“Balasaheb Thackeray amar rahe (Balasaheb Thackeray will be immortal),” chanted the crowd at Shivaji Park where the Shiv Sena chief was cremated with full state honours on Sunday.
It was the first public cremation on the ground, where the party held its first public rally on October 30, 1966. In death as in life, the Sena chief demonstrated his hypnotic appeal as lakhs of supporters from across the state thronged Shivaji Park for a final darshan of their saheb. Many Thackeray loyalists started queuing up at the ground from Sunday morning carrying photographs, saffron flags and placards.
When the funeral cortege finally reached Shivaji Park at 4.59pm after an eight-hour journey from Matoshree in Bandra East, Uddhav, aided by the priests, began the final rites .
The Thackeray clan — Uddhav’s wife Rashmi and sons Aditya and Tejas, Thackeray’s nephew Raj Thackeray, his wife Sharmila and children Amit and Urvashi and Thackeray’s son Jaidev — stood near by. Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayanan paid his respects to the Sena chief, followed by other dignitaries including NCP chief and union minister Sharad Pawar and former deputy prime minister LK Advani.
As people tried to get close to the enclosure for a closer darshan of their saheb, and the police and volunteers had a tough time reining them in.
After the police gave a 21-gun salute to the Sena chief, and the bugles were blown and mantras chanted, each of the family member touched Thackeray’s feet for the last time.
As sandalwood logs were being kept on the Sena chief, his supporters begged him to return by chanting: “Parat ya, parat ya, Balasaheb parat ya (Balasaheb, come back).”
Uddhav lit the pyre at 6.25pm bringing an end to an era in Maharashtra’s sociopolitical history.