Gandhian and social worker of international repute, Murlidhar Devidas alias Baba Amte was given a state funeral at his Anandvan ashram on Sunday morning in presence of thousands of his admirers and mourners from across Maharashtra.
A 21-gun salute to late Baba Amte was given as his mortal remains were lowered in a grave near the bamboo plantation in the ashram complex amidst a solemn atmosphere, highly charged with emotions. Mourners raised slogans like 'Baba Amte amar rahe' (Baba Amte will be immortal) and 'Bharat Jodo' (unite India).
His wife, Sadhnatai, sons, Dr Vikas and Dr Prakash, their spouses and grand children stood in grief as the nation mourned the loss.
Amte passed away on Saturday at 4.15 am due to a type of blood cancer. He was 94.
Earlier, the body wrapped in tri-colour was kept in an open area near his cottage for mourners to pay their last respect. It was taken to the burial site in a decorated vehicle.
Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh led the entire state and country in paying homage to the departed leader. He was accompanied by state agriculture minister Balasaheb Thorat and dairy development minister Anees Ahmed and a host of VVIPs and others.
Deshmukh, Thorat and Ahmed placed a wreath to pay homage to the departed leader and a recipient of the state government's highest award - Maharashtra Bhushan - in 2004.
Chandrapur district Congress president Naresh Pugalia, Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari, former union minister of state for finance Shantaram Potdukhe, and former state minister Sulekha Kumbhare were among those present on the occasion.
As per Amte's wish, his body was buried near the bamboo plantation in Anandvan premises. A large number of inmates of the ashram, people from nearby areas, Gandhians and those associated with his 'Bharat Jodo' movement were present for the funeral.
Speaking to newspersons at Anandvan, Deshmukh recalled the contribution of Amte in social service and particularly for inculcating a sense of pride among leprosy patients to live with dignity and self-respect.
"We will provide all necessary support to Amte's family in completing the work and mission of the late leader," Deshmukh said.
"Though the work of Amte was bigger than the award (Maharashtra Bhushan), he humbly accepted it, hereby making it (award) much bigger," Deshmukh added.