Thousands of people lined the route to catch a glimpse of five-time Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's coffin that began its journey on Wednesday from Chandigarh to his ancestral village of Badal in Muktsar district. He will be cremated there with state honours on Thursday.
A flower-decked ambulance carrying the coffin was driven by Bikram Majithia with Sukhbir Badal, son of the senior Badal, as co-driver. Other family members, including Sukhbir's estranged cousin Manpreet Badal who is now in the BJP, were sitting beside the coffin.
Badal, the country's oldest politician -- next only to BJP veteran L.K. Advani -- passed away on Tuesday at the age of 95 after a brief illness at a private hospital near here.
After the 'kirtan and ardas' in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) headquarters in Chandigarh, the mortal remains of Badal were placed in a specially decorated ambulance amidst slogans of 'Panth te Punjab Da Rakha, S Parkash Singh Badal Amar Rahe' or 'Long Live Badal'.
Crowds of Akali workers and sympathizers from all walks of life, some tearful, joined the procession to take the mortal remains for cremation to Badal village.
Laybys and access roads along the entire 250-km route were temporarily closed. Mourners were waiting in designated areas along the route to pay their last respects to their leader and throw flowers at the convoy as it passed or slowed down for some time.
"Kade kade Rabb Paida Karda, Badal Jihe Insaan" (Sometimes God creates an immortal leader like Badal) -- the line rent the air as hundreds thronged the bedecked ambulance carrying the mortal remains of the Akali patriarch to catch a last glimpse of their beloved leader.
"A sad and poignant moment as Badal saab leaves for his final journey," remarked a mourner in Patiala city as the heavily guarded ambulance in a cavalcade halted briefly.
Another mourner added, "Bade (elderly) Badal saab was not a politician, but a statesman who fought to save the peasantry and the state's agrarian economy."
In each town and village the cavalcade drove through, it was met with mourners and respect. People stood mostly in silence, some threw petals, while others pointed their phone cameras at the passing vehicles.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Chandigarh to pay his last respects to the patriarch, who passed away at a private hospital in Mohali near here.
Modi had, on Tuesday, described the demise of Badal as a "personal loss" and said he was a colossal figure of Indian politics who contributed greatly to the nation.
Badal was born on December 8, 1927 in Muktsar. He was elected as village sarpanch at the age of 20, as a MLA for the first time in 1957 and became the chief minister for the first time in 1970 at the age of 43.
The cremation will take place at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
A sea of people, comprising political leaders cutting across party lines and dignitaries, are expected to attend the cremation.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government has declared national mourning on Wednesday and Thursday following Badal's demise.
Badal also served as a Union Minister in the late 1970s.