India bids farewell to its tallest leader Vajpayee

The mortal remains of India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee were cremated with full state honours at Rashtriya Smirti Sthal on the banks of Yamuna River in New Delhi on Friday evening.

Political leaders and other dignitaries from India and abroad watched as Vajpayee’s foster daughter Namita Bhattarcharya performed the last rites for him amid the chanting of funerary hymns by Hindu priests.

Earlier in the day, the mortal remains of Vajpayee were brought to the headquarters of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which he helped to found in 1980.

Thousands of people made a beeline to the party office to pay their respects to the former poet-statesman.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and several union ministers and party leaders walked silently behind the flower-decked gun carriage carrying Vajpayee’s casket (pictured – Credit: PIB) as it slowly made its way to the Smirti Sthal. Modi ignored the security protocol by joining the funeral procession as Vaypayee meant a lot to him.

A large number of mourners on the other side of the road accompanied the cortege. Many showered lotus petals on the casket.

By the time, the funeral procession reached the Smirti Sthal, most political leaders cutting across party lines and foreign dignitaries had occupied their seats awaiting the ceremony to follow.

President Ram Nath Kovind led top Indian leaders in paying last respects to Vajpayee at Smirti Sthal. Among foreign dignitaries who paid tributes to the departed leader were Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, and acting Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Lakshman Kiriella.

The tricolour that was draped over the mortal remains of Vajpayee was folded and handed over to his granddaughter Niharika.

After a brief ceremony in Hindu tradition led by priests, the mortal remains of Vajpayee were consigned to the flames amid a 21-gun salute.