Bugles sounded the last post, uniformed soldiers clicked their heels and a sombre silence fell over the crowd as former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's mortal remains were consigned to the flames on Friday evening, the sun setting on the life of a poet-politician who combined accommodative politics with graciousness.ALSO READ: Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee passes away at 93; India mourns its loss
Foster daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya lit the pyre as cries of "Atal Bihari Amar Rahe" reverberated.India's top leadership, foreign dignitaries and the common man mourned Vajpayee's death and bid an emotional farewell to the former prime minister who was one of the most-loved leaders in decades and had acceptability across a diverse ideological spectrum. Chief ministers, opposition leaders, chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force, governors and a host of other dignitaries attended the funeral of Vajpayee at Rastriya Smriti Sthal, a picturesque cremation site at the heart of the capital. President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, BJP president Amit Shah, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, veteran politician L K Advani, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Army chief General Bipin Rawat, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa and Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba laid wreaths. ALSO READ: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, more than a rare 'Ajatshatru' in Indian politics Other attendees of the funeral included Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Union ministers Harsh Vardhan, Ram Vilas Paswan, Shripad Naik and Piyush Goval. Chief ministers, including Yogi Adityanath, Nitish Kumar, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Vijay Rupani also attended the funeral. Foreign dignitaries such as Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Afghan politician Hamid Karzai and Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali also paid last respects to the leader. Other political leaders at the funeral were Congress president Rahul Gandhi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal and Congress leader Raj Babbar. The country bid farewell to its political icon amid a light drizzle. Scores of people gathered at Smriti Sthal to pay their respects to the tall leader, who was cremated with full state honours. Vajpayee, 93, died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here last evening after a prolonged illness.
Amid sultry weather conditions, thousands of people walked along the over seven km-long route with some showering petals at the carriage. Heavy security was deployed along the route of the procession.During the procession, people chanted slogans like "Atal Bihari Amar Rahe" as Vajpayee's cortege made its way from the BJP headquarters to the cremation ground. Last night, Vajpayee's body was taken to his official residence on Krishna Menon Marg from AIIMS where he was admitted in June. Police have made elaborate security arrangements for the funeral procession, officials said. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's ashes will be immersed in rivers in all the districts in Uttar Pradesh, the state government said today. The UP government put out a list of 75 districts and the small and big rivers picked for the immersion of the ashes of the Bharatiya Janata Party leader who was cremated in New Delhi today. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced this was being done because Uttar Pradesh was Vajpayee's 'karmabhoomi' - the land of action - and its people will get an opportunity to be part of his final journey. Vajpayee represented the state's national capital in the Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms. He was elected from the Lucknow constituency in 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. The Bharatiya Janata Party's city unit will organise a condolence meeting on August 21, when Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the current MP from Lucknow, and other leaders will pay homage to Vajpayee.