Why was Jayalalithaa buried, not cremated? A question of legal heirship? 

Jayalalithaa is a Tamil Iyengar Brahmin, and cremation is the funeral tradition followed by the community.

Published: 06th December 2016 07:55 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2016 12:42 AM   |  A+A-

Amidst tight security former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's coffin is being carried to the army truck. | EPS

Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's coffin being carried to the army truck | EPS

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The big question that lingered on everyone’s minds over J Jayalalithaa’s final rites was why she was buried, deviating from the Vaishnavite tradition of cremating the mortal remains.

Jayalalithaa is a Tamil Iyengar Brahmin, and cremation is the funeral tradition followed by the community.

When The New Indian Express asked the question to Devadhi Rajan Swamy, a priest at Agasthiyar Temple in T Nagar who performed the last rites of Jayalalithaa as followed by the Vaishnavite sect, he said the decision was in line with a Dravidian party tradition. “The party founder and Jaya’s mentor, MGR, was buried, when he passed away in 1987, so may be the decision-makers decided to go the same route, this time as well,” he told Express.

“It was the policy of Anna (C N Annadurai), as it goes beyond caste and culture,” he added.

The priest said that milk, navadanya (nine varieties of grains used in Hindu rituals), salt and several kilos of sandalwood were used along with sacred rose water as part of the rites. Sources said a small quantity of gold was also placed in Jayalalithaa's coffin.

Another priest from the same Vaishnavite sect that Express spoke to hinted that the rites as per traditions may have been conducted early in the morning at Jayalalithaa's residence itself. If the mortal remains were to be cremated, it is believed that the person lighting the pyre would be entitled to certain rights with regard to inheriting the properties of the deceased, he explained. This could possibly have been another reason why cremation was avoided, as Jayalalithaa, who has no biological heirs, is said to be estranged from her only brother’s family too. 

Despite this, it was her nephew, Deepak Jayakumar—her brother Jayakumar’s son—who was seen performing the last rites along with Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s close aide.  Deepak and Sasikala together placed sandalwood pieces in the coffin and sprinkled rosewater around the body. The coffin was also made of sandalwood.

The tradition of burying Dravidian party leaders seems to have begun with Late DMK leader C N Annadurai. A grand memorial was built at Marina Beach at the spot where he was buried. A memorial was also built adjacent to that of Anna for M G Ramachandran, who died while he was chief minister, in another December, 29 years ago.

The funeral rites of Jayalalithaa were performed around 6 pm, and the whole process took less than 30 minutes. Army personnel fired three rounds in the backdrop, as Jayalalithaa was buried with full state honours.

The atmosphere had turned heavy and emotion-laden when the cavalcade carrying the mortal remains arrived in the arena through the left gate around 5.40 pm. Chants of ‘amma amma’ engulfed the air. The national flag shrouding the leader was folded and handed to Sasikala, whom Jayalalithaa considered her closest friend and confidante, after which the last rites were peformed and the body lowered into the grave.
Top leaders cutting across party lines witnessed the funeral rites from the VIP gallery and offered floral tributes to the ‘iron lady’.


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