Mumbai bids tearful farewell to Bal Thackeray, city shuts down

Nov 19 2012, 10:27 IST
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The body of 86-year-old Sena leader was taken out of his residence 'Matoshree'. (Reuters) The body of 86-year-old Sena leader was taken out of his residence 'Matoshree'. (Reuters)
SummaryBal Thackeray's funeral procession, dubbed as one of the biggest in recent times, began today.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak's in 1920.

Governor K Sankaranarayanan and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan placed wreathes on the Sena patriarch's body.

A contingent of Mumbai police gave a gun salute and buglers sounded the last post, a rare honour for somebody who never held any official position.

Even as elsewhere Mumbai turned into a ghost city with not a taxi or an autorickshaw in sight and markets, restaurants, cinema theatres and muliplexes closed, the Bandra-Shivaji Park stretch came alive with slogan-shouting Sena supporters.

As the firebrand leader's final journey began from "Matoshree", his son Uddhav could not control emotions and broke down atop the flower-bedecked truck carrying among others his wife Rashmi and sons Tejas and Aditya, the 'Yuva Sena' chief.

Conspicuous by his absence from the truck carrying a massive poster of Thackeray against the image of the tiger, the Sena's symbol, with saffron flags aflutter, was his nephew and MNS boss Raj Thackeray who chose to walk some distance with the mourners before taking care of arrangements for the funeral at Shivaji Park.

As the procession inched towards "Shiv Sena Bhavan", the party headquarters, tens of thousands supporters and onlookers lined the streets, balconies and flyovers, with many clambering atop lamp posts and trees to catch a sight of the leader. Many showered the mourners with flower petals.

It took the cortege nearly 8 hours to cover the 10 km stretch between "Matoshree" and Shivaji Park.

The cortege made a brief halt at "Shiv Sena Bhavan", built by Thackeray in 1977, where his body was kept for top party leaders to pay homage to the Shiv Sena patriarch. It was out of bounds for the common Sena workers.

The pyre was erected on a platform at the very place from where Thackeray addressed Shiv Sena workers during his famous Dussehra rallies and where he delivered his first speech to his rabble-rousing supporters after the launch of the party on June 19, 1966 (rpt 1966).

In a touching gesture, the doctors who made a failed attempt to save Thackeray's life and who looked after him for years, were the first to pay floral tributes to him when his body draped in national flag and sporting a red Tilak and trademark dark glasses was kept on a stage before the final rites were performed.

Thackeray's servant Thapa, stood along with Uddhav and Raj, Sena patriarch's estranged son Jaidev and grandsons, as the family, united in grief, acknowledged condolences.

Raj, who had walked out

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