Puttaparthi: Spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba passed away at the Sathya Sai super speciality hospital at Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district at 7.40 am on Sunday. (In Pics: Sai Baba - Beloved by millions)
Doctors said he passed away due to cardio-respiratory failure. The 84-year-old was admitted to hospital on March 28 with breathing and heart problems. (Watch: Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Faith unlimited)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the passing away of Sai Baba in a statement.
"I learnt of the passing away of Sri Sathya Sai Baba with deep and profound sadness. Sri Satya Sathya Sai Baba was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life even as they followed the religion of their choice," the statement said.
Popular film actor and Praja Rajyam Party president Chiranjeevi termed it a great loss to human race and said Sai Baba had advised him when he was going through a bad time.
People are lining up at the ashram where Sai Baba's body is kept for darshan. He will be buried on Wednesday. (Read: For devotees, a Sunday of sorrow)
Since Thursday, his condition had been described as "very critical" by doctors attending to him. Most of his organs were not responding to treatment. The condition of his liver and his low blood pressure were causing concern, they had said.
As doctors announced his demise, they appealed to people to be calm and not rush to hospital. Security has been tightened in the area. All roads leading to the hospital have been blocked and shops have been ordered to close at Puttaparthi. Around 6,000 security personnel have been deployed. (Watch: Politicians pay tribute)
"In the field of health, education and drought prone areas supplying drinking water to lakhs of people, his life has been a message and a direction to how the people should live their lives for the benefit and upliftment of the poor and the greatest tribute we can pay to him is follow in his footsteps," Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy said.
Godman to some, miracle-man to others and revered as God by lakhs of his followers, Sathya Sai Baba had the rich, famous and powerful from the world of politics, business, films and sport flocking to his doorstep in Puttaparthi, the small Andhra Pradesh village that he made internationally famous.
Born on 23 November 1926 in a modest family in Puttaparthi, Satyanarayana Raju declared himself a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba at the age of 14. From then on his devotees and admirers only grew in numbers over the years. (Read: Who is Sri Sathya Sai Baba?)
Though a few controversies did cast shadows on Sai Baba's image and critics have been skeptical about claims that he would produce holy ash, golden rings and mementoes from thin air, Sathya Sai Baba also earned respect for setting up world-class educational and health institutions and also for charitable work like drinking water projects for four semi-arid districts of Andhra Pradesh and in Chennai. The institutions and properties that he built are estimated to be worth over Rs 27,000 crore.
After a hip fracture in 2006, Sathya Sai Baba was confined to a wheel chair and gave darshan from his car or a portable chair.