Puttaparthi: Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the spiritual leader, who died three days ago, was laid to rest at his Prashanti Nilayam ashram with full state honours. Thousands of devotees bid farewell to him as he had a phenominal following across the globe.
The coffin of the 84-year-old was lowered in a grave during the nearly two-hour private ceremony at Sai Kulwant Hall, where the godman used to give “darshan” to his devotees and deliver discourses. The burial was in accordance with the practice for Hindu spiritual gurus.
A select gathering, including family members of the Baba, members and officials of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, politicians and top bureaucrats was present in the hall.
Thousands of devotees watched the last rites on giant screens outside while millions of devotees in India and abroad watched it live over television.
The Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanti Nilayam, the Ashram from which Sai Baba ran a spiritual empire reverberated with hyma from the Vedas and Chants of “Om Sai Ram” as the last rites were performed.
Baba’s nephew R.J. Ratnakar performed rituals like the sprinkling of holy water on the mortal remains under the guidance of a priest. Later, the godman was laid to rest in a deep pit at a private ceremony behind curtains.
Half of the ceremony was open to those present in the hall among chanting of mantras and the burial was performed by only a handful of close relatives and disciples in the presence of a group of priests.
The Battalion of Andhra Pradesh Special Police presented a 21-gun salute as mark of respect to the spiritual leader in whose respect the Chief Minister had declared a State funeral & four days of mourning.
Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish priests read out their respective scriptures before the rituals began around 9 a.m. A group of disciples of Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama also attended the last rites, which were performed with full state honours.
A guard of honour was given by policemen who came in slow march and draped the national flag on the transparent casket, before the body was moved for the burial.
The buglers sounded the Last Post and policemen fired shots in a gun salute outside the hall. A general salute was also offered by the men in uniform.
After an hour-long burial ceremony, the curtains were moved to enable VIPs to sprinkle sacred ash on the grave and pay their respects.
Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and several ministers from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were also present and sprinkled ash and paid their last respects.
The devotees were allowed into the hall in the afternoon after the “samadhi” was ready.
Thousands of devotes had last darshan of Baba till Tuesday midnight. The spiritual guru died Sunday, 28 days after he was admitted to hospital with multi-organ dysfunction. The body was kept in Prashanti Nilayam to enable people to pay their last respects.