Lakhs of grieving men and women on Tuesday bid a tearful adieu to J Jayalalithaa, the charismatic Chief Minister who held sway over Tamil Nadu politics for more than three decades with a pro-poor image, as the AIADMK supremo was buried here with full state honours.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, his counterparts from several states, Governor Vidyasagar Rao, DMK leader M K Stalin and superstar Rajnikanth were among the dignitaries who paid homage at Rajaji Hall where the body of 68-year-old Jayalalithaa lay in state since early morning.
Sasikala Natarajan, the close confidante of Jayalalithaa for over three decades, was beside the body throughout the day and later conducted the religious rituals before the sandalwood casket was lowered at a site close to MGR memorial on the shores of Marina beach.
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No sooner had the brief rituals concluded at around 6 PM, the casket carrying the mortal remains of the five-time chief minister was lowered after a gun salute amid emotional chants of ‘Amma Vazhga’ (Long Live Amma) by a sea of humanity which had converged at the burial site.
Various leaders including Naidu, Rao, Gandhi, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Paneerselvam, Speaker Dhanapal and former Governor K Rosiah placed wreaths at the feet of the body that was draped in a silk saree in her favourite green colour and a sandalwood garland placed around her neck.
Earlier, thousands of people hailing ‘Puratchi Thalaivi Amma’ (Revolutionary Leader Amma) walked with the cortege that was part of a military convoy in which her coffin was carried, wrapped in the national flag and covered with flowers.
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Amid heavy security cover, the funeral procession made steady progress to the destination, a distance of three km from Rajaji Hall in the government estate, passing through Madras University and the burial site opposite the British-era iconic PWD building.
Big photographs of Jayalalithaa, an actor-turned-politician, were placed all around the coffin even as people showered the hearse with flowers, as Sasikala accompanied the body.
With the Central government ordering a state funeral, personnel from the three armed forces paid their respects and gave a guard of honour before Sasikala conducted the last rites with the aid of a Brahmin priest.The rituals include sprinkling of water, offering of rice, showering of flower petals and sandalwood pieces.
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Jayalalithaa, a spinster who never shied away from flaunting her religious identity and beliefs, was surprisingly buried and not cremated. She was laid to rest by the side of her mentor and actor-turned politician M G Ramachandran, a former chief minister.
Lakhs of people had packed the area around Rajaji Hall where men and women wept in grief as they attempted to reach the body of their Amma or “mother”.The mortal remains of Jayalalithaa was earlier taken from her Poes Garden residence to Rajaji Hall, hours after she died at a private hospital late last night after battling for life for 75 days.
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Modi flew in from Delhi to pay his homage to Jayalalithaa with whom he enjoyed a personal rapport. The prime minister consoled a teary-eyed Sasikala and placed his hand over her head.
At the burial site, the pit where Jayalalithaa’s mortal remains were lowered was filled with sand and mud amid showering of flowers.
This was preceded by offering of milk and holy water on her body.
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Then nails were hammered on the coffin that was engraved with the words ‘Puratchi Thalaivi Selvi’ in Tamil, before being lowered.
Jayalalithaa’s body was also covered with an AIADMK party flag red and white in colour with an image of Dravidian ideologue and former Chief Minister C N Annadurai.
En route the funeral procession, those on board the cavalcade showered flower petals all along even as AIADMK workers and supporters walked along chanting “Puratchi Thalaivi Amma Pugazh Onguga” (Let the reputation of Revolutionary Leader Amma grow).
Emotional men and women thronged terraces of high rise buildings and on both sides of the road, for having a last glimpse of the departed leader that was being taken in a long cavalcade of several vehicles besides the gun-carriage.
Amid tight security, which included the deployment of armed reserve and rapid action forces, the procession wound its way to the famous Marina Beach peacefully.Tens of thousands of party workers and common people had gathered at the MGR memorial site there, waiting patiently for several hours to witness the burial ceremony.
Those who paid homage to the late leader at Rajaji Hall, included Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Governor P Sathasivam and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda.
A host of film personalities, including superstar Rajinikanth, actors Sarath Kumar, Sivakarthikeyan, Dhanush, actress Gauthami, besides veteran artistes who had worked with Jayalalithaa decades ago, also paid their last respects.Visiting Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also paid his last respects.