Mumbai bids tearful farewell to Bal Thackeray, city shuts down

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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.

The mortal remains of Bal Thackeray, a Hindutva mascot and flagbearer of Marathi pride, were consigned to flames as lakhs of mourners joined the Shiv Sena founder's grieving family to bid him a tearful farewell, with the city observing a virtual shutdown.

In a spontaneous outpouring of grief, a sea of humanity, unprecedented in recent memory, descended on the streets leading from "Matoshree", Thackeray's Bandra home, to Shivaji Park, to catch the last glimpse of the uncrowned king of Mumbai.

As several times in life, the Thackeray phenomenon was in evidence once again in death as he brought Mumbai to a halt with all marketplace, from the swanky malls to the tiny tea stalls and 'paan-beedi' kiosks, closed and all roads leading to "Matoshree", Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar and Shivaji Park, where his last rites were performed.

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.

In a reflection of the respect Thackeray commanded across the board, a galaxy of politicians, from allies to rivals, film stars to captains of industry were attendance.

Those present included long-time political rival and personal friend Sharad Pawar, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, senior party leader L K Advani, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Singh Chauhan, and Union ministers Praful Patel and Rajiv Shukla.

Superstar Amitabh Bachchan, with whom Thackeray shared a long-standing bond, actor Nana Patekar, filmmakers Madhur Bhandarkar and Mahesh Manjarekar, industrialists Anil Ambani and Venugopal Dhoot and Zee's Subhash Chandra reached Shivaji Park hours ahead of the funeral.

Ex-Sena leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who got Thackeray arrested after becoming NCP's Deputy Chief Minister and home minister in a little known case after a bitter fallout, and Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, who also broke away from the saffron party, were among those present.

In a measure of respect and influence Thackeray commanded over generations of Maharashtrians, the government allowed his funeral to take place at Shivaji Park, never a venue for such events, and accorded him a state funeral, the first public funeral after

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