Mumbai: Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray was laid to rest as his mortal remains were consigned to the flames on Sunday evening at his final resting place—Shivaji Park here, from where he had launched the Shiv Sena 46 years back.
A contingent of Mumbai police gave a 21-gun salute and buglers sounded the last post in the state funeral, a rare honour for someone who had never held any official position.
Loud roars of "Parat ya parat ya Balasaheb parat ya (Come back, come back, Balasaheb come back), Kon ala re, kon ala Shiv Senecha wagh ala (Who has come, who has come, Shiv Sena`s tiger has come)" and "Balasaheb amar rahe" (long live Balasaheb) rent the air as an emotional Uddhav, the youngest son of the departed leader and Sena`s executive president, lit the pyre.
Amidst the chanting of holy mantras, while conducting the last rites, Uddhav led Raj by his hand, implying they be together during the sad moment, just as his father wished since the past few months.
However, only minutes before the funeral pyre was lit, Raj broke down, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
In a spontaneous outpouring of grief, a sea of humanity, unprecedented in recent memory, descended on the streets leading from "Matoshree", Thackeray`s Bandra home, along the 10 km stretch to Shivaji Park, to catch the last glimpse of the uncrowned king of Mumbai.
Bal Thackeray, 86, died on Saturday afternoon due to prolonged illness. The cremation ceremony happened in the presence of a huge crowd, according to news reports.
Thackeray, who was critically ill since last Wednesday, was declared dead last afternoon by Dr Jaleel Parkar who was treating him. The Sena chief had been suffering from respiratory problems and pancreatic disease.
Lakhs of people, including Shiv Sena supporters, thronged the funeral procession of party chief Bal Thackeray today.
According to Mumbai Police, lakhs of people had come out to pay their last respects to Thackeray.
A stream of eminent personalities from politics, films and corporate world also reached the historic Shivaji Park ground here to attend the last rites of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
NCP chief and Union Minister Sharad Pawar, BJP veteran LK Advani, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, megastar Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Anil Ambani arrived at the sprawling ground in Dadar, which is a few metres away from the Sena headquarters.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BJP leaders Maneka Gandhi and Shahnawaz Hussain, senior Congress leader Dr DY Patil and Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Eknath Khadse too were present at the funeral venue.
Union Minister Praful Patel, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, VHP leader Pravin Togadia, Congress leader Rajiv Shukla and Maharashtra PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal were also present.
Bollywood actor Nana Patekar alongside actor-director Mahesh Manjrekar and Riteish Deshmukh were also present.
The cortege of the Sena patriarch reached the Shivaji Park ground after over six hours long journey in the presence of lakhs of Shiv Sainiks and his followers.
Earlier in the day, the cortege had arrived at Sena headquarters Sena Bhavan at 3 pm, after departing from Shiv Sena chief`s residence, `Matoshree` in the morning.
After allowing thousands of Shiv Sainiks to pay their respects to Thackeray, the funeral procession headed towards the Shivaji Park and was kept for a public `darshan`.
His son Uddhav broke down before the procession started. A glass box carrying the Sena patriarch`s body was then loaded onto a truck decked with flowers.
Uddhav, wife Rashmi and son Aditya were on the truck with Thackeray`s nephew and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj, wife Sharmila and their children.
Raj later disembarked and walked behind the truck with the funeral procession, keeping a low profile and eyes firmly on the ground.
However, the procession was moving extremely slow with police trying to avoid a stampede.
A three-tier security comprising the Mumbai police, the Rapid Action Force and party volunteers were deployed to make sure that the funeral procession moved without any untoward incident.
Over 20,000 policemen, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of Rapid Action Force had been deployed on the procession route, said a police officer.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh even cancelled his daughter`s wedding reception Sunday.
All major roads and public places wore a deserted look, barring some security vehicles. Restaurants, shops and other establishments remained closed. Over a lakh autorickshaws and around 60,000 black and yellow taxis were also off the roads.
With PTI inputs