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Help Baba's last rites as per Hindu custom
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While Prashanthi Nilayam looked like an ocean of humanity in which streams of devotees flowed from all directions on Tuesday, hectic preparations were on for the `maha samadhi' of Sri Sathya Sai Baba on Wednesday at the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanthi Nilayam premises.

Number 9 was Sathya Sai Baba's favourite and lucky number. When the clock strikes 9 in the morning, the final rituals will start and conclude by 10.30am.

Sai Kulwant Hall is the place where Baba sat, delivered discourses and blessed people. According to the ashramites, many years ago, while interacting with the students, he had shown the place and expressed his wish that he should be buried in the Sai Kulwant Hall.

Baba would be laid to rest in the pit (7 ft deep and 12 ft length), which was dug up 10 ft behind from where his body was placed in the glass casket in the hall since Sunday evening.

"The body would be lowered in the pit and filled with `Kuruskshetra' matti (soil), salt, silver, gold and navaratnas," sources said. The body would be kept in the sleeping position in the samadhi.

However, Prasanthi Nilayam would be out of bounds for devotees during the maha samadhi. Only key family members and Sai Central Trust members would take part in the last rites.

The construction of a memorial and fixing of a golden statue of Baba would be planned in a few days time.

Though Baba preached universal brotherhood and embraced all religions, his last rites will be performed as per the Hindu tradition. Eighteen priests led by Kandukoori Kondavadhani from Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh will perform the process in Aagama Shastra (vedic mantras while performing the service), while chanting Vedas. Priests from Kashi, nine peethas across the country, will also take part in the ritual.

The three-hour-long ritual will begin at 7.30 am with a Ganapati Sthotra. R J Ratnakar, Baba's nephew and trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba Central Trust, is likely to perform the last rites.

Saptha Nadi (seven rivers), navaratna (nine gems), navadaana (giving of nine gifts), sugandha dravya (perfumeries) will be part of the process. Water and soil from holy rivers -- Ganga, Jamuna, Cauvery, Godavari, Narmada and Sindhu will be used in the ritual. The procedure of navadaana like Godaana (gifting of a cow), bhudaana (donation of land), vastra daana (gifting clothes) will also be followed.

"He was a Siddha Purusha, Godman. We are fortunate enough to participate in the rituals of Baba's merging with the universe,'' said Emala Purushottama Avadhani, one of the priests participating in the Wednesday's ritual.

The overwhelming response forced the trustees to extend the deadline for darshan till 12 midnight on Tuesday (earlier, they had announced that darshan for public would be stopped at 6 pm). Also, after the burial, people will be allowed to have darshan of the samadhi mandir (the burial place of Siddha Purusha is called as Samadhi Mandir) for two days, on April 28 and 29.

L K Advani, Kiran Kumar Reddy, E S L Narasimhan, Chandrababu Naidu, Ashok Singhal, D K Adikesavulu Naidu, S M Krishna and some high-profile devotees will be present at the final rites. Giant LCD screens and speakers were erected at vantage points in Puttaparthi and nearby villages for the general public and devotees to witness the rituals which would be telecast live.

"The trustees are overwhelmed by the devotion of lakhs of devotees from all over the world who have come to pay their obeisance to Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba,'' said Ratnakar, trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba Central Trust, who is also the nephew of Baba, in a press release.

LUCKY NUMBER 9

Baba's favourite number is 9. The number should be either nine or should become nine when added up. His car number was 4509.

From - TOI
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