Sri Chinmoy, the internationally renowned peace leader and spiritual teacher has died. He was 76.

The Indian philosopher, who counted the musician Carlos Santana among his followers, died the day before the Nobel Committee was to announce if he had won this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

He died of a heart attack at his modest home in Queens, New York, on Thursday.

Hailed as a modern day renaissance man, Sri Chinmoy was nominated for the Nobel in recognition of his "ceaseless work for the United Nations" for more than 30 years.

His Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles Worldwide Humanitarian Service sends food and medicine to the poor and needy around the world.

A group of followers had gathered outside his home after news of his death broke, all clad in white saris of mourning. One said: "You can't imagine the love he had for everyone. That's how he'll be remembered."

Disciples from all around the world have also started arriving at the Queens Sri Chinmoy Centre which is to become the focus for an eight-day vigil of silent meditation, song and poetry recitation.

He was born on August 27, 1931, the youngest of seven children born to a banker and his wife in a village in south India. Orphaned at the age of 11, Sri Chinmoy travelled with his six brothers and sisters to a spiritual community in south India, where he spent the next 20 years in prayer and meditation.

He left for the US in 1964, made New York his home, took a job as an assistant to the Indian Consulate and began teaching and giving lectures.

Over the years he attracted disciples who established Sri Chinmoy Centres for meetings and meditation in more than 350 cities and towns in the US, Europe, Australia, South Africa and the Far East.

A champion of interfaith harmony, Sri Chinmoy was beloved by religious leaders such as Mother Teresa, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama.

Of his contributions to peace, President Nelson Mandela wrote: "It is a very rare gift indeed for humankind to be blessed with such a selfless individual who has dedicated his entire life to the service of world peace."

Chinmoy wrote more than 1600 books of prose and poetry, composed more than 20,000 pieces of music, and was an avid runner, tennis player and champion weightlifter.