HYDERABAD, India (AFP) – One of India's best-known spiritual leaders, famous for his apparent miracles and long list of influential followers, is on life support in a southern hospital, officials said on Tuesday.
Satya Sai Baba, 85, who has devotees in more than 100 countries, was admitted to a hospital funded by his organisation in the town of Puttaparthi with lung and chest congestion on March 28.
His condition has since deteriorated and he is now on a ventilator and is receiving kidney dialysis, the most recent health bulletin from the hospital said on Tuesday.
He remains "critical," although his "level of consciousness has considerably improved" and his vital systems are "stable", said the update from the Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences.
Thousands of followers have begun arriving in Puttaparthi, home to Sai Baba's ashram in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, with many agitated by conflicting information given out by local authorities.
Government officials have sought to play down the seriousness of his condition, while police are preventing groups from gathering in the town, according to local reports.
The wild-haired leader has a following of millions in India and abroad, many of whom believe him to be a living god, and the reincarnation of the great spiritual guru, Sai Baba of Shirdi, who died in 1918.
The guru, who claims to have performed several miracles including bringing men back to life, counts former Indian prime ministers, top businessmen and even the country's cricketers among his devotees.
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