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Balasaheb: Tiger goes silent
Published: 2012-11-19 15:49:40
Amid chanting of Vedic hymns, shouts of "Amar Rahe", a 21 gun salute and tears of countless followers and political heirs- son Uddhav and nephew Raj-, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was cremated at the Shivaji Park here after a daylong funeral procession that traversed across Mumbai, a city that the late Maratha pride champion almost controlled with iron hand for decades.

Son Uddhav Thackeray and nephew Raj Thackeray, who were seen burying their political animosity of late, were crying as the late leader was placed in the pyre prepared at the ground as a special case. Thackeray had launched the party 46 years ago at the same venue.

The funeral pyre was lit at around 6-16 pm by son Uddhav who also performed other rites. Lakhs of people stood in disciplined manner as lived their personal moments of grief as the flames consumed the mortal remains of Bal Thackeray.

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had also turned up at the funeral at Shivaji Park.

Earlier, the cortege of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray reached Shivaji Park for final tribute by people where Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, politicians Sharad Pawar and L K Advani and industrialist Anil Ambani joined lakhs of mourners, many teary-eyed, to bid farewell to the firebrand leader and self-styled champion of Marathi pride.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj were among present. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was also present.

Thackeray, whose body was kept in the park for homage before cremation, was given 21 gun salute as a giant poster of his hollering "Jai Maharashtra" overlooked the congregation of top leaders and celebrities of Mumbai and India.

Almost a who's who of big shots from different walks of life turned up, making the funeral as grand an occasion as his king size life as a Maratha strongman.

Congress leaders were also present at funeral. Actor Sanjay Dutt was also present. Dutts were particularly attached to Thackeray after the latter helped late Sunil Dutt free his son Sanjay from jail in the Mumbai blast case.

Nearly one million people accompanied late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's cortege as the truck carrying his body reached Shivaji Park, where he will be cremated.

The cremation will take place at 6 pm. The cortege reached Shivaji Park after a stopover at Sena Bhavan, the Shiv Sena headquarters at Dadar.

Shiv Sena activists showered flowers on the open truck carrying the body.

The cortege passed through several key roads of Mumbai, which is observing a near shut down, and reports said the number of people accompanying the hearse could be as high as one million.

Thackeray began his last journey from residence Matoshree to Shivaji Park shortly after 9.30 am on Sunday. The body was carried on an open truck decorated with flowers, saffron flags and huge posters of the leader.

His son Uddhav Thackeray, heir to his political legacy, was seen in tears as lakhs of people paid their homage to the leader who had made espousal of Maratha pride his political ideology.

Uddhav Thackeray's son Aditya and his wife Rashmi were also seen with the cortege.

Raj Thackeray, nephew of the late leader who later broke ranks to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), has also joined the funeral and he was for a while seen on the truck as well.

Thousands of people had gathered all along the way to catch a last glimpse of Thackeray.

Wrapped in saffron, the body was brought out of Matoshree, the late leader's Mumbai residence. It was soon wrapped in a tricolour.

Police were seen struggling to keep the thousands of supporters gathered outside Matoshree at bay as the body was being carried to the truck.

The body is scheduled to be kept at the park till 5pm and the funeral is expected to take place at 6pm.

Reports said 50,000 police personnel have been deployed in Mumbai to maintain law and order.

Thackeray died on Saturday after battling ailments for days, ending an era in Maharashtra and national politics in course of which many opposed to his functioning struggled to come to terms with his brand of firebrand nationalism. He was 86.

Police advised people to return and stay in their homes even as the Shiv Sena asked the public and its supporters to maintain calm.

Shops downed shutters and roads emptied out, as news of the death spread while many people were stranded on roads across the Maharashtra capital as the taxis and auto rickshaws also went off road.

More than 20 lakh people are expected to attend the funeral on Sunday.

Film screenings in city theatres and sports matches were cancelled on Saturday as soon as the news of Sena chief's demise spread.

As the end came at around 3-30 pm and the news was announced in the evening by his doctors, lakhs of his followers, many of whom called him the King of Hindu Hearts, broke down and grieved for the man who founded Shiv Sena in 1966 to enforce the rights of Marathi people in Mumbai and who left an indelible impact on national political architecture with plain speaking and espousal of national pride.

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