Thousands of Indians are flocking to pay their respects to Jayaram Jayalalitha, one of the country’s most influential and colorful politicians.
J Jayalalitha, the chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu suffered a heart attack on December 4 and died at 23:30 local time on December 5 at the age of 68, Chennai’s Apollo Hospital says.
The politician’s body, draped in the Indian flag, is on display at a large public hall.
India’s PM Narendra Modi was among those who visited to pay tribute.
The extreme devotion J Jayalalitha inspires among her supporters, many of whom refer to her as “Amma” (mother) have led to concerns that they could resort to self-harm or violence.
Earlier reports of J Jayalalitha’s death, which were swiftly withdrawn, prompted scuffles between police and her supporters outside the private hospital.
However, lines have been orderly so far, despite the visible emotion among the crowds who are queuing up to catch a final glimpse of Jayalalitha. Many are openly weeping while some are beating their heads and chests.
A seven-day period of mourning has been declared in Tamil Nadu. The central government in Delhi has announced that December 6 will be a national holiday as a mark of respect and that J Jayalalitha will be given a funeral with full state honors.
She had been receiving treatment for months.
J Jayalalitha is revered by many but was seen by her critics as having created a cult of personality over the years.
Tributes began to pour in for J Jayalalitha as soon as her death was confirmed by Apollo, which had been treating her since September 22.
Her AIADMK party – which had earlier lowered the flag to half-mast before hoisting it up once more – also confirmed she had died, tweeting “our beloved leader, the Iron lady of India… Amma, is no more”.
“RIP Jayalalitha” has been trending on Twitter, while Facebook is also filled with elegies for a woman who is widely respected for managing to hold her own in the male-dominated world of Tamil Nadu politics.
A senior AIADMK politician, O Panneerselvam, was sworn in as chief of Tamil Nadu within hours of J Jayalalitha’s death, the party’s Twitter account confirmed.