Thousands of grief-stricken devotees thronged Prashanthi Nilayam here for the second day on Monday as the body of Sri Sathya Sai Baba lay in the sprawling Sai Kulwant hall.
According to one estimate, over two lakh devotees have had darshan of the mortal remains of the Sai Baba till Monday evening. Andhra Pradesh Revenue Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy said the public would be allowed to have darshan till 6 p.m., Tuesday.
Volunteers and key functionaries of the Sathya Sai Trust handled the flow of people inside Prashanthi Nilayam, while the situation outside was left to the police and revenue authorities to tackle.
Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, playback singer P. Susheela and veteran actress Anjali Devi, who have been long-standing visitors to Prashanthi Nilayam, were among the mourners.
Sachin, who sat on the floor close to the coffin, was in tears. He had tried hard to control his emotions. Ms. Susheela, who wept uncontrollably, was consoled by Major Industries Minister J. Geetha Reddy. Ms. Anjali Devi too broke down.
Union Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Praful Patel, former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, actor Arjun and Andhra Pradesh Home Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy also paid their last respects.
Every street was choked with grieving devotees descending on the small town. There was an outpouring of charity with volunteers offering water and packets of lemon rice.
Many devotees have come from far off places in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The global following for the spiritual leader was visible in the presence of a considerable number of foreigners.
Serpentine queues were seen as men and women walked separately covering over two km. In spite of heavy barricading of the roads leading to Prashanthi Nilayam, stray incidents of jostling or stampede were reported. Pressure was felt in the evening when crowds swelled beyond the expectations of officials and Trust members.
Manmohan, Sonia coming today
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi are coming on Tuesday, security has been beefed up. They will arrive in a special flight from Delhi at the Puttaparthi airport at 4.40 p.m. and drive straight to Sai Kulwant Hall.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik are among the other dignitaries slated to arrive on Tuesday.
Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani will attend the funeral on Wednesday.