Chennai, December 6 (NIA): Even though she was an Iyangar Brahmin , former Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa was buried and not cremated on Tuesday. This was because she was the head of a Dravidian political party, the All India Dravida Munnetra Lazhagam(AIADMK), which believes in the revival of Dravidian practices pre-dating Vedic Aryan influences on Tamil Nadu.
Though she was a practicing Hindu believing in its rituals, the AIADMK decided to bury rather than cremate her to make an important political statement – to assert the Dravidian character of the political party she headed. The performance of Hindu rituals at the funeral and a cremation would have sent out a politically embarrassing message to the Dravidian polity which is highly competitive.
Her mentor and former Chief Minister M.G.Ramachandran (MGR) was also buried even though he was a Malayali Nayar who ought have been cremated as per Nayar practice. So was former Dravida Munnetra Kazhagan (DMK) leader and Chief Minister C.N.Annadurai.
J Jayalalithaa’s grave is on the Marine beach alongside the spot where MGR was laid to rest.
“Going by practice, Jayalalithaa, a Tamil Iyengar Brahmin, was supposed to be cremated. It was rather surprising as to why she was buried,” said G Venkataraman, an Iyengar Brahmin told the media.
Two reasons are being cited for the burial: tradition and politics.
“In Dravidian culture and tradition, Brahminical rituals are a strict no, and people don’t care for gods and similar symbols. That’s why Dravidian leaders don’t attach much importance to such rituals,” said Prof Aarasu of the Tamil department in Madras University.
Personally, Jayaalithaa was a believer in Hindu rituals, but she was also the leader of a Dravidian party which would have decided to make a political statement by opting for burial over cremation. The party owes its origin to the E.V.Ramaswamy “Periyar” movement that was anti-Brahminical both culturally and politically, Prof.Arasu said.
“Since the party was deciding on these matters, it was a burial,” he added.
Jayalalithaa was laid to rest with state honors as a million weeping mourners paid an emotional farewell to the former movie star who enjoyed almost Goddess-like status among admirers.
Her body, draped in her favorite green saree and kept inside a sandalwood coffin, was lowered into the ground just after sunset. Her long-time confidante Sasikala Natarajan carried out the last rites, sprinkling rose petals, milk and holy water.
Politicians and close friends looked with a somber look. Some were teary-eyed. Others wailed inconsolably.As a military band of the Madras Regiment played the Last Post after a gun salute, the departed leader’s body was lowered into the grave.
People clambered onto statues, trees and roadside stalls that lined the Marina beach, eager to view the cortege – an army truck bedecked with two tons of flowers – which took more than an hour to cover about 3-km from a public hall to the burial ground.
Jayalalithaa was hospitalized on September 22 with a fever, dehydration and respiratory infection. She died shortly before midnight on Monday.
More than 5,000 police were deployed across Chennai. But, apart from scuffles at Poes Garden, Jayalalithaa’s neighborhood, early on Tuesday morning, there have been no incidents of violence so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first few leaders to pay their respects to the departed politician. President Pranab Mukherjee’s arrival was delayed after his plane developed a technical snag and returned to Delhi. He later reached Chennai in another plane. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was also present along with Chief Ministers of several states.
“Jayalalithaa ji’s connect with the citizens, concern for welfare of the poor, the women and marginalized will always be a source of inspiration,” Modi said.
In New Delhi, lawmakers observed a minute’s silence before both houses of Parliament were adjourned for the day in respect for the AIADMK leader, a former member of Rajya Sabha.