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Thousands at funeral of Indian spiritual leader

Thousands at funeral of Indian spiritual leader
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Influential Indian guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba has been buried at a ceremony attended by political, religious and military leaders as well as celebrities and family members.

The 84-year-old’s death on Sunday sparked an outpouring of grief throughout the sub-continent. Among the hundreds of thousands of visitors to see his body since then as it lay in a glass casket were Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar.

The funeral was carried out with full state honours at Sai Baba’s ashram or spiritual centre in the southern town of Puttaparthi. He was buried rather than cremated, which is the custom for those whom Hindus esteem are holy men.

Many devotees believed Sai Baba was a living god whose teachings drew on traditional Hindu and Muslim beliefs. He was credited with mystical powers including the ability to conjure jewellery from thin air.

Critics said he was a persuasive fraudster who hid behind his popularity to avoid being investigated over allegations of sexual abuse. None of the allegations were ever proven.

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