Mumbai had seldom witnessed a public cremation of this grandeur since Independence. As Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s mortal remains were consigned to flames at Shivaji Park in Dadar on Sunday evening, seasoned observers opined that only Dr B R Ambedkar’s funeral in 1956 was of a similar scale.
It would have been a futile exercise to estimate the crowd that had turned up in large numbers at Shivaji Park for the cremation. According to police officials, people from different parts of Maharashtra and outside had turned up for the funeral that largely went peacefully.
The ground in central Mumbai,which is spread over 27 acres, was overflowing, and the crowd spilled into the adjoining roads and bylanes.
The government gave Thackeray full state honours--his coffin was covered in a Tricolour pall,and the funeral rites were accompanied by the melancholic strain of the police band and the 21-gun salute.
The sandalwood pyre was lit by his son Uddhav and cousin Raj lend a helping hand in performing the last rites.
The cremation took place nine hours after the funeral procession had left the deceased’s residence in Mumbai. The procession was to commence its journey at 7 am, but a delay of two hours occurred, on account of the police trying in vain to clear the roads that were chock-a-block with mourning people. Placed in a glass casket Thackeray’s body was dressed in his signature saffron attire and goggles.
While Uddhav and his family members were on the hearse, a garlanded truck, Raj preferred to walk.
Although most shops and establishments were closed, people residing en route were graceful enough to serve water for the crowd in the procession.
It took about four hours, the average time being 25 minutes, for the procession to cover the distance to reach Shivaji Park. Thackeray’s body was kept in the open until 5 pm to facilitate the public to pay their last respects.
Politicians and celebrities across India, cutting across party lines,had come in to attend Thackeray’s funeral.
The prominent members from the Opposition BJP included senior leader L K Advani, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitely, Gopinath Munde and Maneka Gandhi.
Also present were Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, state Congress president Manikrao Thakare and Congress leader Rajiv Shukla.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, along with his daughter Supriya Sule and Union Minister Praful Patel, attended the funeral.
Prominent industrialists who attended the funeral included Anil Ambani, Venugopal Dhoot and Subhash Chandra. Amitabh Bachchan who had shared a very special friendship with Thackeray also paid his last respects.