ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Grip of Irrationality

"Bhagawan" Sai Baba has gone, but the legacy of blind faith and superstition he has left behind is troubling.

The recent passing away of Sathya Sai Baba – a self-proclaimed god and among India’s most recognisable godmen – marks the end of one of the most remarkable personalities of post-independence India. He was, by far, the most well known and popular of India’s godmen and his influence straddled linguistic, regional, religious, class and caste divisions. His death has also opened up questions about the role of such religious leaders in our social and political life. It also, again, foregrounds the extent to which superstition and irrationality remain pervasive in our society, especially among those who are called “well-educated” and occupy leading positions in public life.

Sai Baba, named Sathyanarayana Raju by his parents, proclaimed his own divinity and claimed to be god incarnate. He established his base at Puttaparthi, close to his home and, in the years after independence, his fame and influence spread far and wide, both within India and globally. His followers are counted in the millions and, apart from the expected list of western celebrities, include some of the most powerful and influential people in India. Former prime ministers and central ministers, judges of the Supreme and high courts, top bureaucrats, sportspersons, film stars and even supposedly atheist politicians are all his devotees.

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