Located in the south-western part of Andhra Pradesh, Puttaparthi is surrounded by the arid and rocky hills bordering Karnataka. Famous for its Sathya Sai Baba Mandir, it is one of the famous religious tourist destinations of the world. A number of domestic as well as foreign tourists visit this place every year just to have a glimpse of the legendary Sathya Sai Baba and also to see his most talked about ashram. It is believed that the present Sai Baba is the reincarnation of the former Sai Baba of Maharashtra popularly known as Sai Baba of Shirdi. The income of the ashram has been used for the establishment of a number of public utility services. Although there is not much to see in Puttaparthi, the ashram itself keeps the attention of the visitor with its varied attractions. Puttaparthi belongs to the Bangalore Circuit of South India. The other destinations that come under the circuit are Bangalore, Kolar, and Nellur. Being at Puttaparthi, the best thing one can do is to visit the ashram and pay reverence to Sai Baba. The nearby areas like Lepakshi are also worth visiting.
The world famous religious Guru Sai Baba set up this ashram in 1950. Popularly known as Prashanthi Nilayam, this ashram has been regarded as one of the most sought-after religious destinations of India.Puttaparthi was an obscure village in the erstwhile Madras Presidency. Satyanarayana Raju was born in Puttaparthi on 23 November 1926. Since his childhood, he is said to have shown prodigious talents, unusual purity and compassion. Having been pronounced to be possessed by the divine, at the age of fourteen he calmly announced that he was the new incarnation of Sai Baba, who died eight years before Sathya was born. With the passing of time, the fame of Sathya Sai Baba spread all over the world. Eventually a large group of followers grew. In 1950, the ashram was inaugurated. Now, through his miraculous powers, including the ability to materialize vibhuti or the sacred ash, with curative properties, Sai Baba has millions of devotees worldwide.
Sai Baba Ashram:
The Sai baba ashram itself is a huge complex with room for thousands, with canteens, shops, a museum and library, and a vast assembly hall where Sai Baba gives darshan twice daily (6.45-7.00 AM and 3.45-4.00 PM). Queues start more than an hour before the appointed time, and a lottery decides who gets to sit near the front.
One of the oft-visited locations in the ashram is the museum, perched on a nearby hillock. The museum contains models of various temple structures including the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the Mecca mosque, etc. The story of Satya Sai Baba, right from his birth to the time he attained Nirvana, are also depicted in the form of pictures. The museum is open daily from 10 AM to 12 noon. It contains a detailed, fascinating display on the major faiths with illustrations and quotations from their sacred texts, punctuated by Sai Baba's comments. Within the campus of the ashram, there is a sophisticated planetarium as well.
Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences:
The Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences became operational in November 1991. Within a period of four years, it had performed 4,250 heart surgeries. The interesting part of the institute is that it runs its services free of charge, irrespective of caste, creed, nationality, and status. This institute is fast becoming a leading center for cardiac surgery, interventional cardiology and sophisticated diagnostic and therapeutic methodologies for diseases of the heart, and is ably supported by a team of dedicated cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, anesthetists and technical staff. The support facilities include a central sterilization department, blood bank, clinical laboratories, diet kitchen, laundry and central stores among others. In order to ensure a constant supply of skilled personnel and to provide worthy vocational training, a nursing school was also established in September 1992. The institute has an uro-nephrology department, ophthalmology department, x-ray unit, blood bank, total body-scanning unit, and vitreoretinal services cell.
Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Learning:
Sai Baba founded the Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Learning on November 22, 1981. An autonomous body, it has been recognized by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, and the University Grants Commission (UGC) as a deemed university. To effectively mold a student's personality, hostel living has been made compulsory and patterned in the ancient gurukula style.
On the way between Bangalore and Puttaparthi, one can find the Veerbhadra temple at Lepakshi. At the entrance of the town, there is a huge, monolithic Nandi, the sacred bull of Lord Shiva. The temple is about 500 meters away.
Events and Festivals:
On November 23, the birthday of Sai Baba is celebrated in the ashram. On this day Sai Baba delivers a message to his devotees. The devotees of Sai Baba regard this day as a holy day.