- Sathya Sai Baba: Life in pics
From ordinary believers to the President of India, Puttaparthi Sathya Sai Baba's clout spread far and wide. India had, and has, several Godmen but none could match his name and fame. He passed away on April 24, 2011. We take a look at his life.
Born on November 23, 1926, as Sathyanarayana Raju in an ordinary family in Andhra Pradesh's Puttaparthi village, he was to later become Sathya Sai Baba, the reincarnation of the Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Now, Puttaparthi has been metamorphosed into a self-contained city and finds itself on the international map, thanks to the large number of the Baba's foreign devotees who visit Prasanthi Nilayam day in and day out. It boasts of an exclusive airport where chartered flights, carrying Baba's devotees from different parts of the globe, land.
As a child, Sathyanarayana Raju was described as "unusually intelligent" and charitable. His talents were in drama, music, dance and writing, and he was an avid composer of poems and plays. He was also known as a singer, having released several CDs of bhajans.
It was on October 20, 1940, at the age of 14 that Sathyanarayana Raju declared himself as the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Sathya Sai Baba invariably referred to Shirdi Sai Baba as "my previous body" whenever he spoke about him.
Top-ranking politicians including prime ministers, Union ministers, Governors, Chief Ministers, filmstars, sportspersons, industrialists and virtually the 'who's who' of the country rank among the high-profile devotees of the Baba.
Sathya Sai Baba became famous for his magic tricks by producing objects from thin air. But he was reviled by critics and rationalists who campaigned against him with magic shows
On June 6, 1993, an attempt was allegedly made on his life by his close aides. Six inmates of Prasanthi Nilayam were killed right inside the Baba's bedroom. All of them were part of the "inner circle" of Baba. His personal assistant Radha Krishna Menon was among those killed in the incident. Facts of the case still remain a mystery.
In 1944, a small temple was built for Sathya Sai Baba's devotees at Puttaparthi and in 1950 a sprawling ashram popularly called the 'Prasanthi Nilayam' was built, making it his permanent abode
His divine preaching apart, Sathya Sai Baba pioneered many social service activities beginning with a tiny general hospital at Puttaparthi which has now transformed into the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, a 220-bedded super-speciality hospital.
Another super-speciality 333-bedded SSIHMS was established at Whitefield on the outskirts of Bangalore, where the Baba's summer abode Brindavan also stands.
The Sathya Sai Central Trust manages all the service activities and also runs the Sathya Sai University (formerly Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning) at Puttaparthi. Besides, the trust also runs many schools and dispensaries in different states while it has also completed large water supply projects in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
Sathya Sai Baba established three primary mandirs (spiritual centres) in India - Dharmakshetra in Mumbai, Shivam in Hyderabad and Sundaram in Chennai.
In 1957, Sathya Sai Baba went on a temple tour of north India and made his only overseas trip to Uganda in June, 1968. In 1963, Sathya Sai Baba suffered a stroke and four severe heart attacks but survived.
Since 2005, Baba used a wheelchair and his failing health forced him to make fewer public appearances. In 2006, he suffered a fractured hip when a student standing on an iron stool slipped and both the boy and the stool fell on Baba. He gave darshan from a car or his porte chair.
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