Nepal's popular leader and elder statesman Girija Prasad Koirala was cremated with state honours on Sunday at Pashupati Aryaghat on the premises of the Pashupatinath Temple here. His daughter Sujata Koirala, who is the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, performed the last rites.

The government declared a holiday on Sunday to mourn the death. Radio and television channels aired programmes on Koirala.

More than a million people queued up from early in the morning to pay their last respects to Koirala at the Dasharath Stadium, where the body was kept for public viewing. People from all walks of life thronged the stadium to have a last glimpse of their beloved leader.

In his death, people felt they had lost their guardian. Men were seen tonsuring their heads at one corner of the stadium. According to Nepali ritual, sons and grandsons shave their heads when their parents and grandparents pass away.

The body was taken to the Aryaghat after a four-hour funeral procession from the stadium. As Ms. Sujata lit the funeral pyre, the national anthem was played.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Constituent Assembly Chairman Subash Chandra Nembang, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda', former Prime ministers, and leaders of all political parties attended the funeral.

Indian delegation pays homage

Representing the Government of India, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and Speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar paid their last respects to one of the greatest leaders of South Asia and India's friend, the late Girija Prasad Koirala.

They laid a wreath on the body of the leader at Dasharath Stadium where it was kept until the funeral procession began. They also left their messages in the condolence book.

Speaker Meira Kumar described Koirala as “one of the greatest leaders of Nepal and South Asia” and added that his death “marked the end of an era in the Nepalese politics.”

Mr. Krishna wrote he was “deeply grieved” at Koirala's death. “In his sad demise, Nepal and South Asia have lost an outstanding political leader who was passionately committed to the cause of democracy and peace and friendship between our two countries,” he wrote in the condolence book.

Mr. Mukherjee mentioned Koirala as an “outstanding political leader” of Nepal and South Asia, and “a great friend” of India. “The contribution of Shri Koirala in his six-decade-long political career as an experienced, determined and tireless leader will always remain a source of inspiration for both the present and future generations,” was the message he left in the condolence book.

The Indian delegation also met Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and expressed the hope that the peace process, initiated by the late Koirala would go on in his absence.

"Huge loss for Nepal"

United Nations Secretary- General Ban-Ki Moon expressed his condolence to Koirala's family, the people and Government of Nepal and the Nepali Congress party.

According to his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said Mr. Koirala's death was a huge loss for Nepal and its ongoing peace process.

“As a friend of the United Nations and a staunch believer in its ideals and principles, Mr. Koirala will be remembered as a strong voice of multilateralism and global cooperation,” a statement said.

Mr. Ban described Koirala as a pioneer of Nepal's labour and democratic movement of the 20th century, who fought at “personal sacrifice” for justice and for Nepal's democratic rights.

He also acknowledged Koirala's leadership that played “a central role in the People's Movement of 2005-2006” to end the 10-year armed conflict and restore peace in Nepal.

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