It was 4 pm on Wednesday and time for the last of the tallest leaders in Tamil Nadu and the DMK patriarch Kalaignar Dr M Karunanidhi’s final journey to his place of rest. A gun-carriage drawn hearse bearing Karunanidhi’s coffin trudged through a sea of emotional mourners from Rajaji Hall in Chintadripet to the Anna samadhi at the Marina beach.
As the cortege moved down the Chintadripet-Wallajah Road, loud cries and grief hung heavy in the air in Chennai. While some attempted to move closer to the hearse, others simply waved their hands at their Kalaignar, one last time.
Karunanidhi’s family members, including MK Stalin and Kanimozhi, along with other key functionaries of the DMK party, followed the funeral procession, while MK Alagiri was overseeing works for the burial at the Marina.
As the burial spot for Kalaignar was being prepared at the Anna Samadhi, the DMK family members, party leaders and other dignitaries started occupying the seats at the canopies erected near the spot where the final rites would be performed.
TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N Chandrababu Naidu, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy, Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Union Minister Veerappa Moily, Union Minister of State Pon Radhakrishnan, TN Fisheries minister D Jayakumar and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien laid wreaths at Karunanidhi's coffin.
The former five-time Chief Minister was accorded all state honours which included the 21-gun salute by the armed forces. Jawans from all the three wings of the armed forces paid their respects to the leader.
The national flag was removed from the body, ceremonially folded and handed over to MK Stalin. MK Alagiri, Rajathi Ammal, Durga Stalin, MK Tamilarasu, Kanimozhi, Aravindhan, Kanthi Alagiri, Murasoli Selvam, Kalanithi Maran, Dayanidhi Maran, Karunanidhi's long-time aide Prof K Anbazhagan and other members of the family also paid their final respects to Karunanidhi by offering flower petals.
The family members broke down as they offered a handful of salt as part of the last rites.
At around 7 pm on Wednesday, as the sandalwood casket with the words 'He who laboured without rest, rests here now,' engraved in Tamil, was being lowered into the grave, loud chants of 'Dr Kalaignar Vaazhga' and 'Annavin thambiye, Vaazhgave' from the sea of supporters, gathered outside the memorial, filled the air.
After his demise was announced, the DMK supremo’s burial became the bone of contention on Tuesday evening as the Tamil Nadu government refused DMK’s request to allot land to bury him next to his mentor and former Chief Minister CN Annadurai, at Anna Square in Marina. However, after a special hearing on Wednesday morning, Madras High Court ruled that the leader will be buried at the Marina.
M Karunanidhi passed away on Tuesday evening in Kauvery hospital in Chennai due to age-related complications. He was 94 and was admitted to the hospital 12 days ago due to a sudden fall in blood pressure. He was later stabilised in the hospital but was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).