruna, Karnataka Home Minister R Ashok also paid homage to the departed spiritual guru even as ministers J Geeta Reddy and N Raghuveera Reddy, who have been camping here on behalf of the state government, announced that over one lakh devotees visited the town so far for paying homage to the Baba.
The chants "Jai Sai Ram" rent the air as the devotees conducted bhajans inside the sprawling hall where Baba used to grant audience to devotees when he was alive.
Thousands of people, including quite a number of followers from abroad, waited patiently in long queues to gain entry into the hall. Police personnel had a tough time controlling the crowds who were overcome by emotion and wanted desperately to get that last glimpse of their guru.
Hundreds of Satya Sai volunteers are managing the crowds all along the place even as the Sai Trust and the Anantapur district administration made elaborate arrangements for supply of food, butter milk and drinking water.
Devotees would be allowed to have a darshan of Baba’s body till 6 pm on Tuesday.
The authorities have asked all shop-keepers in the town to keep their businesses open for the convenience of several lakh devotees who are expected to visit Puttaparthi in the next two days.
"People can have a darshan of the Baba’s body without any break till 6 pm tomorrow," Geeta Reddy and Raghuveera said.
The AP State Road Transport Corporation is operating special buses to Puttaparthi from different parts of the state to transport devotees while the South Central Railway is operating special trains.(PTI)