Mumbai, Nov 18 (IANS) Lakhs of people paid last tributes to their beloved leader and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray here Sunday as his mortal remains were consigned to the flames. Thackeray's son Uddhav lit the pyre at 6.17 p.m.
Uddhav's cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj stood by him in support as Thackeray's mortal remains were consigned to the flames.
Uddhav was an epitome of compassion and dignity as he lit the funeral pyre of his father. He had earlier broken down at the beginning of the funeral procession.
Amidst the chanting of holy mantras, while conducting the last rites, Uddhav led Raj by his hand, implying they be together during the sad moment, just as his father wished since the past few months.
However, only minutes before the funeral pyre was lit, Raj broke down, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
The public cremation of Thackeray is a first for Mumbai and he was cremated with full state honours, including a gun salute.
A sea of humanity poured out on all roads leading to Dadar's Shivaji Park in central Mumbai where the funeral procession reached seven hours after it started from Matoshri, the Thackeray residence seven kms away.
Thackeray's personal physician Jalil Parkar was present during his last rites all throughout. It was a rare honour for this Muslim doctor who had come to be an important fixture of the Thackeray family. Parkar has been the personal physician of the family since the last four years.
Many VVIPs including businessmen, politicians and members of the Hindi and Marathi films industries marked their presence to pay their final tribute to Thackeray. Senior leaders from all regional and national political parties were present to pay their last respects to the leader popularly known as The Tiger.
Security arrangements at levels never before seen were put in place since Saturday. According to conservative estimates by the Mumbai police, over 19 lakh people, including those gathered at the Shivaji Park, bid adieu to Thackeray. Around two lakh people followed Thackeray's funeral procession.