Sai Baba once predicted he would live into his mid-90s, claiming he could choose the date of his passing. "The god has left us physically," said the Sai Baba hospital where he died, built largely with donations from Isaac Burton Tigrett, a devotee and the founder of Hard Rock Cafe, and located near his main ashram in Puttaparthi.
His legacy is not without controversy. There were several allegations that he sexually abused young male devotees. And in 1993 six followers were killed in his ashram, four of whom allegedly sought to assassinate him. The incident was never fully explained.
"India remains a country of faith," said Ravinder Kaur, a sociology professor at New Delhi's Indian Institute of Technology. "Even those reports about pedophilia didn't really dent his image. In this country, if you develop followers, they are very loyal. Nothing seems to shake it."
Over the years, several people alleged they were victims of sexual abuse during private audiences with Sai Baba.
In the 2004 BBC documentary "Secret Swami," filmmaker Tanya Datta interviewed two American male followers who said the guru had fondled their genitals, claiming it was part of a healing ritual.
Others from Sweden, Australia and Germany made similar allegations. A case against Sai Baba was reportedly filed in Munich but none was filed in India, which critics say reflects how well-connected he was here and supporters say is evidence that the allegations were baseless.
"He leaves behind values of peace, nonviolence and love," said Kunal Ganjawala, a Bollywood director and follower of 35 years. "Whether in the physical body, or after he leaves it, we should continue those teachings."