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  1. Jayalalithaa death: Amma not cremated; here may well be the reason why

Jayalalithaa death: Amma not cremated; here may well be the reason why

Former actress, politician and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa died yesterday at the Apollo Hospitals after fighting for weeks to overcome an ailment that started with dehydration and fever. The lifelong fighter that she was, this was one battle she was fated to lose.

By: | Updated: December 7, 2016 9:47 AM
Family friends of India's Tamil Nadu state former Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa adjust a cloth around her face where her body is kept for public viewing outside an auditorium in Chennai on Tuesday. Jayalalithaa, the hugely popular south Indian actress who later turned to politics and became the highest elected official in the state of Tamil Nadu, died Monday. She was 68. (AP) Jayalalithaa death: V Sasikala, the close aide of Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa adjusts a cloth around her body, kept for public viewing at Rajaji Hall in Chennai on Tuesday. (PTI )

Former actress, politician and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa died yesterday at the Apollo Hospitals after fighting for weeks to overcome an ailment that started with dehydration and fever. The lifelong fighter that she was, this was one battle she was fated to lose. After her death was announced, Jaya was taken back to her plush Poes Garden residence in an ambulance that was part of a multiple-vehicle convoy. Next day, crowds were allowed to file past her body at the Rajaji Hall in order to say a last farewell to their departed leader. However, through the political drama, in which O Panneerselvam was made the new Chief Minister of the state, what was on every fan’s mind was, what will the authorities and Sasikala Natarajan, her closest aide, as well as senior AIADMK leaders decide to do with the body. Cremation was the most obvious answer. But the reality on the ground was different, not least because of what Jayalalithaa had herself so frequently enunciated but also because of the legacy she would leave behind and what had transpired previously in the cases of the iconic MGR and other leaders.

Jayalalithaa was a leader of Dravidians, but she prayed often. She was a believer, not an atheist. Her core beliefs were the reason why the people of Tamil Nadu loved her so much. Their love for her transcended everything. Her forehead was graced by the Iyengar Namam and she carried it proudly. For an Iyengar, cremation is a must. But that was not what was decided by all concerned. An official tasked with the job of handling the funeral sought to explain why.

In a reaction carried by The Indian Express, he said, “She was not an Iyengar for us. She was beyond any caste or religious identity. Even most of all the Dravidian leaders, including Periyar, Annadurai and MG Ramachandran (MGR), were all buried and we do not have a precedent of consigning their body to flames even after death. So, we bury them with sandalwood and rose water.”

This very fact also ensures there is a physical memorial in place that hosts the mortal remains of the dear departed leader that fans can relate to. While for atheists there is no belief in god, but that space in the mind is filled by the physical presence of a memorial. That’s the way the reasoning goes.

There may well have been other reasons. A political analyst told IE, “Since she was a believer, it is obvious that people expect her being cremated after death. But they need a blood relative to light the funeral pyre. The only blood relative left for Jayalalithaa here is Deepa Jayakumar (daughter of Jayakumar, Jayalalithaa’s late brother). It is obvious that Sasikala clan doesn’t want to entertain Deepa anywhere near the funeral procession fearing a potential challenge.”

Deepa, lives in the UK, but has been in India for weeks, but was not being allowed to see Jayalalithaa even though she made multiple trips to Apollo Hospitals.

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