Thousands attend Sai Baba’s birthday celebrations

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

PUTTAPARTHI - Thousands of devotees attended the 85th birthday celebrations of spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba in this pilgrim town of Anantapur district Tuesday.

Devotees from India and abroad thronged Sai Hill View stadium to seek the spiritual leader’s blessings as a helicopter flying overhead showered petals on them.

Baba’s birthday was celebrated on a grand scale with the authorities and the Sathya Sai Seva Trust making elaborate arrangements for the devotees.

An estimated 300,000 people attended the celebrations, which concluded with a huge congregation at Prashanti Nilayam, the abode of Baba.

The celebrations came to an end with Prema Pravaham, a special concert by students glorifying the Baba’s mission and message for humanity.

Earlier, the spiritual head reached the stadium in a special car. The frail-looking Baba sat on a golden chariot, carried by his disciples. He blessed the gathering by raising his hand.

Baba then reached the stage with the help of a specially arranged lift. The devotees and students chanted vedas amidst devotional music.

Police made massive security arrangements in the town especially at Prashanti Nilayam and the stadium. The local administration also made arrangements to provide amenities to the devotees.

The trust arranged free meals for thousands of devotees at Prashanti Nilayam. Annadanam or feeding of the poor has been going on since Nov 16, when the spiritual leader’s birthday celebrations started.

The transport authorities from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and other neighbouring states operated more than 800 special buses for the devotees. The railways also operated special trains from Hyderabad and coastal Andhra Pradesh to this town.

President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, governors of several states, ministers from central government and states, industrialist Ratan Tata and other prominent personalities attended various programmes organized as part of the week-long birthday celebrations.

Sathyanarayana Raju or Sathya Sai Baba was born Nov 23, 1926 at Puttaparthi. In 1940, he claimed that he is a reincarnation of God.

He became famous with his miracles but stopped performing the same in 1990s after rationalists accused him of fraud. Since then Sai Baba has been focusing only on social and charitable work.

The trust runs a state-of-the-art hospital, university and several other institutions to serve the poor.

His devotees are spread across the world and they include heads of states and governments, politicians, film and sports personalities, judges and army officials.

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