x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba dies aged 86

Devotees flock to ashram in Andhra Pradesh to pay respects to famed spiritual guru worshipped by millions.

DUBAI // Sathya Sai Baba, a famed spiritual guru worshipped by millions across the world, has died in a southern Indian hospital. He was 86.

Devotees flocked to Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state, where his ashram was located.

"Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is no more with us physically," said AN Safaya, the director of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. "He left his earthly body on April 24 at 7.40am due to cardiorespiratory failure."

His body would be placed in a hall in the ashram until the funeral on Wednesday, he said.

In the UAE, thousands of his followers prayed and chanted Vedic mantras - sacred hymns from ancient Hindu scriptures - in their homes or in day-long meetings organised by social welfare groups

The guru had followers from all walks of life, from government ministers and Bollywood movie stars to housewives and students.

Sai volunteer groups in the UAE have organised medical camps, blood donation drives here over the past decade, as well as raising funds for schools for the poor in India.

"I can't believe this news, I can't believe he has left his mortal remains behind," said a follower, who asked to be identified as AV for personal reasons. "He is an incarnation who has been guiding people to do good things. His main teaching that service to mankind is service to god will be what we live by."

The government of Andhra Pradesh declared four days of state mourning as a mark of respect.

rtalwar@thenational.ae