Thousands of people gathered outside the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters on Friday morning to pay homage to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ahead of his state funeral at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the banks of the Yamuna later in the day. The poet-politician, Vajpayee, 93, passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) last evening after prolonged illness. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and party workers also paid last respects to the late leader.
Slogans of “Atal Bihari Amar Rahe” reverberated as a decorated gun carriage carrying the mortal remains of the former PM left his residence at Krishna Menon Marg at around 10 am and reached the party’s headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, about five kilometres away, around 11 am. The funeral procession will leave the BJP headquarters at 1 pm and the last rites will be performed at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal at 4 pm.
What is Smriti Sthal?
It is the designated spot for the last rites of presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers. The Smriti Sthal is a common memorial site that was proposed following concerns over shrinking land resources in the capital. The construction of Rashtriya Smriti Sthal near Rajghat for performing the last rites of departed national leaders was approved by the Union Cabinet in May 2013. It was built at the Samadhis Complex near Ekta Sthal in the national capital.
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Smriti Sthal history and significance
The government had taken the decision of not creating more memorials in 2000 but it took 13 years to earmark a single place for such leaders. Before that, separate memorials were created for national leaders near Rajghat.
The decision to make Smriti Sthal was taken as VVIP samadhis including Rajghat, Shanti Van, Shakti Sthal, Veer Bhumi, Ekta Sthal, Samta Sthal and Kisan Ghat occupied more than 245 acres of prime land in Delhi. The construction was completed in 2015 and former prime minister PM Narsimha Rao was the first one to get a “samadhi” at Smriti Sthal, even though his family had to wait for 10 years.
Former prime minister IK Gujral was also cremated at the Smriti Sthal in December 2012.
Arrangements for Atal Bihari Vajpayee funeral
The funeral procession will go through Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Delhi Gate, Netaji Subhash Marg, Nishadraj Marg and Shanti van before reaching Smriti Sthal, Delhi Traffic Police said in a tweet. His last rites will be performed on an elevated platform, surrounded by greenery, at the national memorial located between those of former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Shanti Van’ and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s ‘Vijay Ghat’.
In view of the funeral procession, several roads in the national capital have been closed for the public later in the day.
Places to avoid
The police had blocked some roads from 8 am including Krishna Menon Marg, Sunehri Bagh Road, Tughlak Road, Akbar Road, Tees January Marg, Man Singh Road, Bhagwan Dass Road, Shahjahan Road and Sikandara Road. It said that DDU Marg, IP Marg, BSZ Marg (from Tilak Bridge to Delhi Gate), JLN Marg (from Rajghat to Delhi Gate) will also be closed.
The commuters have been advised to use Aurobindo Marg, Safdarjung Road, Mother Teresa Crescent, Park Street, Mandir Marg to travel between north and south Delhi. Those travelling between east and west Delhi can use Vikas Marg, Shahdara Bridge and Wazirabad Bridge to reach Ring Road.