Bal Thackeray's body will be consigned to flames on a specially-erected public platform at the historic Shivaji Park, south-central Mumbai, this evening, marking the first time a public cremation has occurred in Mumbai since independence.
Supercop and ex-Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Rebeiro said there had been no instance of a public cremation in Mumbai, at least since Independence.
"All big and small funerals have been performed only at the designated funeral sites. This is something new for Mumbai," Mr Rebeiro told IANS.
An official of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), who declined to be identified, said that special arrangements were made for the first-ever public cremation in the city at Shivaji Park in view of the massive crowds expected to attend.
A home department official said that in view of the huge crowds likely to turn up for the sad event, it was decided to permit a public cremation at Thackeray's favourite spot, Shivaji Park, which he always referred to as 'Shiv Tirth' (Shiv pilgrim centre).
According to Mumbai police estimates, around 15 lakh people are expected to take part in the cremation. Starting with a funeral procession from Bandra east, there will be several thousands of viewers lining the streets to witness the procession; around half a million are expected to gather around Shivaji Park.
This will make Thackeray's funeral one of the biggest public events in recent history; massive security arrangements are in place to ensure discipline.
Incidentally, last August, former union minister and ex-Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was accorded a similar public cremation in his home town of Latur.