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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sathya Sai Baba enters 'samadhi'

The last rites of spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba began with full state honours at Prashanti Nilayam Wednesday (27-Apr-2011) morning amid the chanting of Vedic hymns. The ceremonies began at 9 am. in Sai Kulwant Hall, where the Baba used to give 'darshan' to devotees and deliver discourses.

[ Cricketer Sachin and his wife mourning for Sai Baba ]

Thousands of tearful devotees, including top politicians, gathered for the funeral of Sathya Sai Baba, one of India's best-known Hindu ascetics who was revered as a divine incarnation with miraculous healing powers.

The 84-year-old guru's death Sunday triggered an outpouring of grief from followers who included top Indian politicians, movie stars, athletes and industrialists.

Sai Baba was given a gun salute and state honours before his body was prepared for burial by priests chanting verses from sacred texts and anointing the guru's body with oil, herbs and flowers.

The body was then covered with an orange cloth. Orange is the colour of holiness in Hinduism.

Sai Baba has been buried in the same hall - the Kulwant Hall in the ashram - where his casket was kept for darshan. Ten priests conducted the private funeral.

[ Tearful devotees of Sai Baba ]

The burial was not open to the general public, but giant screens erected around the town were showing live footage of the event for the vast crowds of followers who have converged on Puttaparthi. Only family members, some members of the Prashanti Nilayam Trust and some important leaders gathered there were inside Kulwant Hall.

Many top politicians are in Puttaparthi today (27-Apr-2011). Among them BJP patriarch LK Advani, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.

On Tuesday (26-Apr-2011), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi visited the ashram to pay their last respects.

Star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, an ardent devotee of Baba, also visited Puttaparthi on Monday (25-Apr-2011). Accompanied by wife Anjali and friend V. Chamundeshwarnath, Sachin sat beside the body of Sathya Sai Baba at Kulwant Hall and prayed for him. He was seen wiping his tears with a handkerchief handed over by his wife. Sachin, who turned 38 Sunday (24-Apr-2011), did not celebrate his birthday due to Baba's death.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar also paid his last respects to Sai Baba on Monday. Tears could be seen in the batting legend's eyes even as his wife, Marshneil, sobbed uncontrollably.

The popularity of Sai Baba remained undimmed throughout his life - Sai Baba had ashrams in 126 countries and also ran a network of hospitals, clinics and schools that were often free.

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