Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, often described in political circles as the uncrowned king of Mumbai, was given a tearful farewell by an ocean of followers, sympathisers and friends on Sunday evening.
Thackeray, 86, passed away on Saturday after nearly four months of illness at his Bandra residence, Matoshree, following a cardiac arrest.
Uddhav Thackeray, son of Bal Thackeray, carries flowers past his body during his funeral in Mumbai. PTI Photo
Thackeray was cremated with full state honours at the historical Shivaji Park in Dadar — the same place where he launched Shiv Sena and addressed a number of rallies. Thackeray’s last rites were performed by his son Uddhav. The Thackeray family and several national leaders, including union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and BJP veteran L K Advani were at the funeral.
Amitabh Bachchan with Anil Ambani arrive at the funeral of Bal Thackeray in Mumbai. AP Photo
As Thackeray’s body was brought from Matoshree to Shivaji Park, thousands joined the procession. The turnout at Shivaji Park was unprecedented, probably the biggest the city has ever seen for the funeral of any public personality. Police estimated that more than 5,00,000 people were present at Shivaji Park.
Since it was a Sunday, Mumbaiites chose to remain indoors. Autorickshaws remained off the roads but suburban trains and BEST buses plied, which helped commuters.
Udhav Thackeray (front left) gestures next to his father's body during his funeral in Mumbai. HT/Vijayanand Gupta
The funeral also brought together estranged cousins — Thackeray’s younger son and Sena’s executive president, Uddhav, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief, Raj. Uddhav took Raj along before he lit his father’s pyre.
The state government made an exception by allowing the last rites at the famous cricket nursery. BJP president Nitin Gadkari and party leaders, such as Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Menaka Gandhi were present. Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayan and CM Prithviraj Chavan and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan were in attendance. Anil Ambani, Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt also shared their grief with the Thackeray family.
Profile: Bal Thackeray | The man and his moods | Secrets | Milestones | Tiger's tale: Lata Mangeshkar | Raghu Rai | Aroon Tikekar | Sharad Pawar | Thackeray's funeral procession begins