Indian spiritual guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba, respected by millions of followers, died on Sunday in a hospital in southern India. He was 86. Sai Baba, who was admitted to hospital in his hometown of Puttaparti a month ago, died of multiple organ failure, media said.
His followers, estimated to number six million, included top Indian politicians, business tycoons and Bollywood stars. Sai Baba, with distinctive frizzy hair and always clad in his trademark saffron robes, ran schools and hospitals through trusts in numerous countries.He survived a stroke and a series of heart attacks in 1963. In 2005, he began using a wheelchair, and a year later he fractured his hip when a student fell from a stool onto him.
Sai Baba was also mired in controversies, with several news reports about allegations of sexual abuse and fake miracles.
A 2004 BBC television program called the “Secret Swami” featured interviews with at least two American male devotees who claimed the guru had fondled their genitals and exposed himself to them while claiming it was part of a healing ritual.
Though he denied the allegations and was never charged with any crime, the reports led some to break with the guru.
The ashram also said Sai Baba had survived an attempt against his life, with six devotees, including the guru’s personal assistant, killed in his bedroom in June 1993 after allegedly trying to attack him. Facts of the case remain a mystery.
Sai Baba was never married and has no children.READMORE