Assam bade an emotional farewell to its beloved former chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday, as his final rites were performed with full state honours at the Nabagraha Cremation ground in Guwahati.
Amid the chanting of hymns, preceded by a gun salute and band played by the Assam Police, the state's longest serving chief minister's mortal remains were consigned to flames by his son Gaurav Gogoi.
Gaurav, a Lok Sabha MP, wearing the traditional 'chelleng sador' (a shawl) and dhoti along with a face mask, lit the pyre after performing the rituals.
Gogoi's wife Dolly, daughter Chandrima, daughter-in-law Elizabeth and other family members placed sandalwood on the pyre before it was lit by Gaurav.
The 84-year old three-time chief minister, twice Union minister and six-time Lok Sabha MP, died on Monday following a nearly four-month battle with COVID-19 and related complications.
The last rites were performed according to Vedic rituals and prayers were also offered by Ahom priests, called Bailung, in Tai language as Gogoi belonged to the community, which had ruled the state for 600 years.
A group of Sikh priests also recited hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib and offered a shawl to the late leader at the cremation ground.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, senior Congress leaders, leaders of opposition parties and Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta were among others who laid wreaths on his body.
A huge contingent of party workers from his assembly constituency Titabor, which he represented for four terms till his death, and senior government officials also bade farewell to him.
The state government, which declared a half-day holiday from 1 pm on Thursday, had made arrangements for 1,000 people to attend the last rites of the Congress veteran.
Massive crowds had gathered outside the cremation ground and along the way through which the popular leader's cortege passed, while huge television screens were installed outside Nabagraha for the public.
Nestled on the foothills of the Nabagraha Hills with the River Brahmaputra flowing serenely, less than half a kilometre away on the northern side, the cremation venue is set amid sylvan surroundings in the heart of Guwahati.
The state's first chief minister Lokopriyo Gopinath Bordoloi was also cremated at Nabagraha, with a memorial dedicated to him in an area outside the main cremation ground.
The octogenerian leader's last journey began from Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, where people paid their last respects over the last two days, this morning, as he was taken to his official residence at the Minister's Colony at Dispur for rituals.
His wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and family members paid tributes at his residence before the journey continued to the cremation ground.
En route, the flower-bedecked vehicle carrying Gogoi, halted at a church in Rukminigaon, a Namghar (Vaishnav prayer hall) at Zoo Road, Burha Jame Masjid at Ambari, Ugratara Temple at Jorpukhuri area and Latasil Bihu field.
The former chief minister would often say, 'Moi namghar jau, girja, mandir aru masjido jau (I go to a Namghar and also to a church, temple and masjid)', and as per his wish, his last journey comprised a visit to these places of worship.
At the Latasil Bihu field, he was offered tributes with the traditional 'gayan-bayan' (prayers accompanied with musical instruments), flowers and the Assamese 'gamosa'.
Besides his son, the departed leader was accompanied on his last journey by Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president and Rajya Sabha MP Ripun Bora, Lok Sabha MP Pradyut Bordoloi, All India Congress Committee general secretary and party in-charge for Assam Jitendra Singh, among others.
Thousands of people lined up the streets and were seen atop buildings along the 30-km distance from Kalakshetra to Nabagraha, which took more than four hours, to get a last glimpse of Gogoi, as many tried to capture the moment in their mobile cameras and showered petals on him.