Baba’s darshan extended till midnight

The darshan for the devotees of Sathya Sai Baba has been extended till midnight today. Going by the rush of devotees and also the number of VVIPs thronging the place, the administration has decided to extend the time of darshan till midnight. The burial of the body will however be carried out between 9.00 and 9.30 AM on Wednesday as per Hindu rites. The last rites of Sathya Sai Baba will be a private affair and no devotees will be allowed to witness it.

Earlier there was confusion whether Baba will be buried at the Yajur Nilayam. However after consultation with experts including those who are well versed with vastu, it was decided to burry him at the Sai Kulwant hall.

The devotees too prefer this place since they feel that this is where they always got to see their swami. Baba will be buried at the exact same place where he used to sit and give darshan to his devotees. A Samadhi will be erected at the very same place following the burial. Experts have been consulted regarding this place and they too have approved the exact same place. It may be a while before the devotees get to see the Samadhi of Sai Baba which have on it engraved the following words- manava seve madava seva, (service to man is service to god).

The digging process will commence anytime soon at the Sai Kulwant Hall. Holy water and soil from the river beds across the country is being brought down to Puttaparthi. This would be used when the body of Baba is buried. Currently the area where Baba will be buried has been covered completely with a white cloth. It would be opened up at a later date for devotees once the formalities surrounding the burial is complete.

The Sai Kulwant hall will remain shut all through the day and there will be no activity on Wednesday. However proceedings such as Bhajan sessions will resume on Thursday onwards, officials in Puttaparthi say.
The outpouring of grief continued on Tuesday too. Devotees continue to wait in long lines to get a final glimpse of their swami and despite the scorching sun beating down at 40 degrees centigrade, the devotees don’t seem to be deterred by this fact. Scores of special buses and trains have been arranged to bring in the devotees and till date the official count indicates that over a lakh devotees have descended upon Puttaparthi to pay their homage to their departed Bhagwan. The crowds are expected to pour in over the next couple of days as well and there is a huge population will stay back to see the Samadhi of Baba which will be erected in the next couple of days according to the administration.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi who were expected to land at noon will now visit the ashram at around 5 PM as their aircraft is scheduled to land at 4.45 PM. Security arrangements have been elaborate due to this visit, but the police assure that there will be no trouble caused to the devotees who will continue to get darshan with no problem.


Did Baba’s prophecy go wrong?

Faith has no bounds in Puttaparthi. One did expect despair and disappointment when Sathya Sai Baba passed away on Sunday. While for the devotees it was a huge loss without a doubt, there was another aspect which one thought would leave the devotees disappointed.

The great prophecy as per the discourse of Baba that he would live on till the age of 96 after which he would be re born as Prema Sai Baba.

We spoke to a cross section of devotees over this aspect and not one of them was even willing to admit that this was a prophecy that has gone wrong.

There is anger when this question is asked and a sort of a glare greets us as though to ask how dare you question this. There is a difference between leaving a body and leaving the earth, says a devotee. Baba never said that he would leave for good. There has never been a mention that his soul would leave us. We must have mis interpreted it. We now firmly believe that only his body has left while his soul will remain with us.

Another person interprets the Baba discourse in a similar manner. He has just left his body. We know for a fact that his soul is very much present over here. His soul will remain in Puttaparthi for the next ten years and then he will be reborn as Prema Sai Baba in Karnataka. There is no doubt about that.

There are others who are finding it hard to come to terms with this fact that Baba left them ten years prior to what he himself had promised. We did not understand what he was trying to say. He must have said that he will leave his body at the age of 85 and his soul will leave ten years later. Whatever Swami had said did have logic, it is just that we humans failed to understand and hence I don’t think anyone should try and question that.

There is also another version to this story. They say that Baba had made it clear that he would re-incarnate as Prema Sai Baba exactly a year after his passing away. Baba wanted to take all our pain and leave early. It must not be forgotten that during the same discourse Baba had also said that he will live till 96 but he had also added that if he wished he would leave his body earlier. Baba has done exactly that, his devotees add. This would also go on to mean that he would reincarnate early and would be born as Prema Sai the next year ie 2012. This would be the last of his incarnations.

Baba had said that Prema Sai would be the triple incarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba an embodiment of Shiva and Shakti. Shiva as shiradi sai baba, Parvathi embodied in Sri Sathya Sai and Shakti principle that will be embodied in Prema Sai.

What will be discussed in the Central Trust meeting tom?

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All eyes will be on the crucial meeting of the Shri Sathya Sai Baba Central Trust which is most likely to be held tomorrow following the burial of Sathya Sai Baba who passed away at a hospital due to cardio respiratory failure on Sunday.

The trust has its task cut out since it will have to manage an empire which is estimated to be worth around Rs 40000 crore. The meeting is expected to be held later tomorrow. The timings have not been specified as the members of the trust will be busy with the burial and other arrangements tomorrow morning.

Indication is that Chakravarthy, senior member of the trust who is an IAS officer will have a big role to play in the functioning of the trust. He will have to share power with Satyajith, Baba’s personal caregiver.

There is news that Baba had named Satyajith to head the trust in his will. However a majority of the people have rubbished this by saying Baba had never written any will. However many confirm that during his 85th birthday celebrations, Baba had mentioned that he would want Satyajith to be made part of the trust and also that he should have a bigger role to play in it. The role that Baba’s nephew Ratnakar would play would be very limited since Baba was never in favour of installing a member of the family into the trust. He always wanted it to be run by intellectuals.

At the meeting which is expected to be held tomorrow, some members of the Andhra Pradesh state government are likely to be present. The government had stated that it would not have anything to do with the functioning of the trust, but had also added that it would want a peaceful transition.

The trust has a massive responsibility on hand. A large number of the devotees already seem to be losing hope and say that the trust will not be able to run the affairs in Puttaparthi like how Baba had done. It will never be the same, but we do hope that they are able to carry on the good work that Baba did.

During the meeting of the trust, there would be two very crucial issues that would come up for discussion. In case there is a will then there would be no confusion what so ever as the writings in the will be binding on the future of the administration of the ashram and its assets. However in the absence of a will, the issues such as power sharing and signing of the cheques would come up and these will be debated at great lengths. However as per the deed signed in 1972, only the founder chairman ie Baba had the right to sign the cheques. In case this would cause a problem then the members of the trust would have to obtain a court order for the same.

However the fear among the devotees is that this power tussle within the trust should not turn ugly. Although there are eminent personalities in the trust they would still have to tread very carefully while deciding on the future.

At the meeting new guidelines too will have to be laid down which would determine the future functioning. Personalities like P N Bhagavathi, former Chief Justice of India, S V Giri, a chartered accoutant would have a very big role to play in the transfer of affairs.

The economy of Puttparthi after Baba

Photo courtsey:
With the passing away of Sathya Sai Baba, there is a huge concern regarding the future of the temple town called Puttaparthi in Ananthpur district of Andhra Pradesh. Puttaparthi was always bustling with activity every time Baba was there and today with this passing away the biggest worry for many vendors and businessmen is whether the economy will continue to remain the same or would it diminish. Although devotees swear that they will continue to visit Puttaparthi even with the passing away of Baba, it appears unlikely that this would be the case. Puttaparthi witnesses lakhs of devotees all through the year most of them being foreigners. It is the foreigners from across the globe who form a big part of the economy of Puttaparthi as they are the ones who stay on the longest at the Ashram.

Now with the passing away of Sai Baba it becomes clear that the number of foreigners who visit the place will come down drastically. There is proof of this since these foreigners always followed Baba wherever he went and now that he is not there, it is unlikely they will stay on for long at the ashram as they used to do before. Baba spent most of his time at Puttaparthi and during the summers he spent time at his ashram at Kodaikanal and also Whitefield in Bangalore. When Baba left Puttaparthi for the above mentioned ashrams, Puttaparthi almost cleared up with all the foreign tourists following him wherever he went. They say that they come to listen to the discourses by Baba. It will not be the same here without him as we will not be able to see him in person anymore. His soul will always be with us, but it was a different feeling when we got to see him in person says a devotee from Australia who is part of the funeral at Puttaparthi.

This is exactly what has been worrying the establishments in Puttaparthi which has a population of just 10000. They feel with Baba gone, the number of foreign tourists will diminish and it would have a direct impact on their business. A majority of the Sai Baba empire has been built on donations. The super speciality hospital, the educational services are all free of cost and hence there is no income that comes from that.

The entire temple town revolves round Sai Baba. The hotels, the shops selling his pictures, pendants, CDs, books and a host of other religious material, flower shops, restraints and internet cafes form a large part of the business. In addition to this over the years some persons have opened up hotels catering to various cuisines. This was done keeping the foreign devotees in mind and today these establishments fear that with the passing away of Baba, their businesses may suffer.

The internet café owners too are a worried lot. Harish who runs a café says that the Indian devotees hardly use the cafes as they come here for a short visit. It is the foreigners who spend most of their time at the cafes and this was our biggest source of income. However now we feel that they may come less here and also spend very less time in Puttaparthi.

The faces at the book shops too are very grim. These persons too relied heavily on the foreign tourists and at an average each of these stores earned anything between Rs 5000 to Rs 6000 per day. However over the past couple of days there has been despair at Puttaparthi with Baba in the hospital and business has been really very bad. There were times when we could not even make Rs 500 per day. We are sure that it will pick up in the coming days, but we are not too optimistic that it would like before with swami gone.

Everytime Baba left Puttaparthi during the summer, almost all the establishments in Puttaparthi remained shut. There are hardly 1000 people in the town at that point of time and the hotels too offered tariffs at less than half the price. This only goes on to show the importance of Baba being around for these businessmen. Now with him gone, the situation is un-thinkable for these vendors and businessmen.

Another cause of concern is the real estate around Puttaparthi. Many realtors had started investing around Puttaparthi since the town was really developing. The town is very well connected, by road, rail and even air and hence investing in real estate was probably a good idea. In the outskirts of Puttaparthi several villas and apartments had come up. Now this is only a thing of the recent past and such developments were non existent until five to six years back. These apartments and villas were built keeping the foreigners in mind since most of them had a wish to settle down in Puttaparthi. The queries had started to pour in regarding the real estate, but since the news of Baba’s bad health broke out the inquiries have come to a stand still. There is a big cloud over whether these projects would even kick off.

The days to come will be a big challenge for the residents of Puttaparthi town. There is a huge transition that they will all need to make and they all feel that their livelihoods would only depend on the divine blessings of Sathya Sai Baba who passed away yesterday at 7.40 AM.

The never ending lines at Puttaparthi

The outpouring of grief at Puttaparthi continued today with over 1 lakh devotees visiting the temple town to say their final good bye to Sathya Sai Baba who lies in state at the Sai Kulwant Hall.
Looking at the manner in which the devotees have been pouring in since the past two days, it appears that the news of Baba passing away has not sunk in as yet. Special prayers are being conducted all through the day.
One would have to commend the manner in which the trustees, police personnel and also the volunteers have managed this incident. Not a single incident of unruly behaviour and none trying to cut through the line. The security around the ashram continues to be tight with 6000 police personnel on guard.
Devotees from across the country have descended on Puttaparthi to pay their homages. A lot of foreigners are also present at Puttaparthi. Many of them were already there, but over the next fews days many more are scheduled to fly down to Puttaparthi.
Within the Sai Kulwant Hall there are at least a 100 volunteers who are dressed in white shirts and trousers sporting a blue scarf which says Om Sai Ram. They hold the key to the proceedings within the hall as they have been able to manage the huge crowds. They are seen constantly telling the devotees to stick to their line and till now there has not been a single scene of unruly behaviour.
Above the casket of Baba is a life sized portrait in which he is sporting his customary orange robe. Devotees go towards the casket with folded hands and most of them end up breaking down when they see their Swami lie in state. Devotees who have been waiting in line for hours together are determined not to leave. They say that they are ready for however long it may take, but they would like to get a darshan of their swami. The outpouring has been from all walks of life. The rich and the poor alike continue to stand in line to get a final darshan of Baba. Interestingly no one seems to be complaining about the long wait and what has impressed all is the systematic manner in which the funeral has been conducted.
The body will be on display all through tomorrow as well. The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress supermo, Sonia Gandhi are expected to reach the ashram by around 12 noon following which they will pay their last respects. A host of other celebrities too will be present all through tomorrow at the ashram.
On Wednesday morning Baba will be accorded a state funeral. The devotees call it attaining Samadhi. He will be buried in the same Sai Kulwant Hall on the stage from where he gave his sermons to his lakhs of devotees. This is expected to be a private affair and only members of the trust, some volunteers and dignitaries from the Andhra Pradesh state administration are expected to be present.

For devotees he was God and not a God Man

With the passing away of Sathya Sai Baba, there was a question mark over whether the number of devotees pouring into the Puttaparthi ashram would reduce. Although many devotees claim that they would continue to throng the ashram, it appears that there could be a bit of difference in the coming days.

Sathya Sai Baba with PM Manmohan Singh during the convocation ceremony. Photo courtesy:

Sathya Sai Baba was without a doubt the most powerful of all the spiritual gurus that the nation has seen. Every possible Prime Minister and President of the country have visited him and sought his blessings. The Prime Minister was always part of the convocation ceremony at Puttaparthi and it had become a sort of a routine.

Now what is it that made Sathya Sai Baba much more popular over the rest of the spiritual gurus across the nation? Shanthanu a regular at Puttaparthi points out. “ I guess the primary difference between him and the rest was that people saw him as God and not as a God man. There is a very big difference in this. Although I would like to comment on the faith of the people, I always came down to Puttaparthi for solace as I find this place to be very peaceful.

Most of the other devotees too agree with Shanthanu and say he was God on earth and that is why he was viewed so differently compared to the rest. The common man will remember him for his service to mankind like the hospitals, drinking water projects and also his educational institutions. However what has drawn them to Puttaparthi in the first place is the miracles which they claim to have seen. Although there have been critics who have termed it as a plain magic show when he pulled out ash, gold chains from thin air or a shiva linga from his mouth, Baba continued to get a huge round of applause whenever he did that. For his devotees it was not magic, but a miracle by God.

Sathya Sai Baba according to the more neutral people was a combination of both God and a great human being. His motto was service to mankind and this was one aspect that kept most of his critics quiet. His devotees believe that structures come up at Puttaparthi in no time and this takes place only because of a miracle. They say only a God can do things like this and such things are not possible for a God Man. The devotees add that it was their privilage to see Baba since it only once in a life time that one gets to see God in flesh and blood. We know Baba has left his body, but we will get to see him very soon as Prema Sai Baba, they say in hope.

What are the critics talking about asks, Papamma a resident of Puttaparthi. Today we have world class facilities over here- the best hospital, very good educational system, an airport etc. Swami has not taken a penny from any of us to do all this. We saw all this happening over night and what else do u call it but a miracle.

Puttaparthi has been no stranger for the high and mighty. Celebrities, politicians, industrialists and scores of other high profile personalities were regulars at the ashram. Many in Puttaparthi feel that it is only the real devotee who will finally remain or even visit the ashram. The rush of politicians except staunch devotees will come down drastically now that Baba is not there. A lot of politicians believed that being seen with Baba was a sure shot way to get the ballot box ticking. Baba had that influence over people and any one seen close to him was considered to his man.

SSSCT- Govt take over or court order?

Ever since news of Sathya Sai Baba being critical in hospital came out devotees have always wondered who will manage the trust. Although various reports have been published regarding this issue, the fact remains that Baba who was chairman of the trust had not nominated a successor for the same.

As per the rules surrounding the Central Trust, only the founder trustee will have the power to remove/install of even name a successor to the trust. However Baba during his life time has not made any mention of a successor and he only spoke about his reincarnation in the form of Prema Sai Baba. However Satyajith his personal caregiver could become part of the trust since Baba himself had last year stated that he should be made part of the trust.

The Central Trust Deed which was registered in September 1972 at the office of the Assistant Commissioner for Endowments in Ananthpur district also does not find any mention of a successor. As per this record Baba is the founder trustee and only he had the power to make any new appointments or even name a successor.

Another worry on hand is that Baba as the Chairman was the only person with the authority to sign the cheques. Now these are aspects which put the central trust in a huge pickle in the event of Baba passing away.

Although the government of Andhra Pradesh has made it clear that it will not take over the trust, legal experts say that it would be better if the government has a bit of a control over it.

Going by the deed it appears to be very difficult for the trust to function in the absence of a successor and also the most important aspect is the power to sign on cheques.

Legal experts say that in such an event there are only two ways to get out of the situation. Either the government of AP should take over the trust completely as they have the vested in them or the trust should approach the court.

The trust deed signed in the year 1972 can be over ridden by either

of the two. However now with the government indicating that it will have no role to play in the functioning of the Rs 40000 crore empire of Sai Baba, the only option is to go before the court and obtain an order. Another option however is to ensure that no money comes into the central trust and hence a subsidiary trust would have to be created so that members of that trust have the power to sign.

Sources say that although the government has indicated that it will have no role to play, it would continue to keep a watch on the developments in the coming days. The government cannot just keep away since there are signs of cracks already in the trust. When Baba was admitted in the hospital and his condition was declared as critical, letters were written to the police alleging some mis doings by some members of the trust. In addition to this pamphlets too were distributed at Puttaparthi with the same allegations. Ratnakar, Baba’s nephew who is the only family member in the trust is said to be at logger heads with the rest of the members of the trust demanding a bigger role to play. However the other members of the trust say that this cannot be an emotional affair and the trust should be managed by people with expertise.

This is not a good sign, the source says and adds that as long as Baba was there, there was no room for such disputes. However taking over control of this empire is a status issue and the man who does so will enjoy immense clout and power. Hence there is bound to be a tussle for power and signs of this were already showing when Baba went into the hospital in a critical condition.

Puttaparthi day 2 without Baba

Baba in state at the Sai Kulwant Hall
Devotees in large numbers continued to pour in all through the night to get a last glimpse of Sathya Sai Baba who passed away in Puttaparthi due to cardio respiratory failure yesterday at 7.40 AM. The number of devotees from all walks of life is expected to touch 5 lakh by tomorrow and the arrangements to ensure that this passes off peacefully .
The samadhi arrangements for Sai Baba have already begun and he will buried at the Sai Kulwant hall on the same dais from where he used to give darshan to his devotees. The dais from where he gave darshan is already being dug up and his body will be buried on Wednesday. A Samadhi will be erected over here.
The darshan of Baba who lies in state will continue through the day today and also tomorrow. However it remains unclear whether the devotees will be allowed into the Sai Kulwant hall on Wednesday morning.
The host of VVIPs too are expected to come into Puttaparthi today. Sachin Tendulkar who played a game at Hyderabad yesterday and who is a great devotee of Baba too is expected to land at Puttaparthi today. Apart from this a host of other personalities such as Ashok Rao Chauvan, B S Yeddyurappa and many ministers in the Andhra Pradesh government too are expected at Puttaparthi today.
The devotees who were extremely angry when Baba was at hospital claiming that the members of the trust had literally held him hostage over there have now made their peace with the passing of Sai Baba. They now say that it was the wish of Baba to stay on at hospital for this long so that his devotees would not be shocked at the news.
Puttaparthi, the small town in the Ananthpur district of Andhra Pradesh woke up to a very different morning today. Normally there is peace in this town with devotees shop keepers and others going about their business. They always greeted each other by saying Sai Ram and there was this sense of serenity amidst the people. However this morning was a bit different as this time they have woken up to realize that their Bhagwan has left his body. Although they believe that his soul is very much present among them, things surely appear a bit different as of today. The mourning and the sorrow continues to fill the air.
Some devotees say that a lot would depend on the manner in which the trust manages the affairs in future. Baba was the connection between Puttaparthi and the rest of the world. The trust would have to ensure that there are no contreversies and will have to run the affairs as Baba did when he was its chairman. However things are not likely to be the same. Devotees say that Baba has a great deal of confidence. They quote two incidents in Puttaparthi which signify his confidence. A Hanuman statue which is erected in Puttaparthi took a long time to complete. The problem was that the statue was unable to bear the weight of the mountain in Hauman’s hand. It was when Baba stepped in that the problem was solved. He just told the men working on the statue to let the cloth around Hanuman’s neck fall on the thigh so that it would act as a support. The other incident was when the members of the trust told Baba that they needed to increase the price of the meals in Puttaparthi from Rs 6 to Rs 10 as they were incurring a loss. Baba snapped saying, “ don’t irritate me. If this is your attitude then I shall serve the meal free of cost.” The price did not change and the trust did not incur any loss in future.
Most of the devotees that we spoke with say that they will continue visiting Puttaparthi and there will be no change in their schedules. Yes it will not be the same since we will not get to see Baba in his living form. However we can always feel his presence over here since his soul is very much will all of us.

Baba reaches Sai Kulwant

The body of Sathya Sai Baba has reached the Sai Kulwant hall in Prashanthi Nilayam, the place where Baba lived all his life. The body which was taken to the Yajur temple and bathed was later taken to the Sai Kulwant hall where it will lie in state for the next two days before being buried on Wednesday.
Devotees were inconsolable. Padmavathi, a flower vendor at Puttaparthi has not stopped crying since she heard the news of the death. It will never be the same here she says. He meant so much to us. We sold flowers in his name and earned our livelihood. It is very sad and we really hoped for a miracle. Today his body has left but his soul will always remain here with all of us.
The scenes within the Sai Kulwant hall were that of grief and despair. People coming out of the hall say that it was shocking to see him lie like that. I cannot believe it says Rajendra who came out of the hall. The place is bustling with people and each and everyone is crying and mourning the loss of Bhagwan, he also said.
Geeta Reddy, minister in the Andhra Pradesh government who has been in the hospital where Baba was lodged too was inconsolable. She announced later that the body would be in state for the next two days. We need to respect the sentiments of the devotees and each one should have a right of darshan.
Meanwhile crowds continued to throng into Puttaparthi. The police appear to have done an excellent job with the security arrangements. A police constable on duty said that there are a lot of restrictions, but the devotees have been cooperating. No one has been arguing or protesting which is making our job much easier. The devotees and volunteers too have pitched in to ensure that the entire process passes off peacefully.

The unfortunate Baba bedroom murders
The Andhra Pradesh government which has been in talks with the trustees at Puttaparthi want to ensure that the take over of the trust should be free from any controversy. The basic fact is that this trust cannot afford anymore controversy and today it is a different scenario as Sathya Sai Baba is no more.
The trust has faced a couple of allegations in the past relating to misappropriation, but the biggest ever controversy to have haunted Prashanthi Nilayam was on June 6th 1993 when four members were shot dead by the police after they had stabbed four devotees killing two and serious injuring the other two.
At Prashanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi devotees term this incident as unfortunate but state that a lot of media talk about how this was stage managed is all rubbish.
At around 9.20 PM on June 6th 1993, four men armed with knives gained entry into the mandir. However they were stopped by four devotees who fought them. In the tussle, two devotees Sai Kumar and N Radhakrishna were stabbed to death while Anil and Vishnu Bhatt were injured seriously. An alarm was sounded and all the fllod lights in the ashram were put on. Baba who was at the Mandir managed to escape into the other room. The four men had then stationed themselves at the Mandir but the police entered into the scene and shot all the four dead.
There have been various theories to this incident. One of the theories was that the real target was Radhakrishna who had threatened to expose the misdeeds of the trust. However during the police investigation none of these allegations came out in the open. The police repeatedly maintained that they had to fire in self defence. Further they had also claimed that there was an imminent danger to the life of Baba as the assailants had planned a hostage crisis and hence they had to shoot them down.
In addition to this there were demands and also a writ petition which sought a proper investigation into the matter, but the allegations were that the all powerful trust was able to scuttle this.
Devotees at Puttaparthi would like to forget this incident and that horrific night. They say that Baba knew everything and had even warned his devotees against this, but they had not paid heed to his advise. We feel that the media only tried and sensationalized the incident and reported everything but the truth.