Did you know that earlier today, in the Indian state of Assam, a funeral was held that was expected to be the one of the largest the world has seen in recent years?
Yesterday the Times of Assam reported that:
Unofficial sources have claimed that the number has already crossed the number of attendees who paid the last respect to Late Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II, US president John F Kennedy, etc.
The subject of this grief and devotion is Bhupen Hazarika, the bard of Brahmaputra, who died earlier this week at the age of 86. The service had already been delayed by a day because of the large numbers attending and the Times of India reports that today:
Heartrending scenes were witnessed at the Gauhati University campus, close to the banks of the great Asian river Brahmaputra. As the funeral pyre was lit at 10.26 a.m., chants of ‘Bhupen Hazarika amar raho’ rent the air and people broke down, with some crying loudly and others barely managing to hold back their tears.
An overwhelmed Tej pleaded with the surging crowd to control themselves and maintain calm even as Hazarika’s companion of 40 years, Kalpana Lajmi, cried inconsolably, unable to check her emotions.
“I am speechless with the overwhelming response and love for my father,” an emotional Tej told IANS after performing the last rites of the 85-year-old legend.
An estimated 100,000 people were present at the funeral site, some atop trees, and others trying witness the last rites from every possible vantage point available in the area.
A 21-gun salute was offered by the Assam Police with doctors and forensic experts taking the foot impressions of the man for posterity.
Some vidoe footage of the ceremony can be found here:
I was struck by the way in which the family were close to Dr Hazarika’s body thoughout. In this brief video, the intimacy is very touching:
For the pyre enthusiasts amongst you the Assam tribune reports that:
The GU authorities too have arranged for about 60 to 70 kgs of sandal wood to prepare the pyre of the great artiste in keeping with his stature. The wood has been collected from the University Botanical Garden, said GU Vice Chancellor Prof Okhil Kumar Medhi.
But the best way to pay our tribute to him is through his music. It’s not the best recording but well worth a listen – and it does give you a sense of why his passing is so much mourned: