mandela coffin on gun carriage

The coffin of South African former president Nelson Mandela is brought on a gun carriage for a traditional burial during his funeral in Qunu on Sunday.

*Nelson Mandela was laid to rest in his childhood village of Qunu on Sunday, marking the end of an exceptional journey for the prisoner turned president who transformed South Africa.

Under the scorching sun, a military escort accompanied his coffin to the burial site and took off the national flag that draped his casket. White wreaths sat around it.

His widow, Graca Machel, and others watched from under a tent as helicopters carrying flags whizzed past.

“Now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in the bosom of God, your maker,” the officiator said.

Tribal leaders clad in animal skins joined dignitaries in dark suits at the burial grounds atop a hill overlooking Qunu valleys.

Before making their way to the site, mourners attended a service in a tent set up for the event. Ninety-five candles glowed behind his casket, one for each year of his life.

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 Earlier we reported …

(Via CNN) – The coffin carrying Nelson Mandela‘s body arrived Saturday in his ancestral village of Qunu (South Africa), where he’ll be buried Sunday amid the lush green hills of his boyhood.

After a plane carrying his casket touched down in Mthatha, the closest airport to Qunu, it was taken in a procession past mourners who lined the roads to his rural home.

The mood among the crowd was a celebration of his life, as well as sadness for his passing.

The nation’s first black president had often said he felt most at peace here at his rural home in the southeastern corner of the nation.

“Look, he loved these hills,” his daughter, Maki Mandela, told CNN in an exclusive interview. “He really believed this is where he belonged.”

His burial Sunday comes after 10 days of mourning.

mandela funeral (winnie & grace)

Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela, left, and his widow Graca Machel, center, stand by Mandela’s casket during his funeral ceremony in Qunu, South Africa, on Sunday, December 15. Mandela’s body traveled from Pretoria by air to Mthatha in Eastern Cape province, and then by road to Qunu, where he is to be buried Sunday. Mandela died December 5 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95.

 Before Mandela’s journey home, the ruling African National Congress bid him farewell Saturday morning at an air force base in Pretoria.

Members of the ruling party stood, bowed and prayed around his black, flag-draped casket.

“Icon of our struggle. Father of our nation,” read a giant poster bearing a picture of a smiling Mandela.

His wife, Graca Machel, sat in the front row, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.

“We will miss him, he was our leader in a special time. Go well, Tata,” President Jacob Zuma said, using the Xhosa word for father. “You’ve played your part. You’ve made your contribution. We’ll always remember you.”

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