The death of one of India’s most popular and influential politicians Jayaram Jayalalitha has set off an outpouring of grief among thousands of her supporters.
On Monday, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Khazagham, her political party, confirmed that the chief minister of southern India's Tamil Nadu state had died at the age of 68 following a heart attack.
"Our beloved leader, The Iron Lady of India ... is no more," tweeted AIADMK, the third-largest party in India's lower house of parliament in New Delhi.
Tamil Nadu has declared a seven-day mourning period starting Tuesday in honor of the actress-turned-politician.
Some 2,000 policemen were deployed around the hospital in case her extremely devoted supporters reacted to Jayalalitha’s death. Despite it being long past midnight, hundreds of people had lined the streets around the hospital to catch a last glimpse of the woman they called "Amma."
A crowd of weeping supporters tried to get close and some even threw themselves at the ambulance which was carrying her body from the hospital.
Jayalalitha started her life journey from a leading actress and later on entered the world of politics. Chosen for the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1989, she took over the AIADMK party, becoming the state’s first ever woman opposition leader.
A year later she became chief minister of Tamil Nadu state for the first time. She served in that capacity for four terms.
Jayalalitha was also a highly controversial figure, adored by some and condemned by others. She is admired for the development of Tamil Nadu as one of India's most economically influential states. But her critics condemned her as a corrupt figure who manipulated the system and saw herself as above the law.
On several occasions, she was accused of corruption and spent two short periods in prison. But a Karnataka high court in 2015 cleared her of involvement in a corruption scandal.
Indian politician O. Panneerselvam will now be serving as the state’s chief minister as of December 6. He had previously served in the position during 2001-02 and 2014-15. He is a member of the same party and loyal to Jayalalithaa.