South Africa's first black president died in his Johannesburg home on December 5 at the age of 95 after a long battle with illness, and he was laid to rest in his grave in Qunu in Eastern Cape province after ten days of mourning in his beloved country.
Troops lined the route up to the hillside where he was buried as Mandela was carried on a gun carriage to a plot on his family’s estate.
As his body was placed on the grave the South African flag on the coffin was removed and handed to Mandela's widow Graca Machel, who was comforted by his ex-wife Winnie Mandela.
A fly-past then followed accompanied by a 21-gun salute and a solitary trumpeter played the Last Post while his body was lowered into the ground.
As he was buried armed forces Chaplain General Monwabisi Jamangile said: 'Yours was truly a long walk to freedom, and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom, in the bosom of your maker.'
His funeral was also marked by his Xhosa tribe whose elders traditionally slaughter an ox to accompany the deceased's spirit after burial, while guests are asked to drink its blood from a communal bowl.
But it is understood dignitaries such as Prince Charles were likely to be offered the animal's meat to eat instead after it was cooked on an open fire.
Mandela's family also talked to him until he was lowered into the earth and will have said 'Madiba, we are now burying you,' a tradition followed so the souls of the dead know where they are going in the afterlife.
His casket, transported to the tent on a gun carriage and draped in the national flag, rested on a carpet of cow skins below a lectern where speakers delivered eulogies.
'A great tree has fallen, he is now going home to rest with his forefathers,' said Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, a representative of Mandela's family.
Nandi Mandela said her grandfather went barefoot to school in Qunu when he was boy and eventually became president and a figure of global import.
'It is to each of us to achieve anything you want in life,' she said, recalling kind gestures by Mandela 'that made all those around him also want to do good.'
In the Xhosa language, she referred to her grandfather by his clan name: 'Go well, Madiba. go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run your race.'
Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island with Mandela, remembered his old friend's 'abundant reserves' of love, patience and tolerance. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for the last time, months ago in his hospital bed.
'He tightly held my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking,' Kathrada said, his voice breaking at times. 'How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man, the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we couldn't do so.'
|Mourners: US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, centre, her husband Stedman Graham, left, and English businessman Richard Branson, right, watching the state funeral service''|
Reading an obituary, Mr Mandela's grandson Ndaba Mandela said the former leader became 'one of the world's greatest icons'.
'It is through Mandela that the world cast its eyes on South Africa and took notice of the severe and organised repression of black South Africans,' he said.
'Yet it was also through Mandela that the world would learn the spirit of endurance, the triumph of forgiveness and the beauty of reconciliation.'
Some mourners wiped away tears as Kathrada spoke, his voice trembling with emotion.
Mandela's widow, Grace Machel, and his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black and sat on either side of South African President Jacob Zuma.
Guests included veterans of the military wing of the African National Congress, the liberation movement that became the dominant political force after the end of apartheid, as well as U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard and other foreign envoys.
More than an hour into the service, people were still filling empty seats in parts of the marquee. Soldiers moved in to occupy some chairs.
The funeral included traditions of Mandela's Thembu clan, as well as a 21-gun salute, brass band and fly over by jets.
Elders were in traditional funeral attire out of respect for Mandela and his family sang old struggle songs as they lined the road to greet the funeral cortege.
The Xhosa people to whom Mandela belonged have a number of hallowed traditions surrounding death - including the ritual slaughter of an ox.
Because the former president died far from his birthplace, his body had to be escorted home so he could be buried near to where he was born.
The Xhosa believe that in order to guide the souls of the dead to their final resting places, their bodies should be constantly talked to so that they know where they are going.
When Mandela was about to be buried, his family will have said to him, 'Madiba, we are now burying you,' according to religious expert Nokuzola Mndende.
|SO SAD' MANDELA'S FORMER WIFE WINNIE 'POLE SANA MY DEAR ' TUPO PAMOJA 'SASA NI KUMUOMBEA TU ''|
TUMECHOTA NA KUMIMINA KUTOKA DM''