Thousands of devotees today thronged the Ramakrishna Math and Mission headquarter at Belur in Howrah district to pay their last respect to its president Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj whose last rites will be performed later tonight. It is scheduled to start at the Math premises at around 9.45 pm after puja offerings and other rituals, a Mission official said. As a part the 98-year-old Swamy's final journey, his body would be taken to various spots in the temple complex including the house where he used to stay. The pyre has already been made beside the river Hooghly inside the complex for his mortal remains to be consigned to flames after a joint gun salute by Kolkata Police and West Bengal Police. Atmasthanandaji, who had been suffering from old-age related ailments since February 2015, breathed his last at a city hospital yesterday evening. Meanwhile, people from all walks of life stood since morning in a long queue which was heading towards 'Sanskriti Bhawan', a building inside the sprawling premises of the headquarter, where the monk's body was laid for the public to pay their last respect. Besides them, VIPs were also seen at the Belur Math, the gates of which remained open since last night. Howrah District Magistrate Chaitali Chakraborty placed a wreath on the monk's body on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who considered him as his 'guru'. Modi, who got spiritual guidance from Swami Atmasthananda in Rajkot and described the monk's death as his "personal loss", had visited the ailing Swami on April 17 last year. Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy, West Bengal ministers Rajib Banerjee, Arup Roy, Lakshmi Ratan Shukla, Trinamool Congress MP Prasun Banerjee, BJP leader Locket Chatterjee and other prominent personalities also paid their last respect to the monk. A tight security arrangement has been made by the police in view of the gathering of thousands of devotees in the complex. Outside the complex, vendors were having a brisk business selling wreaths, garlands, flowers.
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