British media on Monday described Sathya Sai Baba, who passed away in Andhra Pradesh's Puttaparthi on Sunday, as one of the most enigmatic and remarkable religious figures of the last century.
"Sathya Sai Baba, who died on Sunday, probably aged 84, was India's most famous, and most controversial, Swami or holy man, and one of the most enigmatic and remarkable religious figures of the last century," the Daily Telegraph reported.
"To his followers, Sai Baba was a living god; a claim he did nothing to disavow. He would frequently liken himself to such figures as Christ, Krishna, and the Buddha, claiming that he was the avatara of the age - an avatar being a living incarnation of the divine," the report said.
To his detractors he was a charlatan, albeit one of considerable ingenuity and enormous personal charisma and power," it said.
Describing Sai Baba as one of India's most popular and controversial spiritual leaders, The Times said: "Sai Baba claimed to teach messages of truth, peace, love and non-violence and maintained that he did not require followers to give up their previous religious beliefs."
"His popularity was huge across India, where his following included Bollywood stars, the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, prime ministers, judges and civil servants.
Thousands of devotees visited his ashram daily "travelling from far and wide, including Britain, the US, Germany, Scandivania and Italy," the report said.
Visitors included the Duchess of York, during a tour of Bangalore in January 1997 and Keith Critchlow, the architect, who designed and supervised his hospital at Puttaparthi along with other British architects and engineers.
The Guardian said "though revered by millions around the world as a living god, he was a controversial figure, criticised by some as a fraud protected by political influence."
84-year-old Sai Baba died on Sunday due to cardio respiratory failure.