Mumbai: Bal Thackeray was cremated on Sunday at Shivaji Park, where he launched the Shiv Sena 46 years ago at a massive rally on Dussehra. Nearly two lakh people, including several big names, gathered at the sprawling ground as Mr Thackeray was consigned to flames. (Pics)
The Shiv Sena chief died on Saturday afternoon, after a prolonged illness at the age of 86. (Read more)
As son and successor Uddhav lit the funeral pyre, nephew Raj, with folded hands, looked on while a sea of supporters bid farewell to Mr Thackeray. Earlier, Raj, who is the chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), was inconsolable as the last rites were being performed. Uddhav's wife Rashmi and son Aditya were also among those present from the Thackeray family during the cremation. (Follow our special coverage here)
Mr Thackeray was given full state honours - a contingent of Mumbai Police gave a 21-gun salute and buglers sounded the last post in the funeral. The Shiv Sena had earlier obtained permission to perform Mr Thackeray's last rites at the park at 6 pm. This was the first funeral to be held at Shivaji Park; the ground had special significance for Bal Thackeray, who launched his political party here in 1966. (Read: Thackeray's cremation marks a first for Mumbai) It was the venue for many of his rallies over the years, including his last public address on Dussehra this year, when he spoke to the crowd through a recorded video message.
Among the other notable names who were present at the famous ground for the funeral include Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and Union Minister Sharad Pawar, BJP veteran LK Advani, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, megastar Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Anil Ambani. BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union Minister Praful Patel, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, VHP leader Pravin Togadia were also also present at the venue. Bollywood actor Nana Patekar alongside actor-filmmaker Mahesh Manjrekar and Riteish Deshmukh were also present. (See Pics)
The presence of Bollywood stars, important politicians and industrialists at the funeral and earlier at Mr Thackeray's residence in great numbers over Wednesday and Thursday last week signalled that despite his divisive politics, the Sena chief commanded the attention of virtually every camp in the city. (Read: The legacy of Bal Thackeray)
Earlier on Sunday, Mr Thackeray's body was carried in a hearse on a flower-bedecked truck in a funeral procession that began at 9 am from his Bandra home 'Matoshree', finally culminating at Shivaji Park a little before 5 pm. Lakhs of grieving Sena supporters from across Maharashtra walked all along the procession route which saw massive security - a three-tier security comprising the Mumbai Police in the first layer, the Rapid Action Force (RAF) in the second and party volunteers making up the third. The body was taken to Mahim Causeway, then to Sena Bhavan, the Shiv Sena headquarters in Dadar, to Meena Tai statue in Dadar and finally to Shivaji Park. Raj Thackeray had reportedly got down the truck midway to walk the distance during the procession. (In Pics: Bal Thackeray's final journey)
Security was tight, with all of Mumbai's 48,000 policemen deployed; Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh cancelled his daughter's wedding reception as he was busy with security detailing.
At every 100 metres along the route of the funeral procession, 25 policemen were deployed. The police had issued a traffic advisory and suggested that people stay home, unless absolutely necessary. "I appeal to people to remain calm and maintain law and order," the Mumbai Police Commissioner said.
Taxis and autorickshaws that were off the roads yesterday in Mumbai will ply normally today, as also buses run by BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport) and trains. (Read)
Meanwhile, most schools in the city as also across Maharashtra are likely to remain shut today.
(With PTI inputs)