Sai Baba's birth anniversary celebrations begin



Hyderabad: The 86th birth anniversary celebrations of the late spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba began Friday at Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district.

Devotees from various parts of the state and country began pouring into the town for the celebrations, the first since his demise in April.

Sathya Sai Central Trust, which manages the vast spiritual empire, has made elaborate arrangements for the event at Prashanti Nilayam, which houses the samadhi of Sai Baba.

The week-long celebrations began Friday with Rathothsavam, attended by a large number of pilgrims. Local legislator P Raghunath Reddy as well as trust member and Sai Baba's nephew Ratnakar were also present.

Trust officials said the foreign devotees were expected to start arriving Saturday.

As a prelude to the celebrations, a 24-hour continuous devotional singing was held Nov 13.

According to the trust, Akhand Bhajan was started in 1944 by Sai Baba and is now conducted every year around the same time at Sai centres all over India and in 126 countries.

Students from Sri Sathya Sai Educational Institutions presented a 45-minute musical drama entitled 'Sri Rama Nama Amrutham' Thursday evening.

There will be women's day celebrations Saturday to mark the birth anniversary celebrations of Sai Baba's mother.

P Balram, director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, will be the chief guest at the convocation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning to be held Tuesday.

Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah would attend the birth anniversary celebrations Nov 23. Cultural programmes will be held every day.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the last birthday celebrations of the spiritual leader. Sai Baba died April 25 this year at the age of 85.

IANS