July 14, 2024

Sathya Sai Baba was a Hindu guru revered by millions across the world. He was born as “Satyanarayana Raju” on 23 November 1926 in Puttaparthi. When he turned 14, he claimed to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba and left home to serve his devotees.

The Puttaparthi-based guru comes from neither wealthy nor privileged background, but he was once stung by a scorpion, which prompted the teenager to start reciting religious chants in Sanskrit, an ancient language he never learned in this life.

Accepting followers of all faiths, the young religious leader quickly became famous for his purported mystical powers, including the ability to make objects appear out of thin air, such as a gold watch, and to heal. Critics said his miracles were mere magic, but followers believed they were the glory of God.

Sai Baba had predicted his own death in 2019, saying he would be reborn as the second reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi and then as the saint’s third and final reincarnation in a small village in Karnataka in 2023. Devotees claim that as he has passed away earlier than expected, he could return as early as next year.

Many prominent figures expressed grief at his passing. When Baba passed away on April 24, 2011, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described his death as an “irreparable loss”.

And his Sathya Sai organisation has more than 1,200 centres thought to be in over 100 countries around the world. These organisations fund health and education projects, including hospitals and clinics that claim to be able to cure diseases that mainstream medicine cannot.

Although Sai Baba is recognized by his followers as a miracle worker, he has also been the subject of criminal allegations. He has also been the subject of a series of accusations of sexual abuse of young male devotees. Participants in the 2004 BBC documentary “The Secret Swami” accused Sai Baba of massaging their testicles with oil and forcing them to perform oral sex.

Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2022 11:07 AM IST

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