A large crowd gathered at the Congress headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday to bid farewell to four-time Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran, with party president Sonia Gandhi also paying her last respects to the veteran leader who died at the age of 92 a day earlier.
Karunakaran's last journey began from the capital city - a place where he ruled the roost for almost four decades - Friday morning as his body was moved in a state-owned bus to the party headquarters from where it would journey through many towns before reaching Thrissur for his cremation a day later.
Sonia Gandhi, who arrived by a special flight, spent around five minutes paying homage to Karunakaran and conveyed her condolences to his family. Home minister P Chidambaram also paid his last respects to the Congress leader.
Karunakaran breathed his last at a private hospital at 5:30 pm on Thursday. Thousands poured on to the streets as the body of his body was taken from Ananthapuri Hospital, where he was admitted Dec 10, to his home less than 10 km away in a closed ambulance as news of his death spread rapidly.
Just as he knew every nook and corner of the city, people from all walks of life from every part of the state capital filed past his body throughout Thursday night to pay homage to Kerala's undisputed Congress leader.
At 8:15 am Friday, his body was moved to the party headquarters where a huge crowd was waiting to have a last glimpse of the veteran. Karunakaran's body will be taken to the Durbar Hall in the State Secretariat.
By noon, his journey will begin to his hometown Thrissur where he will be cremated Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to attend the last rites.
Party officials said all efforts are being made to see that the funeral procession makes brief stops at major towns like Kollam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam for people to pay their respects.
As a mark of respect to the departed leader, the state government has declared a public holiday on Friday and all university and state public service examinations and interviews has been postponed.
Karunakaran's condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator. His condition improved in a few days but he suffered a stroke Wednesday. He died at 5:30 pm on Thursday. He is survived by his politician son K Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja Venugopal.
Karunakaran's death has cast a shadow of sorrow on Kerala, almost eclipsing the Christmas spirit and joy.