One of India’s most influential and colourful politicians, J Jayalalitha, has died at 68.
The chief minister of Tamil Nadu state suffered a heart attack on Sunday night and died at 23:30 local time (18:00 GMT) on Monday, Chennai’s Apollo Hospital said.
Thousands of her supporters had gathered to pray for her recovery.
Extra police have been deployed in the southern state amid fears of unrest among her supporters.
The former film star served as Tamil Nadu chief minister four times. She had been receiving treatment for months.
Jayalalitha is revered by many but seen by her critics as having created a cult of personality over the years.
There are fears her death could spark unrest given the extreme devotion she inspires among her supporters, many of whom refer to her as “Amma” (mother).
Earlier reports of her death, which were swiftly withdrawn, prompted scuffles between police and her supporters outside the private hospital.
Tributes began to pour in for Jayalalitha as soon as her death was confirmed by Apollo, which had been treating her since 22 September.
Jayalalitha’s party AIADMK – which had earlier lowered the flag to half-mast before hoisting it up once more – also confirmed she had died, tweeting “our beloved leader, the Iron lady of India… Amma, is no more”.