Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh): At 7.38 am on April 24, 2011 renowned spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba made the transition to the other world. A year on, Puttaparthi misses its most famous son even as thousands of Baba’s ardent devotees have descended in the town to pay obeisance to their guru.
Although the entire town has been decked up to welcome devotees – 30,000 to 50,000 people are expected to come – the focus would be Prashanti Nilayam, the ashram and now the final resting place of Sathya Sai.
Sathya Sai Central Trust, which runs the massive spiritual empire, is organising a series of programmes to mark the first anniversary of Baba’s passing away on April 24 last year at the age of 85 following prolonged illness.
Titled "Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam", the three-day programme began on April 23 with a colloquium on `experiencing the divide from the form to the formless`, which was followed by a candlelight march in Puttaparthi by devotees.
Today, a book on Sai Baba would be released. Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan would be the Chief Guest at the programme.
There will also be recitation of the vedas, bhajans, mangala arathi and a cultural programme in the evenings on all three days.
The anniversary comes amid a brewing controversy over Sathya Sai’s final resting place. Even though Samadhi work has been completed, the trust has not yet finalised plans on installing a statue in Sai Kulwant Hall, where Sai Baba was buried, as a section of trustees are said to be not in favour of it.
The Trust was also under the scanner of the state government following allegations of financial impropriety and lack of transparency. The government had sought a report from the trust on its activities.
However, the Trust is carrying forward the philanthropic work started by Baba. The trust is considering new initiatives like extending the Anantapur Water project to 119 more habitations at a cost of Rs 75 crore, enlargement of hospital infrastructure and addition of a new campus for the university. It also plans enlargement of disaster relief work and building more schools in different parts of India.
Sathyanarayana Raju, who later became famous as Sathya Sai Baba, at the age of 14 (in 1940) had claimed that he is an avatar of God. He claimed that he is reincarnation of the great saint, Shirdi Sai Baba. In 1963, Sai Baba declared that he will incarnate as Prema Sai in Mandya district of Karnataka.
In the 1990s, he stopped performing miracles after rationalists accused him of fraud. Since then he had focused on social and charitable work and his devotees include several heads of states, top businessmen and celebrities.