The last journey of AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, whose body was laid in state in Chennai's Rajaji Hall, began on Tuesday evening, even as a galaxy of stars from all walks of life gathered in Chennai to bid goodbye to the powerhouse of Indian politics. The funeral procession began from Rajaji Hall to the Dr MGR Meorial site off Marina beach where she will be buried.
Her long time friend and political aide Sasikala, who was seen standing next to her casket through the day, performed her last rights.
Television visuals showed the procession move through a sea of supporters who have descended upon the city to pay tribute to their leader who died on Monday night.
As condolences poured in from far and wide after the actress-turned-politicians's death last night, the body of Jayalalithaa, which was draped in her favourite green saree, was taken from her Poes Garden residence early this morning to Rajaji Hall where tens of thousands of people queued up to have a last glimpse of their 'Puratchi Thalaivi Amma' (Revolutionary Leader Amma).
Before the funeral procession began, leaders from across the country paid tribute to her at the Rajaji Hall.
Leaders travel to Chennai to pay tributes:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among scores of political leaders who were headed to Chennai to pay tributes to the 68-year-old AIADMK chief.
As the casket carrying the body of six-time chief minister was placed on the steps of Rajaji Hall, in the heart of the city off arterial Anna Salai, four Army men covered it with the national Tricolour.
Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and his ministerial colleagues, MPs and MLAs and senior state government officials were among the first to pay homage to Jayalalithaa, who passed away at the Apollo Hospitals here at 11.30 last night after waging a grim battle for life since her hospitalisation on September 22. The inconsolable Panneerselvam allegedly broke down while PM Modi was paying tributes to her.
Jayalithaa's long time confidante Sasikala Natarajan stood close to the casket.
While President Pranab Mukherjee was supposed to attend her funeral, his flight had to return after a mid-air snag.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who paid rich tributes to Jayalalithaa in Tamil on Twitter could not attend the event because of flights not being available. She sent TMC MPs Derek O'Brien and Kalyan Banerjee instead.
Was very eager to be present but flight availability/timings from Kolkata not making it possible 2/3— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 6, 2016
Odish Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who gave a moving speech about Jayalalithaa in the state Assembly, said last night that hr would be attending the AIADMK supremo's funeral, said that she was the leader of the masses and had made an immense contribution to the development and welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu.
Former Prime Minister HD Devegowda was also one of the dignitaries who paid tributes to Jayalalithaa. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also paid tributes to her in Rajaji Hall:
Another former prime minister who paid tributes to her was Manmohan Singh. "I join millions of admirers of Jayalalithaji in mourning her sad and untimely demise. She was a charismatic leader who will be remembered forever as the beloved Amma by the people of Tamil Nadu. She was an outstanding leader who was passionately devoted to the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu," he said.
The rivalry between DMK and AIADMK was put to rest when party leader MK Stalin paid floral tributes to her. Stalin had also tweeted put expressing grief over Amma's death.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi landed in Chennai late on Tuesday afternoon to pay respects to Jayalalithaa:
Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is also going to be in Chennai to pay tributes to Jayalalithaa. Balakrishnan will be travelling with his Ministry officials, a government statement said.
Sea of supporters bid goodbye
Cries of "Amma" rent the air as the public filed past taking a last glimpse of their beloved leader from a distance away from the stairs, where the Tamil Nadu Ministers were seen seated.
Jayalalithaa's body was first taken to her Poes Garden residence in the early hours and then brought to the Rajaji Hall.
After Jayalalithaa's body was brought to the Rajaji Hall, the crowd could be seen swelling by the minute and the heavy posse of police personnel deployed there were finding it very difficult to control them. Emotional scenes were witnessed as several women were seen wailing and thumping their chests.
Security beefed up, Chennai at standstill
Security has been beefed up at the venue where people lined up to bid a tearful adieu to their 'Amma' (mother) as Jayalalithaa was fondly called.
Public transport services, including autorickshaws, were off the roads while some private vehicles were seen plying in various parts of the city where police personnel kept a tight vigil at vantage points.
A near total shutdown like situation prevailed in the city and several several other parts of the state since last evening itself.
(With PTI and ANI inputs)