CM jayalalitha funeral attended by over 1 million Indians
CHENNAI: (APP) Hundreds of thousands of mourners paid an emotional final farewell Tuesday to Indian politician Jayalalithaa Jayaram as the former movie star who enjoyed god-like status was buried alongside her on-screen lover.
A day after the 68-year-old died following a massive weekend cardiac arrest, huge crowds lined the streets of Chennai as Jayalalithaa's coffin was taken to its final resting place in India's main southern city.
Mourners showered the glass coffin with flowers and clambered onto statues, trees and soft drinks stalls that lined the city's Marina beach to view the cortege. Television put the number of mourners at around one million.
Despite being twice jailed over allegations of corruption, the woman known simply as Amma, or mother, was a revered figure in her fiefdom of Tamil Nadu state and one of India's most popular and successful politicians as a populist champion of the poor.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Chennai to pay his respects, streams of her supporters lined up outside a hall in the city centre where her casket was on display, many wearing scarves with the red, white and black colours of her party.
"It is a very sad day. She was an essential part of the state. She was meant for greatness," said Christina Paun, a 34-year-old university professor who was among those queueing to pay their respects.
"She had a very difficult life in a male-dominated society but she was always different. She was always great."
Famed for a vast sari collection that won her comparisons with Imelda Marcos, Jayalalithaa was also one of India's most polarising politicians, seen by some as an autocratic and secretive leader.
But nothing could dent her popularity in Tamil Nadu, where she was elected chief minister on four occasions in a period when it became one of India's most prosperous states.
Jayalalithaa first made her name starring in movies alongside M. G. Ramachandran, who later became her political mentor before his death nearly 30 years ago.
Although most Hindus are cremated, she requested in her will that she be buried alongside her former co-star in his memorial building.
The pair were famously close and Ramachandran's death sparked a fierce battle between Jayalalithaa and his widow to inherit his political mantle.
As her coffin was lowered into the ground inside the mausoleum, thousands of petals were scattered on top.
Hundreds of devotees had kept a round-the-clock vigil outside the private hospital in Chennai -- the city formerly known as Madras -- since she was first admitted in September suffering from a fever.
When she first fell ill one supporter set himself on fire, while an elderly man suspended himself from a crane with steel hooks pierced through his skin.
"The people are very depressed. We were expecting her to recover even yesterday," said Manohar, a businessman who was among the queue of mourners.