25 Apr 2011

Death of famed guru Sathya Sai Baba

3:37 pm on 25 April 2011

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and many other prominent figures, are paying tribute to one of the country's most revered gurus, Sathya Sai Baba, who died on Sunday.

He was admitted to hospital in his hometown of Puttaparthi last month, with respiratory problems and kidney failure. He died following a cardiac arrest.

Sai Baba, 84, enjoyed support from all areas of Indian society - including Bollywood filmstars and senior politicians.

His followers include former Indian Prime Minster Atal Behari Vajpayee and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.

Many devotees considered him a living god and credited him with mystical powers including the ability to conjure objects out of the air.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described his death as an ''irreparable loss''.

''(Sai Baba) was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life even as they followed the religion of their choice,'' said Mr Singh.

His organisation financed health and education projects, among them hospitals and clinics that claim to cure illnesses beyond the capabilities of mainstream medicine.

But the BBC reports his career was dogged by controversy. He had been accused of faking some of the so-called miracles attributed to him.

And some former followers accused him and other members of his ashram of sexual abuse.

He denied the accusations and was never charged with any offence.

He rose to prominence as a youngster after announcing to his family that he was the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, a 19th Century Indian holy man who had been equally venerated by Hindus and Muslims.

By 1950 he had built his first ashram.