New Delhi, Apr 24: Vice President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a host of dignitaries today condoled the passing away of Sathya Sai Baba, saying he was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life.
They also lauded the work done by various institutions set up by the Baba to promote egalitarian values, education and public health.
The Baba''s "words and actions have lit the lamp of love in the hearts of devotees. His message of service to humanity as service to God and as a means of destroying narrow- mindedness is of eternal relevance," Ansari said, adding, his message of love should be the guiding light in this trying hour.
Expressing "deep and profound sadness" over the death of the 86-year-old Baba in Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh, the Prime Minister said that he was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life even as they followed the religion of their choice.
"Sri Sathya Saibaba as a preacher of the highest human values was an iconic figure for over five decades. He endeared himself to the people through various institutions, with headquarters at Prashanthi Nilayam, that promoted egalitarian values, education and public health," Singh said.
The Prime Minister said the Baba believed that it was the duty of every person to ensure that all people have access to the basic requirements for sustenance of life.
He was "an inspiration to people of all faiths," Singh said, adding that his passing away was an "irreparable loss to all."
Congress President Sonia Gandhi also condoled the death of the Baba.
BJP leader L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari, in separate messages, expressed their profound grief and sorrow at the passing away of the Baba.
Advani said in modern times stalwarts like Swami Ramakrishna Paramhans, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayanand and Mahatma Gandhi are reckoned as ideals for the country and of the titans in the spiritual field in present day India, few have had the phenomenal following that the Baba had.
"I first came in contact with him shortly after my incarceration in the Bangalore Central Jail during the 1975-77 Emergency. After that I have been meeting him frequently.
Along with my family, I had my last darshans of the saint a few months back when I visited Puttaparthi," he said.
Gadkari, who condoled the Baba''s on his behalf and that of BJP, said, "The departure of such a great cultural and social icon of global fame from the spiritual world has left a void which will remain unfulfilled for a long time to come."
Union Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and former Sri Lankan Captain Arjuna Ranatunga also condoled the Baba''s death.
"It is a sad day for the entire world. It is hard to describe his deeds in words. We have lost a great pious personality. His contribution to social causes was immeasurable," Deshmukh, Union Rural Development Minister, said in a statement.
Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the Baba''s passing away "is a tremendous loss for everyone.
Organisations set up by him did a lot for providing free education, hospitals and other charitable works in India and abroad."
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Chavan, who has been an ardent devotee of the spiritual leader for the last 45 years, said the Baba would "continue to guide us and will always be a source of inspiration. His teachings will always be remembered. Baba worked selflessly for the mankind."
Chavan, who had hosted Sai Baba during his tenure as Chief Minister at his official residence ''Varsha'', said he always received advice and guidance from the latter, which helped him to carry on, whenever he faced ups and downs.
Terming it as a sad day for the entire world, Ranatunga said, "The amount of things he has done for the people in this world...you can''t put it in words."
Noting that he started following the Baba 10 years back and got close to him, the former Sri Lanka Captain said, "Things he has taught me and some of the advice he has given me were ...(which I) can''t put it in words. It is a very sad day for me and my family."
Maharashtha Public Works Development Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said the spiritual leader will always remain in everyone''s heart through his preachings.