Chennai (PTI): A sea of humanity swamped the Rajaji Hall grounds here with people, cutting across religion, caste and age barriers, pouring in to pay their last respects to their beloved and revered leader J Jayalalithaa, whose body lay in state.
Amid the pall of gloom, people with teary eyes and crying inconsolably kept streaming into the Rajaji Hall, off the arterial Anna Salai in the heart of the city, to have a final glimpse of ‘Amma’ (mother as she was fondly called by her followers), who passed away last night.
All roads leading to the venue were bustling with crowds of people who did not mind taking a long walk with public transport, barring trains, remaining off the roads.
After Jayalalithaa’s body was brought to the Rajaji Hall, the crowd could be seen swelling by the minute and the heavy posse of police personnel deployed there were finding it difficult to control them.
The emotionally-charged sympathisers, including a large number of wailing women, tried to break the barricade as they surged while nearing the location from where they could have a direct view of their ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’, draped in her favourite green colour saree, forcing the police to use “mild force” to ensure nothing untoward happened.
The mourners were being allowed through two queues flanked by iron barricades to pass in front of Jayalalithaa’s body, which has been covered by the national tri-colour and placed on the top of the stairs leading to the heritage building.
People perched themselves at all vantage points, including the windows, sunshades and gates of the government Super Speciality Hospital, abutting the Rajaji Hall, and private buildings to take a glimpse of Jayalalithaa.
Men, women, children from different religions could be seen offering their last respects to the departed leader.
Life virtually came to a grinding halt here as the city woke up to deserted streets with shops, including eateries, remaining shut in the wake of the demise of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
Public transport services, including autorickshaws, were off the roads while some private vehicles were seen plying in various parts of the city where police personnel kept a tight vigil at vantage points.
A near total shutdown like situation prevailed in the city and several other parts of the state since last evening itself.
Even tea stalls, which usually do a brisk business in the early hours, remaining closed, mobile tea vendors could be seen dispensing the brew at some places. Hotels are also closed.
Suburban train services, however, were being operated in the city, albeit with lower passenger rush.
Long distance trains arriving at Chennai Central and Egmore stations were on time.
The state government has declared a holiday today for its offices and three-days for educational institutions as a mark of respect to the departed leader.
Meanwhile, the Tamil film industry announced cancellation of shootings scheduled for today. Theaters also cancelled shows.