86-year-old Baba, whose clout ran far and wide but had more than his own share of controversies, died at 7:40 AM following multi-organ failure at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences founded by him in this backward Anantapur district town in Andhra Pradesh, the place from where he ran his spiritual empire.
"Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is no more with us physically. He left His earthly body on Apr 24 at 7:40 AM due to cardio-respiratory failure," Director A N Safaya, Director of the Institute, said.
"Baba's body will lie in state at Sai Kulwant Hall for two days -- Monday and Tuesday. Arrangements will be made for darshan after 6:00 pm today at the Hall," he said.
Baba will be buried at the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanti Nilayam on Wednesday in line with the practice adopted for spiritual leaders in India, contrary to the Hindu custom of cremating bodies.
State Major Industries Minister J Geetha Reddy said the members of Baba's family and the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust have decided that his burial will take place on Wednesday, Apr 27 morning. The exact time will be announced later.
Born as Sathyanarayana Raju in a humble backward caste family in 1926, Baba emerged as one of the most popular godmen in India in modern times. Initially he attracted attention through acts like producing articles like sacred ash and ''lingam'' which his detractors claimed was a sleight of hand, but later he came to be known for his founding institutions of learning and philanthropy.
Baba, who considered himself a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, was hospitalised on March 28 following problems related to heart and respiration and had been lying critical following multi-organ failure.
Surviving on ventilator support, his kidneys stopped functioning and his health suffered deterioration a few days ago when his liver also stopped functioning.
Police reinforcements were rushed to the town as VIPs started descending on it but it was not clear as to the mode of last rites for the Baba.
The Sai Baba leaves a big empire estimated from a conservative figure of Rs 40,000 crore to a staggering Rs 1.5 lakh crores raising questions over who will manage the Trust.
However, Reddy, who has been camping here for the past two weeks, said there is no controversy on the issue of trust activities.