New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation on Tuesday in paying rich tributes to former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam when his body arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here.
The union cabinet met on Tuesday morning to pay tributes to Kalam, who died following cardiac arrest on Monday evening while delivering a lecture at IIM-Shillong.
The two houses of parliament were adjourned for two days as a mark of respect to Kalam, who rose from humble beginnings to become one of India's leading scientists and later the "people's president".
His last rites will be held in his hometown Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu as per his family's wish.
Kalam's body, wrapped in the Tricolour, arrived at the Palam technical area around 12.30 p.m. in a special Indian Air Force (IAF) plane.
The prime minister and the president went to the airport to pay tributes to the late leader.
Other dignitaries present at the airport included Vice President Hamid Ansari, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
After a ceremonial guard of honour in the presence of the three service chiefs, Kalam's body was brought in an army vehicle to his official residence at 10, Rajaji Marg in central Delhi. It will be kept there on Tuesday for people to pay their respects.
Modi -- who addressed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday -- said India has lost a "ratna" (jewel).
Kalam was president in 2002-2007 and assumed the highest office when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was in power.
Modi said Kalam was a "rashtra ratna" (national jewel) and his "personality was special".
"His life inspires us, it inspires the youth," the prime minister said.
After the Lok Sabha met in the morning, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan read out a condolence message and said Kalam was a "real gem" of the country and a "sagacious statesman".
The members stood in silence for some time to pay their respects after which the speaker adjourned the house for two days.
In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari said the country has lost a true son. "His contributions to the nation as a man of technology, a teacher and a leader will be deeply cherished by a grateful nation," he said.
Both houses will now hold their next sittings on July 30.
The union cabinet, which met on Tuesday to pay tributes to Kalam, said the country had lost a visionary scientist, a true nationalist and a great son.
The resolution adopted at the meeting extended heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family on behalf of the government and the entire nation.
"Kalam made significant contributions in developing India's first indigenous satellite launch vehicle and made India a member of the exclusive space club... during this period, strategic missile systems were developed and the Pokhran-II nuclear tests were conducted," the resolution said.
It said Kalam was responsible for evolving policies, strategies and missions for many development applications and piloted India Millennium Mission 2020.
Born on October 15, 1931 at Rameswaram, Kalam specialised in aeronautical engineering from Madras Institute of Technology.
He was a recipient of many national and international awards, including honorary doctorates from 48 universities in India and abroad. He received the country's highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, in 1997.
An official in Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu said the last rites will take place in Kalam's hometown.
A.P.J.M.K. Sheik Saleem, the former president's brother's grandson, told IANS over phone: "A large number of relatives, friends, well-wishers and common people have gathered at Kalam's house at Rameswaram."