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The Arrival Of The Avatar

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Chapter Summary

This chapter traces important aspects of the public persona of Sathya Sai Baba based on secondary accounts and biographies. It examines his early life and the declaration of his identity with Shirdi Sai Baba that constructed a discrete mnemonic pathway for the recollection of the saint by his old devotees and attracted new audiences in South Asia and overseas. The chapter also alludes to several institutions created by him that gave an organizational structure and civic role to the movement; some of the central ones - in healing, service, and education. Three types of iconic representations - guru, sant, and avatar - emerge in the history and hagiography of the Sai Baba movement. The chapter examines these representations and the significance of the idea of the avatar for a devotional imaginary and organization that over the decades has become pan-Indian and global in its scope.

Keywords: avatar; guru; pan-Indian teacher; sant; Sathya Sai Baba



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