June 17: Nike and Adidas sneakers. Whole cupboards of perfume and hairspray. Packets full of — and gold crowns studded with — diamonds.
Total worth Rs 35 crore and counting.
The world knew that Sai Baba lived in a cocoon of riches. Only since yesterday has it seen for itself.
Around 8.30 on Thursday morning, the doors were thrown open at Yajur Mandir, the late spiritual leaders two-storey living quarters at the centre of his Puttaparthi ashram that had been out of bounds for almost everyone for the past 25 years.
A team of chartered accountants, income-tax and bank officials, and members of the Sathya Sai Central Trust walked into the half-dozen rooms to which only Satyajit, the monks personal attendant for the past 20 years, had so far had access.
What they found, after Satyajit negotiated the combination locks and biometric security, left everyone staggered, ashram sources said.
If the Rs 11.5 crore in currency notes stashed in cabinets were a surprise, hardly anyone had expected separate almirahs for hair spray and expensive shoes, for dry fruits and biscuits. (See chart)
Thirty-six hours on, the bank officials and student volunteers from the Sathya Sai Educational Institute had just finished counting the cash, aided by three machines from the State Bank of India (SBI). The inventory of jewellery and stones was still incomplete late tonight.
There are numerous cloth packets with diamonds, whose number and value has not yet been assessed. They and most other valuables will be shifted to the vaults of the SBIs Puttaparthi branch, said a trust member.
Some of the gold, silver and personal belongings will stay on at Yajur Mandir, which will be converted into a museum for the monk, who is believed to have left behind assets of Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
Only a handful of VIP visitors had ever been inside the building, and even they would have seen only the outer chamber where the Sai Baba received them.
The complex was locked immediately after the monk was admitted to hospital on March 28, four weeks before he died on April 24. Even yesterday and today, nobody other than the official team was allowed in. Nobody except one unexpected visitor.
If the riches were a surprise, a second surprise greeted the ashram authorities this morning. Industrialist Ratan Tata, a Sai Baba devotee, arrived unannounced at the Prashanti Nilayam.
Tata flew into Bangalore by a chartered plane and drove in a Mercedes to Puttaparthi, 435km from Hyderabad. He was allowed to enter Yajur Mandir as a special case and spent 45 minutes there.
He was searching for something he wanted to check. We dont know what he was looking for and whether he found it, but he did not take anything, one of the trustees said.
A Sai Institute student who was there said: Our trust member Ratnakar Raju (a nephew of Sai Baba) spent about 15 minutes with Tata discussing something.
Tata left Puttaparthi in the evening.