Sathya Sai Baba laid to rest, thousands bid farewell (Lead)April 27th, 2011 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS
Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh), April 27 (IANS) Thousands bid farewell to Sathya Sai Baba Wednesday as the spiritual leader, who died three days ago, was laid to rest at his Prashanti Nilayam ashram with full state honours.
The coffin of the 85-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 many more devotees in India and abroad watched it live over television.
While nearly half of the ceremony amid the chanting of vedic hymns was open to those present in the hall, the burial was performed by only a handful of close relatives and disciples in the presence of a group of priests.
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 3 by 6 by 4.5 ft deep pit at a private ceremony behind curtains.
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 three 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.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, 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 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.