This book explores the seminal roles played by a hagiographer in the
making of a charismatic religious movement: the post-sectarian, cosmo-
politan community of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba (1926–2011),
the center of which is the ashram of Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi,
in the Anantapur district of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. The
case study’s protagonist is Narayan Kasturi (1897–1987), a distinguished
litterateur and the holy man’s official biographer, who first met Sathya Sai
Baba in 1948 and who lived at his hermitage more or less continuously
from 1954 up until his death.
My contention is that in order to deepen our understanding of this
pan-Indian hero and his movement, attention must especially be focused
upon Kasturi’s background, worldview, deeds, and overall aims and expec-
tations. This is all the more necessary given the almost complete lack of
research on this figure. Despite the influence exercised by the four volumes
of his hagiography titled Sathyam Sivam Sundaram—venerated as a sacred
text by all devotees and covering Sathya Sai Baba’s life from his birth in 1926
up to 1979—little scholarly notice has been paid to this truly remarkable
intellectual. My study is therefore intended as a biography of Narayan Kas-
turi, sharing heretofore unknown or little-known information. There being
no English-language academic studies on Kasturi and his significance in the
construction of the Sathya Sai Baba organization, I hope that the wealth
of data on him will be appreciated by both scholars and general readers
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