BANGALORE: A milling crowd of quiet mourners paid its last respects to Kannada literary colossus U R Ananthamurthy on Saturday.
He was cremated with full state honours amid Vedic chants at Kalagrama, on the Jnanabharati campus of Bangalore University.
His mortal remains, wrapped in the Indian tricolour, were given a gun salute by the police. The flag draped around his body was then handed over to his son-in-law Vivek Shanbhag.
The Jnanpith awardee was cremated in the presence of his wife Esther, daughter-in-law Jyotsna, daughter Anuradha, brother Anil Kumar and a host of relatives. The final rites were performed in accordance with Madhwa traditions. Earlier in the day, Muslim and Christian priests also offered prayers, as was desired by Ananthamurthy. A team of 15 priests performed the last rites, with Ananthamurthy’s son Sharat lighting the funeral pyre.
His body reached Kalagrama at 2.30 pm in a flower-bedecked vehicle. Earlier, at Ravindra Kalakshetra, many VIPs joined the crowd to pay their last respects.
It took till 3 pm for the state honours to be completed, and Sharat then began performing the last rites, lighting the pyre at 4.15 pm.
BJP national vice-president B S Yeddyurappa and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah arrived at Kalagrama at 3 pm. Ministers Umashree, Ambareesh,
T B Jayachandra and U T Khader accompanied the CM. Many political, literary and film personalities remained at Kalagrama till the body was cremated.
The police had made massive security arrangements at Kalagrama, restricting entry to the spot. Seating arrangements had been made for 2,000, about 50 metre from the pyre.
Admirers waited patiently in a long queue to pay their respects to Ananthamurthy at Ravindra Kalakshetra earlier in the day.
Religious heads, political leaders, theatre and film artistes, writers and many others stood in silence, awaiting their turn to approach his mortal remains. The body was brought to Ravindra Kalakshetra from Ananthamurthy’s house at 10.40 am, but people had begun arriving as early as 8.30 am.
Elderly people, young mothers with babies in their hands and physically-challenged people waited without a word of complaint in a queue that extended all the way to the entrance of Town Hall. After Siddaramaiah paid his respects at 11 am, citizens were allowed to see the body.
The mourning was peaceful, with no chaos or confusion anywhere. One DCP, two ACPs, eight inspectors, 200 constables and two battalions of the Karnataka State Reserve Police were on duty. Singers presented the compositions of various Kannada poets.
State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities K S Rajanna, who is physically challenged, too stood in queue. “I have read all his books. He is an inspiration,” he said.