Pall of gloom descends on Puttaparthi
Men shed tears, women sobbed...this pilgrim town plunged into gloom as news of spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba's death came on Sunday.
Hundreds of pilgrims tried to rush towards the hospital where Sathya Sai Baba had passed away, but were stopped by a large posse of policemen. The Sathya Sai super-speciality hospital is about five km from the town.
"I can't believe that Swamy is no more," said Sharada Devi, a devotee, her voice choked with emotions.
Sathya Sai Baba passed away at around 7.40am. The hospital confirmed his death around 10.30am on Sunday.
"Today is the saddest day of my life," said T. Raghav, another devotee, as tears roll down his cheeks.
Over 6,000 policemen had already been deployed and additional forces are being rushed to the town to beef up security for VIPs likely to arrive to pay their last respects.
The forces have erected barricades on all roads leading towards the town and are checking vehicles as part of the security arrangements. They have also taken control of the hospital and the airport.
Sai Baba, whom his devotees worshipped as god, was suffering from multi-organ dysfunction. He breathed his last at the hospital, where he was admitted March 28 with cardiac problems. He was 85.
Massive security arrangements are also being made at Prashanti Nilayam, his ashram where the body will be kept Monday and Tuesday to enable his devotees to have 'last darshan'.
According to sources close to the Sathya Sai Central Trust, President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are also expected to arrive here to pay their respects to Baba.