M A I N   N E W S

Coffin controversy follows Sathya Sai’s funeral 
Shubhadeep Choudhury/TNS

Puttaparthi, April 27
The burial of Sathya Sai Baba’s body in Kulwanth Hall at Prashanthi Nilayam today appeared to be just a passing phase for the Sai Baba phenomenon and not an end to the story of the godman’s influence. In a clear sign that Sathya Sai Baba would continue to live in the minds of his followers, thousands of devotees made a beeline to have 
a “darshan” of his “samadhi”. This followed “darshans” of his mortal remains by about four lakh devotees since his death on Sunday.

While the burial was going on, devotees remained glued to giant screens put up on the roadside for live screening of the event. As soon as the burial was over, the devotees queued up to go inside Kulwant Hall and see the place where the godman had been laid to rest.

A couple of thousands of people were allowed inside the hall during the burial ceremony that lasted for about three hours. BJP leaders LK Advani and Venkaiah Naidu, Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narsimhan and Chief Minister Kiran Reddy, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, his cabinet colleagues and Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil were among those present in Kulwant Hall during the event.

Baba’s nephew RK Ratnakar carried out the rituals of the last rites of his departed uncle while one dozen priests led by a chief priest chanted the incantations. The ceremony began at 8 in the morning with representatives of Sikhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity reading out their respective scriptures, the chanting of the mantras by the Hindu priests started around nine.

From 9.45 to 10.30, a curtain was drawn on the area where Baba was buried. Krishna Sharma, a priest who took part in the rituals, said the grave was decorated during the time when the curtain was drawn upon the area. The casket containing Baba’s body was earlier carried to the podium where the grave was dug. The canopy of the casket was then removed to enable Sai Baba’s nephew Ratnakar to carry out rituals.

AP Government had earlier announced that Baba would be given a state funeral. Consequently, four bare feet cops put a National Flag on the casket containing the body. Sai Baba was also given 21-gun salute by the police and their band participated in the ceremony.

A cow with a calf, gold, silver and land was donated by Ratnakar to Brahmins who participated in the burial ceremony. While Hindus normally cremate their dead, monks are sometimes buried. Sai Baba, being a monk, was buried for that reason.



Casket ordered 20 days before Baba’s death!
Suresh Dharur/TNS

Hyderabad, April 27
Hours after the burial of Sathya Sai Baba, a major controversy broke out over the coffin procured by the ashram authorities. It has emerged that the casket was ordered on April 4, almost three weeks before the demise of Baba.

The revelation, made before the media by a Bengaluru-based supplier of caskets, has come as a major embarrassment for the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (SSSCT) which is already facing public criticism for its alleged non-transparent style of functioning.

“We received an order on April 4 for the supply of an AC-fitted coffin. The caller was from Hyderabad and had identified himself as Rajeswar Reddy. We sent it to Hyderabad as per the Coffin ordered 20 days before his death! requirement. When we were watching the funeral proceedings on television today, we identified the casket that we had supplied and were shocked to know that it was meant for Sai Baba,” a spokesman of Bengaluru-based Kumar and Kumar International said. He also sent to the media copies of the email order and other details of the transaction.

The disclosure has triggered several disturbing questions about the functioning the Trust and the way it handled Baba’s health condition. Questions are being raised as to why the casket was ordered on April 4 when the official bulletins kept insisting that Baba’s condition was stable. Why was the order routed through Hyderabad? Did the authorities fear the worst, but continued to mislead the devotees?




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