Jayalalithaa buried near MGR Memorial in Chennai, thousands bid teary adieu
Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa was buried at Chennai’s Marina beach with state honours on Tuesday, with a sea of weeping mourners paying an emotional farewell to the former movie star who enjoyed almost god-like status in the state.india Updated: Dec 06, 2016 23:17 IST
Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa was buried at Chennai’s Marina beach with state honours on Tuesday, as a million weeping mourners paid an emotional farewell to the former movie star who enjoyed almost god-like status among admirers.
Jayalalithaa’s body, draped in her favourite green saree and kept inside a sandalwood coffin, was lowered into the ground just after sunset. Her long-time confidante Sasikala Natarajan carried out the last rites, sprinkling rose petals, milk and holy water.
Politicians and close friends looked on sombrely, some teary-eyed, others with folded hands. As a military band played the Last Post after a gun salute, the departed leader was laid to rest next to her on-screen lover and political mentor MG Ramachandran.
People clambered onto statues, trees and roadside stalls that lined the Marina beach, eager to view the cortege – an army truck bedecked with two tonnes of flowers – which took more than an hour to cover about 3-km from a public hall to the burial ground.
The 68-year-old politician, whose life in the limelight began as a teenage film actor, was buried -- instead of being cremated like most Hindus – in keeping with a practice by Dravidian party leaders.
Top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and film celebrities flew to Chennai to attend the funeral. Jayalalithaa was hospitalised on September 22 with a fever, dehydration and respiratory infection. She died shortly before midnight on Monday.
Earlier in the day, people thronged the British-era Rajaji Hall where Jayalalithaa’s body was kept for people to pay their respects. Thousands of police formed chains to stop the heaving crowd from surging up its steps. Men and women wept, some breaking into loud, hysterical wails. Several mourners fainted from the heat and dehydration.
“I came from Madurai,” said N Duraimurugan, a 47-year-old party worker. “She was our Amma. How could I not be there for her now?”
Major towns and cities in the state, including Chennai, came to a grinding halt with schools, offices and shops closed. Chennai’s auto and IT industries, the power behind the state’s growth engine, were also shut as the state declared seven-day mourning.
More than 5,000 police were deployed across Chennai. But, apart from scuffles at Poes Garden, Jayalalithaa’s neighbourhood, early on Tuesday morning, there have been no incidents of violence so far.
Prime Minister Modi was among the first few leaders to pay their respects to the departed politician. President Pranab Mukherjee’s arrival was delayed after his plane developed a technical snag and returned to Delhi. He later reached Chennai in another plane. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was also present.
“Jayalalithaa ji’s connect with the citizens, concern for welfare of the poor, the women and marginalized will always be a source of inspiration,” Modi said.
In New Delhi, lawmakers observed a minute’s silence before both houses of Parliament were adjourned for the day in respect for the AIADMK leader, a former member of Rajya Sabha.
Jayalalithaa leaves behind a legacy of populist schemes, including giving away free cellphones, laptops and kitchen grinders that endeared her to millions of voters. She also drew foreign investors to India’s second largest state economy.
She defended the giveaways as welfare measures aimed at helping the poor. She herself was known for leading an extravagant lifestyle, and had twice been jailed for corruption.
Born as J Koamalavalli on February 24, 1948, in what is now Karnataka, the former child actor was given the nickname Jayalalitha, a blend of the names of both her grandparent’s residences. She reportedly added an ‘a’ on advice from a numerologist.
It was a name that would go on to dominate Tamil politics for almost three decades.