Unlike other Dravidian leaders, J Jayalalithaa was a believer who used to pray regularly and be seen with an Iyengar Namam on her forehead. Still, why did the state government and the Sasikala family decide to bury her instead of a cremation – an obvious ritual for Iyengars.
A senior government secretary who was part of the funeral preparations of the late chief minister explained why she cannot be cremated on Marina Beach.
“She was not an Iyengar for us,” he said. “She was beyond any caste or religious identity. Even most of all the Dravidian leaders, including Periyar, Anna Durai and MGR, were all buried and we do not have a precedent of consigning their body to flames even after death. So, we bury them with sandalwood and rose water.”
The burial of former leaders of the movement allowed followers to remember them in the form of a memorial.
Leaders of the Dravidian movement are atheists, who in principle denounce god and similar symbols. But it is interesting to note that the vacuum left by a disbelief in God is replaced by statues and memorials in the rational thoughts of Dravidians too. Fans and followers believe they can still hear the sound of MGR’s watch ticking at the leader’s memorial on Marina Beach.
A veteran political analyst who has seen burials of several Tamil Nadu leaders in the past four decades said there may be more than one reason for choosing a burial.
“Since she was a believer, it is obvious that people expect her being cremated after death. But they need a blood relative to light the funeral pyre. The only blood relative left for Jayalalithaa here is Deepa Jayakumar (daughter of Jayakumar, Jayalalithaa’s late brother). It is obvious that Sasikala clan doesn’t want to entertain Deepa anywhere near the funeral procession fearing a potential challenge,” he said.
Deepa, a researcher in media and communication at a UK university, was not allowed to meet Jayalalithaa despite her multiple visits to Apollo Hospital since September 22. Two days ago, police was seen forcibly pushing Deepa and her husband out of the gate of Apollo Hospital after they received a direction from seniors to keep her away and prevent her from talking to the media.