Avatar Sathya Sai Baba (23 November 1926 – 24 April 2011) was an Indian guru. At the age of fourteen, he claimed that he was the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, and left his home to serve his devotees.
Almost everything known about Sathya Sai Baba's early life stems from the hagiography that grew around him, narratives that hold special meaning to his devotees and are considered by them to be evidence of his divine nature. According to these sources, Sathyanarayana Raju was born on 23 November 1926 to Meesaraganda Easwaramma and Peddavenkama Raju Ratnakaram, to a Telugu-speaking Bhatraju family, a community of religious musicians and balladeers, in the village of Puttaparthi in Madras Presidency of British India (present-day Andhra Pradesh, India). His birth was alleged by his mother Easwaramma to be of a miraculous conception.
As a child, Sathya was described as "unusually intelligent" and charitable, though not necessarily academically inclined, as his interests were of a more spiritual nature. He was uncommonly talented in devotional music, dance and drama. From a young age, he has been alleged to have been capable of materializing objects such as food and sweets out of thin air.
When Sathya turned 13, history took a sharp turn. Divinity of Sathya as an Avatar was in full readiness to bloom, but the mystery of the Divine is impossible to fathom. The effulgence of the Supreme Being comes only after the darkest period. The body of the tender child Sathya had to undergo a terrible persecution before the rays of Divinity could spread in the universe in full effulgence from it. On the 8th March 1940, shocking news spread in the town of Uravakonda that Sathya was stung by a big black scorpion, as Sathya shrieked and held His right toe at about 7.00 p.m. on that day. Nobody saw the scorpion, but exactly after 24 hours, Sathya became unconscious and remained so throughout the next night.
On regaining consciousness, Sathya behaved in a most extraordinary way as if possessed by a spirit. Alarmed at the condition of Sathya, His elder brother Seshama Raju called the parents who brought Sathya to Puttaparthi. After consulting doctors and other village healers, the parents took the tender child Sathya to the house of a terrible exorcist at Brahmanapalli, who put the child to such horrible treatment that every onlooker was moved with fear and shock. The dismayed parents could not bear all this and brought Sathya back to Puttaparthi.
Exactly two and a half months after the scorpion incident, Sathya made His first declaration of Avatarhood on 23rd May 1940. The household of Pedda Venkama Raju was crowded with people as Sathya was materializing flowers and sugar candy and distributing them to the amazed villagers. Pedda Venkama Raju was informed about what was happening in his house. Enraged and puzzled by the behavior of his own child, he threatened him to disclose his true identity. And pat came the reply from Sathya "I am Sai Baba" in the form of the first declaration of Avatarhood. Later when He was asked to give proof of what He said, He threw a handful of jasmine flowers on the ground which formed into Telugu letters "Sai Baba".
Sathya provided another proof of His Divinity to His unbelieving elder brother when in Dasara holidays they all went to Virupaksha temple in Hampi near Hospet. When Seshama Raju and party entered the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, they found to their utter amazement, Sathya standing in place of the Lingam, though they had left Him outside. Baffled by this extraordinary happening, Seshama Raju rushed out and found Sathya leaning against a wall. This in fact was the prelude to the momentous declaration the Avatar wanted to make about His Divinity, as He seemed to have resolved to declare to mankind that God had come on the earth in human form to usher in the promised Golden Age.
From Uravakonda, Baba was brought in a grand procession to Puttaparthi, where He first took residence in the spacious house of Karnam Subbamma who served Him all her life with devotion and dedication. This old lady served Baba with tender care and looked after all the devotees who came to meet Him. Bhagavan stayed at her house for several years after declaring His Divine Mission in Uravakonda before he shifted to the Old Mandir.
After the inauguration of the Old Mandir, the daily flow of devotees to Puttaparthi increased substantially. During those days, devotees would get ready at 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon to witness Bhagavan's Leelas (divine pranks) on the sands of Chitravathi. By 4.00 p.m. all would reach there. Baba would ask the devotees to choose the place of their liking and all would sit in a circle. Baba would then start playing with the sand while the eager eyes of the devotees watched His divine play.
From the mounds of sand, He would bring out idols of gods and goddesses, sweets of various kinds and numerous other objects. In fact, anything He willed would come out of the sand. From 1946 to 1949, this was almost a daily event. On certain special days, Baba would take out a Kalasha (vessel) full of nectar from these sands and distribute this ethereal liquid to devotees. At other times nectar would flow from His fingers and the fortunate devotees would receive it. In later years also some devotees were privileged to see such Leelas of Bhagavan.
Bhagavan announced His Mission in the following words way back on 25th May 1947, when he wrote to His elder brother Seshama Raju in reply to his letter:
"I have a Task: To foster all mankind and ensure for all of them lives full of Bliss (Andanda). I have a Vow: To lead all who stray away from the straight path again into goodness and save them. I am attached to a Work that I love: To remove the suffering of the poor and grant them what they lack. I have My definition of Devotion I expect: Those devoted to Me have to treat joy and grief, gain and loss, with equal fortitude. This means that I will never give up those who attach themselves to Me. When I am thus engaged in My beneficial task, how can My name be tarnished as you apprehend? You can yourself see the full glory in the coming years. Devotees must have patience and forbearance." Bhagavan's Mission spread rapidly after the construction of Prashanthi Nilayam. Publication of "Sanathana Sarathi" was started on Sivarathri day in February 1958 in which all the 14 books of Vahini series written by Bhagavan Baba were published in serial form. Besides, Bhagavan's Discourses now run into 30 volumes of "Sathya Sai Speaks." Sri Sathya Sai Organisation was started in 1965, and now has branches in nearly 180 countries all over the world. Some remarkable changes have also taken place in and around Prashanthi Nilayam, including those on the growth of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (commenced in 1981), the functioning of Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital (1991) and the Drinking Water Projects (1995). A few articles highlighting the significance of these and various other aspects of Bhagavan's Mission have been given in this Special Issue of "Sanathana Sarathi," which is offered at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan to mark the 74th year of the Advent of the Avatar. A brief account of Bhagavan's early life and Mission has also been included for the benefit of the ever-growing community of devotees.
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