Bal Thackeray funeral: Shivaji Park sees Raj, Uddhav, moment
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Gurdev Kaur said, "I wanted to come here (Shivaji Park) before I went to the gurudwara."
After a seven-hour train journey from Solapur, a group of 70 Sena followers of over 20 years arrived at the park at 4.30 on Sunday.
A group of youngsters from Ratnagiri, members of Yuva Sena, felt they had to be present to say final goodbyes to their idol. Among them, Gaurav Joshi (20) said: "There was magic in Balasaheb's speeches. He was our deity."
Women supporters, placing the funeral above household chores, arrived in droves. Two women from Kalyan said they had ventured alone and taken the first train to be at Shivaji Park at 5 am.
"We have been outside Matoshree for three days. We love Balasaheb as much as anybody else does, but all the attention is given to VIPs and we feel left out," said Hema Thombre.
Shivaji Park, otherwise a sports ground, and also Sena's Dussehra landmark for Thackeray's fiery speeches, was in a sombre mood with spiritual songs reminding the reason for the congregation.
At 2 pm, with the funeral procession still midway, Shiv Sainik Vinay Raut came on stage and estimated the crowd to be around 20 lakh. "Like all of you here, they are watching the leader for one last time, as they wait in balconies, across lanes, atop bus stops, and electric poles."
He was true on the emotion, but not on the count. The official estimate of the crowd inside the ground, between 5 pm, when the body was finally brought in, and 6 pm, when the pyre was lit, was around 5 lakh.