He had addressed his followers countless times in the Kulwant Hall in Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram in the past, and from there he took leave of them on Wednesday morning. Sathya Sai Baba was laid to rest with full state honours. The Kurnool Battalion of Andhra Pradesh Special Police presented a 21-gun salute as a mark of respect to the spiritual leader. The streets of Puttaparthi wore a deserted look during the ceremony, which was telecast live by television channels. And the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (SSSCT) had put up posters at strategic locations urging devotees to pray intensely leading Sai Baba to ‘return to his physical body’.
The final rites were performed by Sai Baba’s nephew RJ Ratnakar, but contrary to the Hindu tenets that say saints and divine incarnations should be buried in Padmasana (lotus position), Sai Baba was laid to rest in the sleeping position. This decision taken by the SSSCT, with the approval of his family, however, nettled many. “The trust made a mistake by not conducting the ritual of altering the position of Sai Baba’s body in the hospital soon after his death. They should have kept this in mind as there was no way to do it after a few hours when the body stiffens,” said Swarupanandendra Saraswati of Vishaka Sharada Peeth.
BJP leaders LK Advani and Venkaiah Naidu, Andhra Pradesh governor ESL Narsimhan, Punjab governor Shivraj V Patil, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and his Karnataka counterpart BS Yeddyurappa, were among the dignitaries present at the closed-door ceremony. The ceremony was preceded by chanting of verses by religious leaders of Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Baha’I faith. Once the burial ritual was complete, the curtains were raised to chants of ‘Om Sai Ram’.