Vadodara came to a standstill on Friday as more than 15,000 of its dwellers lined the city's streets to bid adieu to Maharaja Shrimant Ranjitsinh Pratapsinh Gaekwad. He was laid to rest at Kirti Mandir, the royal family's cremation grounds.
Seventy-four year old Ranjitsinh breathed his last on Wednesday night, losing a longstanding battle to kidney ailments.
Admirers, well-wishers and even the commoner started pouring into Laxmi Vilas Palace since early on Thursday morning. More than 5,000 people including family, relatives, friends and public in general stood in the sweltering heat paying their last homage to Ranjitsinh.
As the mortal soul left his palace for the last time, his wife Shubhangini Raje was inconsolable. Members of royal families of Kolhapur, Satara and Jasdan supported her and the Gaekwad family in this painful loss.
For his last ride, Ranjitsinh was clad in royalty - in opulent robes and the traditional Gaekwadi red hat. Police band played dhoons as the funeral procession moved out of the palace. Barodians braved the 10 o'clock sweltering heat and lined the streets to bid the Maharaja their final good-bye. Water was provided to those who joined the journey to Kirti Mandir while makeshift sheds were erected for those paying floral tributes to him. Traffic was diverted along this route as the procession rolled from the royal palace to Kala Ghoda.
Ranjitsinh's body arrived at the cremation grounds at around 11:30am. Gaekwad family's Rajpurohit performed bhumi poojan and deh poojan before his son Samarjitsinh Ranjitsinh lit the pyre forty-five minutes past noon.
Among politicos, CM Narendra Modi and leader of opposition in Gujarat Assembly, Shaktisinh Gohil were present at the palace to pay their last respects to the Maharaja. Modi was also seen in a prolonged conversation with Ranjitsinh's son Samarjitsinh Gaekwad and elder sister Mrunalini Puar, who is chancellor - Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara.
"It is unfortunate that he is not with us in our celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Sayajirao Gaekwad," said Modi, at the palace.
"Ranjitsinh carried the baton of the rich tradition of art and culture of the Gaekwad rulers. Though he belonged to royalty, he led a simple life. Always soft-spoken but stood his opinion bravely and in an honest fashion," he added.
"He had such passion for fine arts that he remained devoted to the subject till his death. My prayers are with the Gaekwad family to give them strength in these trying times."
Ministers Bhupendrasinh Chudasama and Pradeepsinh Jadeja were present with the chief minister at the condolence meet. Gohil termed Ranjitsinh as the ideal Maharaja. "He connected himself with the public very well. I am fortunate to have worked with him," he said.