Uddhav’s cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj stood by him in support as Thackeray’s mortal remains were consigned to the flames.
Uddhav was an epitome of composure and dignity as he lit the funeral pyre of his father. He had earlier broken down at the beginning of the funeral procession.
Amidst the chanting of holy mantras, while conducting the last rites, Uddhav led Raj by his hand, implying they be together during the sad moment, just as his father wished since the past few months.
However, only minutes before the funeral pyre was lit, Raj broke down, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
The public cremation of Thackeray is a first for Mumbai and he was cremated with full state honours, including a gun salute.
A sea of humanity poured out on all roads leading to Dadar’s Shivaji Park in central Mumbai where the funeral procession reached seven hours after it started from Matoshri, the Thackeray residence seven kms away.
Loud roars of “Parat ya parat ya Balasaheb parat ya (Come back, come back, Balasaheb come back), Kon ala re, kon ala Shiv Senecha wagh ala (Who has come, who has come, Shiv Sena’s tiger has come)” and “Balasaheb amar rahe” (long live Balasaheb) rent the air as an emotional Uddhav, the youngest son of the departed leader and Sena’s executive president, lit the pyre.
Thackeray’s personal physician Jalil Parkar was present during his last rites all throughout. It was a rare honour for this Muslim doctor who had come to be an important fixture of the Thackeray family. Parkar has been the personal physician of the family since the last four years.
Many VVIPs including businessmen, politicians and members of the Hindi and Marathi films industries marked their presence to pay their final tribute to Thackeray. Senior leaders from all regional and national political parties were present to pay their last respects to the leader popularly known as The Tiger.
Security arrangements at levels never before seen were put in place since Saturday. According to conservative estimates by the Mumbai police, over 19 lakh people, including those gathered at the Shivaji Park, bid adieu to Thackeray. Around two lakh people followed Thackeray’s funeral procession.
According to Mumbai Police, lakhs of people, including those gathered at the Shivaji Park where the body will be kept and later cremated, had come out to to pay their last respects to Thackeray, who died at 86 Saturday afternoon due to prolonged illness.
The Shiv Sainiks were pouring into Mumbai in their thousands from Maharashtra’s Thane, Raigad, Pune, Aurangabad and Konkan regions — the bastions of the right-wing party founded by Thackeray on June 19, 1966.
Police said around two lakh people were travelling with the procession and many others were joining it from connecting roads with the sea of humanity stretching for several kilometres.
People were also trying to catch a glimpse of the leader’s body from rooftops, hoardings, trees, water pipes and parapets.
As the procession reached a connecting road in Mahim, many Muslim women were seen silently weeping.
At the Mahim Church, many church-going people were waiting to join the final journey of the leader whose political career spanned five decades.
Wrapped in the tricolour, Thackeray’s body was brought out of his house a little after 9 a.m.
His son Uddhav broke down before the procession started. A glass box carrying the Sena patriarch’s body was then loaded onto a truck decked with flowers.
Uddhav, wife Rashmi and son Aditya were on the truck with Thackeray’s nephew and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj, wife Sharmila and their children.
Raj later disembarked and walked behind the truck with the funeral procession, keeping a low profile and eyes firmly on the ground.
Thackeray’s cortege will first go to Sena Bhavan, the party headquarters in Dadar, and the body would later be kept at Shivaji Park for people to pay their last respects.
However, the procession was moving extremely slowly with police trying to avoid a stampede.
Over 20,000 policemen, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of Rapid Action Force had been deployed on the procession route, said a police officer.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh even cancelled his daughter’s wedding reception Sunday.
After allowing thousands of Shiv Sainiks to pay their respects to Thackeray, the body will be taken to Shivaji Park and kept for a public ‘darshan’.
All major roads and public places wore a deserted look, barring some security vehicles. Restaurants, shops and other establishments remained closed. Over a lakh autorickshaws and around 60,000 black and yellow taxis were also off the roads.