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Did Sai Baba Resurrect Someone From The Dead?

The Radhakrishna Case

9 - Kanu's Account:

Mr. Radhakrishna had been dead for three days. On the third day, his body was cold, stiff and dark and decomposition was starting to set in. There was weeping and wailing in the house. That afternoon, at about half past two, Sai Baba went to the room and closed the door after him. In a few minutes, he opened the door and called the people back in, and they saw Radhakrishna sitting up in bed, looking very well and smiling. Baba said to the wife, `I have given your husband back to you. Now, give him a hot drink.'

Kanu, Sai Baba, God Incarnate, p. 55.

10 - Murphet's Account:

One Evening Radhakrishna went into a coma and his breathing was that of a dying man. Alarmed, the wife dashed off to see Swami. The latter came to the room, looked at the patient, said, "Don't worry. Everything will be all right," and left. On the next day the patient was still unconscious. Mr. K. S. Hemchand, the son-in-law, brought a male nurse of the district who, after failing to find any pulse and making other examinations, gave as his opinion that Mr. Radhakrishna was so near death that there was no possibility of saving him.

About an hour after this the patient became very cold. The three anxious relatives heard what they thought was the `death rattle' in his throat and watched him turning blue and stiff. Vijaya and her mother went to see Baba who was at the time upstairs in his dining room. When they told him that Radhakrishna seemed to be dead, he laughed and walked away to his bedroom. Vijaya and her mother returned to the room of the `dead' man and waited. After a while, Swami came in and looked at the body, but went away again without saying or doing anything. That was on the evening of the second day since Mr. Radhakrishna had become unconscious. The whole of the next night passed while the three stayed awake and anxiously watched for any signs of returning life. There were no signs. Yet they still had faith that Baba would somehow or other, in his own way, save Radhakrishna, for had he not said that everything would be alright?

On the morning of the third day the body was more than ever like a corpse dark, cold, quite stiff and beginning to smell. Other people who came to see and sympathise told Mrs. Radhakrishna that she should have the corpse removed from the ashram. But she replied, `Not unless Swami orders it.' Some even went to Baba and suggested that, as the man was dead and the body smelling of decomposition, it should either be sent back to Kuppam, or cremated at Puttaparti. Swami simply replied, `We'll see'.

When Mrs. Radhakrishna went upstairs again to tell Baba what people were saying to her, and ask him what she must do, he answered: `Do not listen to them, and have no fear; I am here.' Then he said that he would come down to see her husband soon.

She went downstairs again and waited, with her daughter and son-in-law by the body. The minutes dragged by an hour passed but Swami did not come. Then, when they were beginning to despair entirely, the door opened and there stood Baba in his red robe, copious hair, and shining smile. It was then about half past two in the afternoon of the third day. Mrs. Radhakrishna went towards Baba and burst into tears. Vijaya too began to cry. They were like Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, weeping before their lord who, they thought, had come too late.

Gently Baba asked the tearful women and sorrowful Mr. Hemchand to leave the room. As they left, he closed the door behind them. They do not know no man knows what happened in that room where there were only Swami and the `dead' man.

But after a few minutes Baba opened the door and beckoned the waiting ones in. There on the bed Radhakrishna was looking up at them and smiling. Amazingly the stiffness of death had vanished and his natural colour was returning. Baba went over, stroked the patient's head and said to him, `Talk to them; they're worried.'

`Why worried?' asked Radhakrishna, puzzled. `I'm all right. You are here.'

Swami turned to the wife: `I have given your husband back to you', he said, `Now get him a hot drink'

When she brought it, Swami himself fed it to Radhakrishna slowly with a spoon ... Next day the patient was strong enough to walk to bhajan [devotional singing ed.]. On the third day he wrote a seven page letter to one of his daughters who was abroad in Italy. The family stayed a few more days at Prasanti Nilayam, then with Baba's permission returned to their home in Kuppam. The bad gastric ulcers and complications had vanished forever...

...When Mr. N. Kasturi was a few years ago writing something about the incident of Mr. Radhakrishna being raised from the dead, Baba told him to put the word `dead' in inverted commas. So maybe we should say here that Mr. Radhakrishna was very near to death, more than half-way through death's door, when Baba called him back to life.

Howard Murphet, Sai Baba, Man Of Miracles, pp.132 -134.

11 - Dr. Gokak's Endorsement:

Amongst innumerable miracles which have emanated from Bhagavan all these years, the following are worth recording.

During the latter part of the year 1953 Bhagavan brought back to life one V. Radhakrishna, a well-known citizen of Kuppam, whose body had started decomposing at Prasanthi Nilayam.

V. K. Gokak, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, The Man And The Avatar, p. 303.

12 - Mrs. Radhakrishna's Account, As Reported by Dr. Haraldsson:

During a stay in Puttaparti in the early 1950's, Mr. Radhakrishna had become seriously ill with gastric trouble so that he could not pass his urine and also had further complications. The next day he became semiconscious and his condition was very critical. The following morning around 11:00 he lost consciousness. According to Mrs. Radhakrishna, no life signs, including breathing and pulse, could be detected, and the members of his family who were present (she and Mr. Hemchand) firmly believed that he had expired.

By the next morning, the body had become cold and there had been no observable signs of life for over 20 hours. But Baba told them that they should not worry, that nothing had happened. When he at last came down from his room, he asked them all to leave the room where Mr. Radhakrishna was lying; he then closed the door and was alone with him for a minute or two. When he opened the door, the group standing outside saw Mr. Radhakrishna sitting up in his bed. `People were so flabbergasted that everyone fell to his feet.' That was the oriental way in which Mrs Radhakrishna finished her account. Mr. Radhakrishna recovered on this occasion, but died a few years later apparently of the same disease.

Haraldsson, Miracles Are My Visiting Cards, p. 248, 249.

13 - Diary Record Kept by Vijaya Hemchand (Radhakrishna's Daughter):

During the previous night all of us gave up hopes regarding our father. That was a very horrible and frightening night, like that of cosmic dissolution (death). Our father was uttering the names of departed people and was saying that he too would join them. Neither was his speech coherent nor was he conscious. He had (long since) stopped taking food. All of us started weeping. In the midst of our agony and even in the face of this threat to his life, we took refuge in Lord Sai. We held his feet firmly in our minds and had strong faith in him. The moment we saw his beautiful enchanting face we forgot all our sufferings and became enthraled by bliss.

He came down and closed the doors to the room. He was inside for ten minutes. I could not control my grief. I was afraid of what others might think. All those in the shrine (Prashanti Nilayam) were staying there motionless and were anxiously waiting for the outcome. After ten minutes he opened the door...came out brushing his hands together, saw my mother, and told her: `I have given life to your husband. I have given it to him. The hurdle is over, there is no more fear.' As he was saying this, we held his feet and washed them with our tears. `Alas, my innocent mother! She is frightened!' So saying, he looked at our faces and said: `None of you had faith that he was going to survive, did you? You go in and see.'

Our father, who had been lying unconscious for three days without speech and sight, looked at all of us and smiled.

Quoted in Haraldsson, p. 249-50.

Mrs. Hemchand's diary, written contemporaneously with the events, makes it clear how to interpret the remarks of the devotees that Radhakrishna was dead, including her own remark that her father had been lying `unconscious for three days without speech and sight', despite having just stated that he was muttering names of the departed throughout the night, and saying that he would soon join them! Specifically, Mrs. Hemchand's diary makes it clear how to interpret Kanu's statement that Mr. Radhakrishna was dead three days. No sensible person can hold that Mr. Radhakrishna was dead in the medical sense during that night before Sai Baba supposedly resurrected him, for he was "uttering the names of departed people, and saying that he would join them." This is hardly the expected behaviour of a cold, blue corpse starting to decompose! If the family of Mr. Radhakrishna really thought he had died prior to that night, wouldn't the miracle have been the corpse muttering through the night?! And if this isn't enough to indicate the lax standards of Sai Baba's devotees' descriptions of the `miraculous' events associated with the guru, consider Hislop's description of Radhakrishna's resurrection as told him by the Raja of Venkatigiri compared with Haraldsson's report of the Raja of Venkatigiri's account:

14 - Hislop's Account:

...Baba's powers of resurrection are known to other devotees. The Raja of Ventagiri [sic] told me of his experience when, some twenty or so years ago, he witnessed Baba's resurrection of a man dead some six days in whom body decomposition was taking its normal course. About these mysteries one can make no comment; they are outside the customary human experience.

Hislop, My Baba & I, p. 31.

15 - The Rajah of Venkatigiri's Account, as Reported by Haraldsson:

The present Raja of Venkatigiri was in Puttaparti at that time. When asked about this incident, he told me that he remembered it well. He had been with the swami when Mr. Radhakrishna's relative came to tell Sai Baba that he was dying. About an hour after Mr. Radhakrishna allegedly died, the swami came down from his room at last and said to them: `Don't fear, nothing has happened.' They waited outside the room while the swami went in. When he opened the door and called them, they saw that Mr. Radhakrishna was alive and talking slowly. The Raja did not see Mr. Radhakrishna while he was allegedly dead.

Haraldsson, p. 249.

Given (1) that no medical doctor is supposed to have pronounced Radhakrishna dead at any time during the sequence of events in question, (2) the patient was muttering semi-coherently through the night before his alleged resurrection, and (3) even Murphet withdraws the claim that he was in the medical sense dead prior to Sai Baba's visit, the inescapable conclusion is that Mr. Radhakrishna was not in the medical sense dead prior to Sai Baba's visit. What is required, clearly, to establish a resurrection from the dead claim is a case in which it is at least alleged that the patient was found to have been dead by a doctor. These accounts of the Radhakrishna case, then, are of principal interest as an exhibit of the low standards in accuracy, consistency, and reliability of devotee reports of the miracles. He was dead three days, an hour, six days, and not at all. Somehow one expects a slightly higher standard of accuracy in reporting, if a claim is to be taken seriously by the scientific community; and if this is the best to be expected of oral reports and memories, one expects at the very least a higher standard of interest in sorting out what happened on the part of the devotees putting out the story for public consumption.

The Cowan Case

16 - Kanu's Account

Walter Cowan, an American, was pronounced dead by two separate and independent doctors: first, the European hotel doctor at the Madras hotel where Mr. Cowan died; the second, an Indian doctor at the hospital where the body was taken. The nurses prepared the corpse in their customary way. Mrs. Cowan and her friend rushed to Sai Baba and found him seated on his chair. Before she could break the news to him, he said, `Walter lives. Go back to the hospital. I will come at ten o'clock.' He went at the stated time and restored Walter Cowan back to life.

Kanu, Sai Baba, God Incarnate, p. 56.

17 - Hislop's Account

Early on the morning of December 25, a rumor quickly spread that an elderly American had died of a heart attack. My wife, Victoria, and I immediately thought of Walter. We went to the hotel and found Elsie there. Walter had fallen to the floor in the very early morning hours. Elsie had called Mrs. Ratanlal whose room was just down the corridor. The two women managed to lift Walter to the bed, and he passed away in Elsie's arms a few minutes later. An ambulance was called, the body was taken to a hospital, pronounced dead upon arrival, placed in an empty storage room, and covered with a sheet to await daylight and decisions about the funeral.

Elsie and Mrs. Ratanlal had already been to see Baba when we arrived. He had told them he would visit the hospital at 10 a.m. The two ladies were ready and waiting to join Baba at the appointed hour. They did go to the hospital, but Baba had arrived earlier and had already departed. To the joy of the ladies, but also to their total amazement, they found Walter alive and being attended to. Nobody saw Baba with Walter, nor has Baba chosen to say how or why Walter was resurrected, but on returning to the devotee family who were his hosts, Baba told the people there that he had brought Walter back to life.

Hislop, My Baba & I, p. 29-30.

18 - Dr. S. Sandweiss' Endorsation of Hislop's Account:

Documented accounts of Sai Baba's powers must number in the thousands. Many have been collected in Howard Murphet's exciting and informative book Man of Miracles. Following is one of the most dramatic stories that I have heard, related here because of its uniqueness and its bearing on what happened to me later...Dr. John Hislop, a former professor and corporate executive, now retired and living in Mexico, was a witness to this extraordinary drama. Here is a summary of his account:

Early Christmas morning, news spread among devotees gathered about Baba that an elderly American had suffered a fatal heart attack. Upon hearing the rumor, my wife and I at once went to the Cowans' hotel, where Elsie confirmed that her husband Walter had died. She had prayed to Sai Baba for help and with great self-control and recollection of human mortality had ended the prayer with, Let God's will be done.

Walter's body was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Later that day, when Elsie and her friend Mrs. Ratan Lal went to the hospital, they found that Sai Baba had already been there as well. To their utter amazement they found Walter alive.

Recognizing the need for documentation of Walter's death in the form of medical reports and witnesses' testimony, Dr. Hislop investigated the matter fully. At my request, Judge Damadar Rao of Madras interviewed the doctor who had attended Walter when he arrived at the hospital. The doctor's statement was that Walter was indeed dead when he examined him, shortly after the ambulance arrived at the hospital. There was no sign of life.

He pronounced Walter dead, then stuffed his ears and nose with cotton. The body was covered with a sheet and moved to an empty room. The doctor then left the hospital and missed seeing Sai Baba while he was there. Upon returning to the hospital after Sai Baba had left, the doctor found Walter alive. He was unable to explain this.

Later that day Sai Baba informed his devotees that he had indeed brought Walter back to life. He did not disclose the reasons for doing so, however; this remains a mystery he has not yet chosen to explain.

Sandweiss, in Sai Baba, The Holy Man And The Psychiatrist, pp. 101,102.

This case is one of the most frequently cited anecdotes offered as proof of Sai Baba's powers, and his willingness to do good with them. For example, John Hislop, whose account was cited above, is Sai Baba's leading proponent in North America. I heard Dr. Hislop give this story at a meeting of Sai Baba followers in 1988 in Vancouver. B. Premanand, Convenor of Indian CSICOP, has done a thorough investigation of this incident, and what follows in the next five items will be the highlights of his investigations. Erlendur Haraldsson (Miracles Are My Visiting Cards, pp 244-248) also reports on statements from Cowan's doctors which contradict the recollections of Hislop and Elsie Cowan.

19 - Premanand's Comment on the Quality of Hislop's Reporting:

In the story of Walter Cowan's death and resurrection published in 1973 under the authorship of Hislop, Cowan is alleged to have died at the Connemara Hotel. No mention is made of the House Doctor of Connemara Hotel, Dr. O.G. C. Vaz seeing Cowan. The Superintendent of Lady Willingdon Nursing Home was R. B. Krishna Rao and Cowan's cardiologist, Dr. R. S. Rajagopalan. Also no mention of Dr. R. S. Rajagopalan was made in the articles. The name of the hospital was also not mentioned. But as Connemara Hotel's name was there, it was possible for me to trace the Hospital where Cowan was admitted and the doctors who treated him...."

B. Premanand, Indian Skeptic 1989 #13, p. 26.

20 - Letter from Dr. Vaz (Cowan's attending physician) to Premanand, 12-7-88:

Chevalier Dr. O.G.C. Vaz, K.S.G., M.B.B.S., D.G.O.

Mr. B. Premanand,

Dear Sir,

This is in reply to your letter dated 8.7.'88.

Mr. Walter R. Cowan was under my treatment for his illness you refer to from 25th Dec. '71. I was called to see him in the early hours of the morning at the Connemara Hotel. He was complaining of some difficulty in breathing and pain in the chest. He was perfectly conscious in bed. At no stage had I pronounced him dead then or later. I advised him to be admitted to Lady Wellington Nursing Home for observation, investigation and treatment and accordingly he was admitted there. With medication in the Nursing Home, he showed rapid improvement. That morning Mrs. Cowan requested me whether there was any objection for Sai Baba, his spiritual guru to pray for him in the room for which I said he was most welcome and I was there when Sai Baba was offering prayers. Mr. Cowan was conscious then and also right through.

I am surprised at the story that has gone round that he was dead at the Hotel itself and his dead body was taken for admission to the Lady Willingdon Nursing Home and was admitted there. No Hospital or Nursing Home will ever admit a person after his death and his dead body will not be accepted into the Ward. So the question of my informing the American Embassy or the Health Authorities did not arise at all. As a matter of fact, I had enquiries about him from several persons who came to interview me personally on this subject and who had taped down the interview. They had been emphatically given the correct version that Mr. Cowan was not dead at all at any stage and he also had a normal recovery here.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Vaz

Indian Skeptic #13 (1989), pp.26-35.

(This letter, and the three which follow, are reproduced in facsimile in the Indian Skeptic.

21 - Letter from Harish Khanna. General Manager, Connemara Hotel, to B. Premanand, 17-8-88:

Connemara Hotel
Madras India

Regd. Ack. Due.

Mr. B. Premanand

Thank you for your letter dated 22nd July 1988 and please accept my apologies for not replying to your letter earlier as I was indisposed and then travelled on official work for about ten days.

Probably you may be aware that Connemara Hotel was taken over by the Taj Group from April 1st 1984 and I took over as General Manager from June 1984 onwards. Hence do not have any clues about your letters dated 13th December 1979, 21st January and 13th February 1980.

I tried to find out the facts from old files and from Dr. O.G.C. Vaz who informed me exactly the same what he has written in his letter dated 12th July 1988 to you. I cannot say personally anything in this matter but only one thing that how can it be possible to remove a dead body from a hotel and a hospital of such repute admitting a dead man as no hospital would do so.

I am sending you this letter as desired by you under registered post with acknowledgement due. There would have been no need of you sending us the Postal Order for the mode and type of communication you want from the hotel and hence I am returning with this letter your Postal Order back to you.

With best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Harish Khanna
General Manager

Indian Skeptic #13 (1989), pp.26-35

22 - Letter to B. Premanand from Dr B. Krishna Rau, 13-7-88:

Dr. B. Krishna Rau M.S., F.R.C.S., Eng F.R.C.S. (Edin) F.I.A.M.S.
Lady Willingdon Nursing Home
Madras 600 006

Dear Mr. Premanand,

Thank you for your letter of 8th July 1988.

I have had many letters in the past regarding Mr. Walter Cowan. I am just repeating what I said in the past.

Mr. Walter Cowan was admitted with congestive cardiac failure and in a very bad condition. He had NOT at any time died in the medical terminology.

During his stay in the hospital, Sri Satya Sai Baba visited him when he was critically ill.

As for his ears and nose being plugged with cotton is not correct.

His general physician was Dr. O.G.C. Vaz and his Cardiologist was R. R.S. Rajagopalan.

I hope this gives you sufficient information.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

B. Krishna Rau

Indian Skeptic #13 (1989), pp.26-35

23 - Letter to B. Premanand from Dr. R.S. Rajagopalan, 24-7-88:

Trinity Acute Care Hospital
Dr. R. S. Rajagopalan, M.D.D. T.M. (Cal)
Consultant Physician & Cardiologist

Dear Mr. Premanand,

Thank you very much for your letter dated 8.7.88 From memory I can say only that Mr. Cowan who was admitted to Lady Wellingdon Nursing Home had a cardiac arrest consequent to the underlying cardiac ailment he had. He was revived by employing standard cardio-respiratory resuscitative procedures. I can tell you that he was admitted to the hospital in a state of consciousness with a functioning heart, and developed cardiac arrest, while he was undergoing treatment for the cardiac ailment. I am returning the Indian Postal order to you which you kindly sent to me.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely


Indian Skeptic #13, pp. 28-35.

If the reader reaches the conclusion that the story of Walter Cowan's resurrection is false, the question then arises about how the false story may have come into circulation. Both Haraldsson and Premanand have speculations on this.

24 - Dr. Haraldsson's Hypothesis:

I have asked (over the phone) Judge Damodar Rao, a staunch devotee, about his involvement, since Dr Hislop's account reported that Judge Rao had interviewed Cowan's physician. He denied having made any investigation of this case. During our trip to India in 1975, Mr Eswar mentioned to Dr Osis that Sai Baba had told him `to play the case down'. Furthermore it is of interest that Kasturi refers only briefly to this incident in his official biography of Baba; he cites, without any comment, only a few sentences by Elsie and Walter Cowan (1982, p. 23). This may indicate that the case was primarily built up by Mrs Cowan and she may have received only a half-hearted consenting nod from others around her. (The Cowans were staunch American devotees and donated the most imposing college building in Whitefield.)

Haraldsson, Miracles Are My Visiting Cards, p. 248.

25 - Premanand's Response to Haraldsson's Hypothesis:

I am giving below some extracts from the article "Turn Over To Me" authored by N. Kasturi published in Sanathana Sarathi, Vol. 16, No. 4, June 1973, pages 120 to 125:

The attending physician of the hospital, is well known to Sri G. K. Damodara Rao, Retired District & Sessions Judge. He told the Judge that Walter was indeed dead, when he examined him shortly after arrival. There was no sign of life. He said that he pronounced Walter as dead, that his ears and nose were stuffed with cotton, and that Walter was covered with a sheet and moved into an empty room. The doctor had then left the hospital on some professional duty and had missed seeing Sri Baba, when Sri Baba was in hospital. When the doctor returned to the hospital, Walter was alive.

I saw Sri Baba at his place of residence after he had returned from the hospital, continues Dr. Hislop. He told me and others within hearing that Walter Cowan had died and that the hospital had stuffed his ears and nose, and covered him with a sheet. Sri Baba said that he had brought Walter back to life.'

...Now again, let us see what Kasturi said about this incident in Sathyam Sivam Sundaram Part IV in first edition, 1980, page 179:

They asked Baba, "Baba, on what basis do you grant grace to persons?" Baba took the question very cooly and expounded his reply: "I grant Grace when the person has fully surrendered to me and the situation is such that he will be greatly helped. At Madras Walter had three attacks of heart failure, full and fatal, but I saved his life all the three times, for I wished to save Mrs. Cowan the pain and bother of taking her husband back home dead.

Quoted from Indian Skeptic No. 3 July 1988 pp. 30-32.

As I mentioned in the previous section, Hislop is the major proponent of this anecdote in North America. David Lane is a researcher and editor of the journal mentioned below in Hislop's letter. He is broadly sympathetic with religious aims and is concerned to separate the unreliable from the more reliable forms and claims of religion. When he read Haraldsson's book, he wrote Hislop, and Hislop gave this response.

26 - Hislop's Response to David Lane, 17-7-88:

Mr. David Christopher Lane
Del Mar Press
Del Mar CA 92014

Dear David:

It was very kind of you to send me the Research Issue of your most excellent journal UNDERSTANDING CULTS AND SPIRITUAL MOVEMENTS. Many thanks...

Dr. Heraldsson's conclusion is that the story is false because there is no objective evidence that Cowan died, and that statements made about the incident are themselves false. On the other hand, unless I am to be considered as either lying or in error when I quoted Sathya Sai Baba, there is the other side. Since I did quote Sathya Sai Baba correctly there being several conversations between us on the topic it really boils down to the issue of whether or not Sathya Sai Baba was lying. Dr. Heraldsson's conclusion has to be taken, I believe, that because of statements made by the hospital's doctor and by Judge Damadar Rao the proper conclusion is that Cowan did not die and therefore Baba lied when he told me (and others) that Cowan had died and had been brought back to life, not once only but on three occasions. I do not see how this inference can be escaped...

Two points placed into emphasis by Dr. Heraldsson were the denials of the doctor at the hospital in Madras, and the denial of Judge Damadar Rao. Mrs. Cowan told me that the doctor came to her at her hotel and demanded that she provide him with a ticket and with sponsorship to the USA. This she would not do and according to her, the doctor's denials arose thereafter. Judge Damadar Rao is a fine Indian gentleman, respected and admired by everyone who knows him. His son is the Principal of the Sathya Sai Men's College at Whitefield. The Judge and his Wife, long-time devotees of Sathya Sai Baba, are now living their retirement years in Baba's Ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam, at Puttaparthi. I do not see how Judge Damadar's statement and mine can ever be reconciled. When Dr. Heraldsson asked the Judge, some thirteen or fourteen years after the incident, the Judge's memory was as stated in Dr. Haraldsson's book. When I set forth my account, about a month after the event, my memory was that the Judge told me he had independently gone to the hospital the day following Cowan's death and verified the circumstances of his admittance to the hospital. How can I now deny my memory of that time, and how can the Judge deny his present memory? Neither is possible. Each of us is saying the truth to the best of his knowledge. Thus, I can see no end to the different stories about Walter Cowan's `resurrection'....

Thanks again for the Journal, and for our past communications.

Sincerely yours,
Dr. John Hislop

Letter to David Lane, 17-7-1988.

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