Mumbai keeps its calm, family its unity as Bal Thackeray gets a state funeral
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As Mumbai came to a standstill, over 4.50 lakh Shiv Sena supporters converged at Shivaji Park on Sunday to catch a last glimpse of Bal Thackeray, who passed away on Saturday following a cardiac arrest.
Though the city's arterial railway line was operational, road and trains remained deserted and traffic flow was slow. However, contrary to apprehensions, no untoward incidents were reported from anywhere.
The mass leader was given a state funeral, with his body wrapped in the Tricolour and a 21-gun salute — a first in Maharashtra for a politician who never held any government or official post and rank. It was also the first time that a cremation was held in open ground in Mumbai in full public view since 1920, when social leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak had been laid to rest at Girgaum Chowpatty.
The centrally located, iconic Shivaji Park was the same ground from where Thackeray, who died at the age of 86, had launched his party espousing the cause of the "Marathi manoos" over 40 years ago. He also used to address the party's annual Dussehra rally here.
If there was one sight that must have gladdened the hearts of his many followers, it was cousins Uddhav and Raj Thackeray talking to each other and sharing their grief next to the pyre. An emotional Raj broke down and was seen wiping his tears.
The last rites were performed largely by Thackeray's youngest son and the party's executive president Uddhav. However, he was joined often by his elder brother Jaidev, apart from cousin Raj and Thackeray's grandsons.
Uddhav lit the sandalwood pyre around 6 pm under the guidance of six pandits, led by Gurunath Watve and spiritual leader Bhaiyuu Maharaj.
Top political leaders, including the NCP's Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, Congress leader Rajiv Shukla, and the BJP's Nitin Gadkari, L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Maneka Gandhi were present. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, late Vilasrao Deshmukh's sons Amit and Riteish attended the cremation. Former Sena leader and now PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal laid a wreath in the evening.