The victim of a gangrape and murder which triggered an outpouring of grief and anger across India was cremated at a private ceremony on Sunday, hours after her body was flown home from Singapore.
The cremation plans were kept a secret till the last moment as police apprehended a large gathering may cause problems.
Fearing law and order problems, authorities also wanted the last rites to be performed at 6.30am but their plans did not go through as Hindu traditions did not allow cremation before sunrise.
At 7.30am, the emotional father of the victim, who fought a brave battle for life for 13 days, lit the funeral pyre in the presence of her brothers, relatives and others.
Police had approached the officials of New Indian Education and Cultural Society running a crematorium in Dwarka at around 10pm on Saturday and told them to arrange for cremation at 6.30am on Sunday.
"We were told about the victim. We made arrangements. Our priest Vijender Sharma guided the rituals.
"The cremation was planned at 6.30am but as per Hindu traditions, we cannot conduct such rituals before sunrise. So we had to wait till 7.30am," Sunil Kumar, manager of the society, said.
After performing rituals at home, the body was taken to the crematorium in an ambulance with similar security arrangements.
A senior police official said the security arrangements were made to ensure that the cremation takes place peacefully.
There were violent protests last weekend following the gangrape and brutal assault on the 23-year-old girl.
The family and relatives were brought to the crematorium in a bus accompanied by police.
At the crematorium, the entrance was blocked for public and media.
Police had approached the government on Saturday and proposed that the body be taken directly to Ballia in UP via Lucknow or Varanasi but the government decided against it, sources said.
"I came because I really loved this girl. She was the brightest of all the girls in our neighbourhood," said Meena Rai, who was a close friend and neighbour.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the main ruling Congress party, were at Delhi airport to console the parents as they arrived home on a chartered plane with their daughter's body.
An ambulance transporting the body of the gangrape victim is seen outside her residence in New Delhi. AFP
Both Singh and Gandhi spoke to the family members and consoled them.
The body was then taken to Mahavir Enclave residence where the girl lived and religious rituals were performed before taking it to the crematorium at Dwarka Sector 24 amid heavy deployment of Delhi Police and RAF personnel.
The cremation took place under a dense cover of fog.
Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit, minister of state for home affairs RPN Singh, West Delhi MP Mahabal Mishra, Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta were also present during the cremation.
A special aircraft of Air India carrying the mortal remains of the victim, who died in Mount Elizebeth hospital on Saturday morning, landed at IGI airport in New Delhi at around 3.30am on Sunday.
The girl, a physiotherapy student, was gangraped and brutally assaulted allegedly by six men in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16 night. She died on Saturday morning.
While undergoing treatment at Safdarjung hospital, she was shifted to the Singapore hospital for further treatment.
The aircraft AIC-380A took off from Singapore at around 12:30am local time (10:00pm IST Saturday), Indian high commission officials said.
On the chartered plane, sent by the government, were her family members who have been in Singapore since the girl was brought to the hospital in an extremely critical condition.
The victim, who underwent three surgeries, had damaged internal organs in the assault. She also suffered a cardiac arrest and brain injury.
Police have slapped murder charges, which has death penalty in rarest of rare cases, against the six accused and will file the chargesheet against them on January three.
Investigators said they will seek the harshest punishment for the culprits.
(With AFP and PTI inputs)