As the deadline for closure of darshan of Sri Sathya Sai Baba's mortal remains is fast approaching, crowds started swelling in this global village.
Considering the rush of devotees, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust decided to extend the earlier deadline of 6 p.m. by a few more hours. The serpentine queue of devotees was over three-km-long along the Chitravathi Road.
Entire main road leading to Prashanthi Nilayam from the hospital and the airport was sealed and the only vehicles seen were those on official duty. The VIPs flying in were escorted through the road leading to the Western Gate and taken into the Mandir where they had a glimpse of the Sai Baba.
A noticeable point was that the devotees were spending an hour or two and leaving to their respective destinations after having a last look at the spiritual guru.
While the district administration was in a frenzy making arrangements for the VIP visits, the Sri Sathya Sai machinery was busy preparing the final resting place for him, at the spot where he used to sit on an ornate chair and give darshan to thousands of devotees every day.
A large maroon screen was put in place to cover the Sai Baba's memorial that is being made ready with all the regal splendor that everything associated with him is known for. A steady stream of visitors from within the country and abroad filed past the coffin, paying their respects.
Among the VIPs who flew in here on Tuesday were Arjuna Ranatunga, the World Cup-winning skipper of the Sri Lankan team, Basil Rajapaksha, Economic Development Advisor and Minister of the SriLankan Government, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son H.D. Kumaraswamy, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad's International President Ashok Singhal.
Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, noted percussionist Sivamani, playback singer Suresh Wadekar paid their respects while singer P. Susheela and yesteryear actresses Jamuna, Anjali Devi, Krishnakumari and Sowcar Janaki spent hours seated close to the coffin, sniffing into their handkerchieves.
Among those expected to fly in in the evening are UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. Kiran Kumar Reddy arrived at 3 p.m. to receive them. Earlier, controversial Godman Nithyananda Swamy's appearance created a mild flutter at the venue.