The death of one of India’s most popular and controversial politicians, Jayaram Jayalalithaa has sparked mass mourning in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
As chief minister there several times, she attracted a cult following among supporters some of whom viewed the former film star almost as a goddess.
The 68-year-old died late on Monday after suffering a heart attack in the state capital of Chennai where she had been treated in hospital for over two months.
Tens of thousands of people gathered outside a memorial hall in Chennai, where Jayalalithaa’s body lay draped in the Indian flag. Many wailed and beat their chests in grief.
Security has been stepped up amid fears supporters would react erratically to her death.
“She was not only our leader, she was our god,” said Paasarai Jeeva, a woman who said she had
been camping outside the hospital for a week.
Despite corruption claims that saw her spend time in jail, Jayaram Jayalalitha – known fondly as ‘Amma’ or mother – remained hugely popular, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending her funeral on Tuesday.
“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.
State authorities have declared seven days of mourning for Jayaram Jayalalithaa who starred in more than 100 films from the 1960s.