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Puttaparthi, in the Ananathpur district of Andhra Pradesh, owed its bustling economy to Sathya Sai Baba. His demise brings in an air of uncertainty to the business establishments set up by locals and devotees from elsewhere in the country. Real estate has taken the hit already. The Hindustan Times
that the pilgrim town has recorded zero land registrations since Baba was hostialised on 28 March 2011, a big blow for a place which has 600 real estate developers for a population of just about 9,000.

Till recently, land sharks in the area were making a killing. An acre of land near Sai Baba’s ashram, Prasanthi Nilayalam, cost as much as Rs 2 crore and even villagers seven kilometres from here could sell an acre for Rs 50 lakh. The rates were comparable to those in outer Hyderabad. The Times of India puts the number of large apartment complexes in Puttaparthi at 240 and smaller complexes in the surrounding villages at 200. With Baba gone, construction activity may not be a money-spinning proposition from now on.


j929/ Wikimedia Commons

Locals banked on the heavy inflow of devotees for the survival of their restaurants, merchandise shops, lodges and other small businesses. This is set to be affected. But it might pull through.

The township is nearly self-sufficient. It houses a super-specialty hospital, a world-religions museum, a planetarium, the Sri Sathya Sai University, the Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri Music College, an outdoor and an indoor stadium. For its size and population, Puttaparthi even has its own airport, an urban development authority, rail connectivity, at least six three-star hotels and many high-end resorts and ‘divine villas’ scattered around its periphery.

However, all the devotees who invested here, financially and spiritually, hope Puttaparthi won’t empty out. "It will be like Shirdi,’’ they reckon.

Prashanthi Nilayam:

Sai Baba was born in this town on the banks of Chitravathi river in November 1926. At the age of 17, he is believed to have told a devotee, Lakshmaiah, "The Sai Pravesh (the advent of Sai) will transform that region into Prasanthi Pradesh (a region of highest peace). There will rise a bhavan (mansion)! Lakhs of people from all over India, why only India, from all over the world, will come and wait there for Sai darshan!"

When the devotee expressed his doubts, Sai Baba said: “You will have to believe it when you have to stand where we are now, trying to catch a glimpse of me, standing on the porch of that bhavan.”

And as it was to be, this bhavan, Prashanthi Nilayam became the fulcrum of Puttaparthi (earlier name: Gollapalli), where thousands waited for hours even for a glimpse of their guru -- that got shorter and shorter as his health began to deteriorate. Inaugurated on November 23, 1950 by Baba on his 25th birthday, closeness to the mandir decided the worth of the many modern flats that sprang up around it. In 1966, the Prashanthi Nilayam township was separated from the Puttaparthi village, and constituted into an administrative unit. (Source: Glory of Puttaparthi by V Balu)

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Updated Date: Apr 29, 2011 12:58:54 IST