Bal Thackeray's funeral the first on public ground since 1947

Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray's funeral at the historic Shivaji Park ground here was the first at a public space in Mumbai since independence.

"As far as I know, this is the first time since independence that a person has been cremated at a public platform in the city," 83-year-old former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Ribeiro said.

Before Independence, freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak had been cremated at the famous Girgaum Chowpatty in south Mumbai on August 1, 1920.

Anticipating massive crowds, the Maharashtra government allowed the last rites of 86-year-old Thackeray to be performed at Shivaji Park, where he had addressed his followers on numerous occasions for over four decades.

The pyre was erected at the same place where the stage was set up for Thackeray's Dussehra rallies which he rarely missed.

Thackeray had missed the last such rally of his life on October 24 when he addressed his supporters through a video that gave hints of the firebrand leader's failing health.

"I have physically collapsed. I am not even able to walk and have to breathe hard while speaking," he said in his address.

He had also made an emotional appeal to the party cadres to stick with his son, Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray, and grandson Aditya, who heads the "Yuva Sena".

"People should keep their loyalty intact (towards Shiv Sena)... You took care of me, now take care of Uddhav and Aditya," he had said.

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