Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, Ramakrishna Mission head, cremated
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Belur (West Bengal): The last rites of the president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj were performed at the mission headquarters Tuesday night, amid a sea of tearful devotees.
The devotees lined up to pay their last respects despite heavy rains. His mortal remains were consigned to flames after a gun salute by the state police. As a part of the monk’s final journey, his body was taken to various spots in the temple complex, including the house where he used to stay.
The cremation of the 98-year-old monk, which started at around 9.45pm, was held inside the Math complex beside the river Hooghly.
Atmasthanandaji, who had been suffering from old age related ailments since February 2015, breathed his last at a city hospital Monday evening.
Meanwhile, people from all walks of life waited in a long queue since morning to pay their last respects to the departed soul. The monk’s body was laid at ‘Sanskriti Bhawan’, a building inside the sprawling premises of the headquarters.
Many dignitaries were also seen at the Belur Math, the gates of which remained open since last night. Howrah District Magistrate Chaitali Chakraborty placed a wreath on the monk’s body on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who considered him as his ‘guru’.
Modi, who got spiritual guidance from Swami Atmasthananda in Rajkot and described the monk’s death as his “personal loss”, had visited the ailing Swami on 17 April last year.
Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy, West Bengal ministers Rajib Banerjee, Arup Roy, Lakshmi Ratan Shukla, Trinamool Congress MP Prasun Banerjee, BJP leader Locket Chatterjee and other prominent personalities also paid their last respects to the monk.
Tight security arrangements were made by the police in view of the gathering of thousands of devotees in the complex. Outside the complex, vendors had a brisk business selling wreaths, garlands and flowers.