The funeral ceremony of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha on Tuesday was a departure from tradition in two aspects. First, Jayalalithaa’s body was buried instead of being cremated, going against Vaishnavite Brahminical tradition. Second, her friend Sasikala Natarajan, who was handed the national flag after the coffin was closed, led the former chief minister’s nephew Deepak Jayakumar in performing the final rites. In Hindu customs, women are not allowed to perform final rites.
The feeling that pervaded the air around MGR Memorial was more ceremonious than grieving. The endgame came at 6.05pm as four men dutifully hammered nails into the coffin. Wreaths and salutations had been offered and the mortal remains of the AIADMK’s talisman was about to be lowered into a pit