Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh) - The first death anniversary of godman Sathya Sai Baba was observed in this pilgrim town of Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district Tuesday with hundreds of devotees offering prayers at his 'Samadhi' at Prashanti Nilayam.
Devotees and students of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning narrated several incidents from Baba's life to indicate his love and compassion.
State governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, who was the chief guest, equated Baba with the sun, which shines all the time. He said Baba had no beginning and end and that he was eternal. "The sun grants happiness to everyone without any discrimination and Bhagawan is the same, granting happiness to all creation," the governor said.
Referring to Baba's physical absence, the governor said: "Baba is someone whom one should experience."
Commenting on the expanse of the service activities being done under Baba's banner, the governor promised the audience that the current government would do all that it could do for the people of the state.
President of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations V. Srinivasan reminded the audience that Baba's divine mission is continuing. "This is not an occasion to grieve, but to rededicate to his mission which is ever expansive and each one of us has a role to play," he said.
Reiterating that all Sai institutions founded by Baba are continuing to function he announced that the fourth campus of the institute of higher learning would come up at Muddenahalli.
Srinivasan also announced that Sri Sathya Sai Seva Trust would expand its coverage of the water project providing drinking water to another 118 villages in Anantapur district at an additional cost of Rs.80 crore.
Radio Sai Global Harmony and Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to disseminate Baba's teachings.
Narasimhan released a book "Baba, Miracle of Pure Love" authored by G. Venkataraman. Excerpts from Sai Baba's discourses were read out by prominent devotees.
"Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam", the three-day programme, began Monday with a colloquium on "experiencing the divide - from the form to the formless."
There will be recitations of the Vedas, bhajans, mangala arathi and cultural programmes in the evenings on all three days.
Sathya Sai Baba passed away April 24 last year at the age of 85 following a prolonged illness.
Sathyanarayana Raju, who later became famous as Sathya Sai Baba, at the age of 14 (in 1940) had claimed that he was an "avatar" of God.
He claimed to be the reincarnation of the great saint, Sai Baba of Shirdi. In 1963, Sathya Sai Baba declared that he would incarnate as Prema Sai in the Mandya district of Karnataka.
In the 1990s, he stopped performing the miracles after rationalists accused him of fraud. Since then, he had been focusing on social and charitable work and his devotees include several heads of states, top businessmen and celebrities.
Soon after his demise, the trust founded by him in 1972 for charitable work, came under allegations of misappropriation of funds by a section of devotees.
The trust, however, denied the allegations and even came out with an annual financial report, the first in its history.
The government, which at one time was reportedly contemplating to take over the trust, now appears satisfied with its activities.
In June last year, the police had seized Rs.35 lakh amid allegations by a section of devotees that huge amounts of cash and valuables were exported out of the pilgrim town soon after Baba passed away. However, the trust denied the allegations and clarified that the money belonged to some devotees, who had donated for Samadhi work.
The same month, the trust opened Yajur Mandir, the personal chamber of Sai Baba. The trust declared that it found Rs.11.56 crore, 98 kg gold and gold jewellery and 307 kg of silver articles inside. The district authorities later also found jewels worth Rs.77 lakh from four rooms.