Funerals that have moved masses

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AP

A painting showing former South African President Nelson Mandela, center, surround by Martin Luther King, left, Mohandas Gandhi, 2nd left, John F. Kennedy, 3rd left, Abraham Lincoln, 3rd from right, Winston Churchill, 2nd right, and Barack Obama, right, is fixed on top the flowers outside Mandela's house in Johannesburg. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Paris - As the world remembers Nelson Mandela Tuesday in Soweto, these are some of the leaders' funerals that have attracted a massive, devoted following in decades past:

MAHATMA GANDHI

After the assassination of Gandhi on January 30, 1948 by a Hindu nationalist who blamed him for the partition of India, the funeral of the man considered the father of the Indian nation was one of the most spectacular since WWII.

The funeral cortege, where Gandhi lay with his face bare and his body covered by an Indian flag, left his home in New Delhi on February 12 under a shower of rose petals.

It went to his cremation site on the banks of the Yamuna River, which flows into the Ganges. Two million people, of all castes, awaited there.

Among those present was Lord Mountbatten, the first Governor General of the independent India and his wife. In line with his wishes, Gandhi's ashes were scattered in the largest rivers around the world.

GAMAL ABDEL NASSER

Mass outpourings of grief marked the funeral of Nasser, on October 1 1970, in Cairo. Almost five million people took part in the funeral procession which carried the body, in a coffin wrapped in an Egyptian flag, to its burial place, the al Nasr mosque, which was then renamed Abdel Nasser mosque.

Journalist Jean Lacouture, who witnessed the event, spoke of a city “in a state of trance”, such were the relations between the Egyptian people and Nasser: “immediate, familial and sentimental”.

JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY

Very different was the funeral of JFK, held on November 26, 1963 in Washington, four days after his assassination in Dallas.

It was broadcast live to tens of millions of people on television, still a new medium, from his closed casket lying in state, to a parade on a horse-drawn bier, the ceremony itself and his burial at Arlington National Cemetery, a military burial ground.

Several images have stood the test of time, in particular those of his widow Jackie Kennedy dressed in black holding the hands of their two small children, Caroline and John, and the little boy stepping forward to give a tiny salute.

MARTIN LUTHER KING

Five years later, on April 9, 1968, hundreds of thousands of people attended the funeral in Atlanta, Georgia, of Martin Luther King, the pastor and civil rights crusader assassinated five days earlier by a sniper. On the day of the funeral, riots broke out in black ghettos in more than 100 US towns, in which 46 were killed.

PRINCESS DIANA

Britain's Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, and her funeral led to a mass public outpouring of grief.

More than three million people saw her funeral procession in London from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, where the funeral took place. More than a million bouquets of flowers were laid in front of Diana's home at Kensington Palace, and three billion people followed the funeral ceremonies on television.

POPE JOHN PAUL II

The funeral of Pope John Paul II, who died on April 2, 2005

after 26 years as pontiff and long suffering from Parkinson's disease, drew massive worldwide attention.

For days before the funeral hundreds of thousands of people gathered on Rome's Saint Peter's Square and in most major Catholic cities around the world.

John Paul's funeral at Saint Peter's basilica was presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became the next pope, Benedict XVI.

Around one million faithful were present in the square and adjacent streets on April 8, and a global broadcast of the ceremony lasted more than three hours.

Sapa-AFP


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