Deep in the southwest of the state, amid the arid rocky hills bordering Karnataka, a thriving community has grown up around the once insignificant village of PUTTAPARTHY, birthplace of spiritual leader Sai Baba. Centring on Prasanthi Nilayam (Abode of Peace), the ashram where Sai Baba resides from July to March, the town has schools, a university, hospital and sports centre which offer up-to-date and free services to all. The ashram itself is a huge complex, with canteens, shops, a museum and library, and a vast assembly hall where Sai Baba gives darshan twice daily. Queues start more than an hour beforehand, and a lottery decides who gets to sit near the front. The museum contains detailed displays on the world’s major faiths.
Shri Satya Sai Baba
Shri Satya Sai Baba
Born on November 23, 1926, in Puttaparthy, Satyanarayana Raju is reported to have shown prodigious talents from an early age. His apparently supernatural abilities initially caused some concern to his family, who took him to Vedic doctors and eventually to be exorcised. Having been pronounced to be possessed by the divine rather than the diabolical, at the age of 14 he calmly announced he was the new incarnation of Sai Baba, a saint from Shirdi in Maharashtra who died eight years before Satya was born.
Gradually his fame spread, and a large following developed. In 1950 the ashram was inaugurated and a decade later Sai Baba was attracting international attention; today he has millions of devotees worldwide. Just 5ft tall, with a startling Hendrix-style Afro, his smiling, saffron-clad figure is seen on posters, photos and murals all over south India. Though his miraculous powers reportedly include the ability to materialize vibhuti, sacred ash, with curative properties, Sai Baba claims this to be an unimportant activity, emphasizing instead his message of universal love. In recent years a number of ex-followers have made serious accusations about coercion and even sexual abuse on the part of the guru himself, which have been vehemently denied. Whatever your feelings about the divinity of Sai Baba, the atmosphere around the ashram is undeniably peaceful. You can do some research on the guru at wwww.saibabalinks.org.