South Asia

India spiritual leader Sai Baba 'on life support'

Devotees praying for Sai Baba's recovery
Image caption Sai Baba is estimated to have millions of devotees around the world

One of India's most revered spiritual leaders, Satya Sai Baba, is critically ill and on a life-support system, his doctors say.

Thousands of his followers have begun converging at his home town in southern India, prompting the authorities to step up security.

The 84-year-old guru is thought to have millions of followers around the world.

His distinctive orange robes and hairstyle have made him one of India's most recognisable gurus.

Sai Baba was admitted to a hospital in his hometown of Puttaparthi last month, with what doctors described as lung and chest congestion.

After initially showing signs of improvement, his condition become critical once again, they say.

A health bulletin issued by the hospital said his vital organs were not responding well to treatment.

Controversial career

The news of Sai Baba's ill-health has prompted many of his followers to rush to Puttaparthi.

Police have erected barricades around the hospital as a safety measure and also announced a ban on large public gatherings to prevent large crowds forming.

Sai Baba counts former Indian prime ministers, prominent businessmen and cricketers among his followers.

But his career has also been dogged by controversy. He has been accused of faking some of the so-called miracles attributed to him.

And some former followers have levelled accusations of sexual abuse against him and other members of his ashram - charges that he has denied.

He has never been charged by police in connection with these allegations.

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