Prasanthi Nilayam, in Puttaparthi, in Anantapur district, the abode of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, has witnessed changes spanning just a few decades that can be termed as nothing short of phenomenal.
Puttaparthi was a secluded, backward village till he 1960s. The rocky, arid, secluded landscape has been transformed into a compact urban oasis, complete with trees and plants, huge buildings, guest houses, restaurants, a world-class super-specialties hospital, educational institutions, and even an airstrip. Devotees from all over the world flock to this remote settlement to see Baba.
Sri Sathhya Sai Baba was born Sathyanarayana Raju, on November 23, 1926, to Peddavenkama Raju and Easwaramma, in an agrarian family. He attended school until March 1940, when he began to behave strangely. Finally, in May, the same year, he proclaimed himself as the reincarnation of Sri Sai Baba of Shridi (in Maharashtra), and began to be called Sri Sathya Sai Baba. In 1944, a small mandir was built near his village, which is now called the old mandir. Construction of Prasanthi Nilayam, "The Abode of Supreme Peace," began in 1948. The Ashram has undergone tremendous changes since. From a small village, Puttaparthi has become a world-class pilgrimage centre. The small school that he started is now a deemed university, while the mini hospital is now the 220-bed Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, providing free medical and surgical care to rich and poor. In 200l, the 333-bed Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences was inaugurated in Bangalore. In Whitefield, his summer abode, near Bangalore, the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital has been in existence for quite some time. Prasanthi Nilayam now houses the huge Mandir, where Sri Baba gives darshan, residential complexes for devotees, several restaurants, a supermarket, bookshop, and the headquarters of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization and Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust.
In 1960, Baba, while declaring that his present incarnation would last another 59 years, disclosed that he would be reborn as Prema Sai in Karnataka. His followers are legion and they contribute handsomely to his projects. Besides running several hospitals, eye clinics, mobile dispensaries, etc, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust has also funded several drinking water schemes in drought-prone areas of Andhra Pradesh. In 2004, the trust rebuilt the Telugu Ganga Canal, which provides drinking water to Chennai. The trust has ambitious plans to implement drinking water projects in other states too. According to the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, there are 1200 Sathya Sai Centres, across the globe, in 114 countries. These centres too undertake charitable works. Many of them run schools as well.
Sri Baba now spends most of his time in Prasanthi Nilayam. During the summer months, he shifts to his Whitefield headquarters, or to Sai Shruti, in Kodaikanal, in Tamil Nadu.
How to get there
Prasanthi Nilayam bus terminal is located near the ashram. Buses connect the village with most towns in Andhra Pradesh, besides Bangalore and Chennai. Puttaparthi is also connected by rail. Sri Sathya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam Railway station is eight km away. The nearest major railway station is Dharmavaram (40km). Bangalore (120 km) is the nearest international airport.
The Ashram has rooms and dormitories. There are plenty of private lodges outside the ashram.
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