Born into a poor family in the Village of
Puttaparthi in southern Andhra Pradesh, Sathyanarayan Raju was a bright,
talented and confident boy whose charitable nature and religiosity belied his
tender age. Deeply suspicious of his spiritual precociousness, his father made
him go through a traumatic exorcism. But the boy already had a devoted band of
followers and, when he was thirteen, announced that he was the Shirdi Sai Baba
reborn. Today, Sri Sathya Sai Baba has an estimated thirty million followers
Acclaimed travel writer and self-described 'spiritual nomad' Bill
Aitken tell us why so many-royalty, wealthy industrialists, influential politicians, as
well as the poor-flock to Puttaparthi. Sai Baba's message, he reveals, can be
summed up in one word: love. It is a simple as it is profound, not unlike how his
devotees see the Sai himself- the embodiment of deep spirituality wedded to
simplicity, elegance and grace.
Yet, the Sai phenomenon is less about
producing vibhuti from thin air and more about modern day miracles. Miracles like
free schools and universities, super specialty hospitals which provides free
treatment to all and revolutionary projects like the one which has brought drinking
water to a million villagers in drought prone Rayalseema.
Aitken's study is
neither a hagiographic exercise in myth making nor a dry, objective account of the
Sai's life. While never shy of expressing his deep love and reverence for sai
Baba, he squarely confronts the controversies and criticism which inevitably dog
those who claim acquaintance with the holy.
About the Author
Bill Aitken is Scottish by birth, a naturalized Indian
by choice. He studied comparative religion at Leeds University and then
hitch-hiked to India in 1959. he has lived in Himalayan ashrams, worked as
secretary to a maharani, freelanced under his middle name and undertaken
miscellaneous excursions from Nanda Devi to Sabarimala on an old motorbike
and by stem railway.
Aitken has written on travel and tourism for newspapers
and magazines in India for several years and is the author of the Nanda Devi
Affair, Riding the Ranges and Branch Line to Eternity among other Books.
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