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62 years after his death Gandhi`s ashes immersed off Durban

Last Updated: Saturday, January 30, 2010 - 17:34

Durban: Sixty two years after Mahatma
Gandhis`s assassination, ashes of the apostle of peace,
preserved by a family friend, were finally immersed in the
Indian Ocean off the South African coast on Saturday.

"It was a beautiful ceremony attended by more than 200
people," Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, who led
the sacred ritual, said.
The Indian Ocean was chosen for the solemn event as it
links the two countries on which he had such a profound
influence, she said.

And the day chosen for today`s historic ceremony
happened to be January 30, the granddaughter said which marks
Mahatma Gandhi`s death anniversary.

After Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, his ashes were
distributed among family, friends and followers and handed
over to his granddaughter by a family friend in whose custody
they had been since they were brought to South Africa after

Local businessman and an ardent Gandhian, Chagan
"Chotoo" Thakur Bhoola, 85, recalled how he had transported
Gandhi`s ashes in an urn from Bombay to South Africa.

Bhoola, then 21, of Musgrave Road, one of Durban`s
pioneer Indian traders, recalled how in 1948 he had gone to
India to marry Mani, 81, and attend Gandhi`s funeral.

"My close friend Sorabjee Rustomjee accompanied me to
India. Shortly after Gandhi`s funeral, India`s Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru handed us his (Gandhi`s) ashes in an urn,"
Bhoola said.

Normally, ashes are immersed in rivers or the sea
within days, but Gandhi`s ashes were divided and put in
several urns and sent around India and across the globe so his
followers could hold memorials.

Bhoola said they left India by boat on June 8, 1948,
and travelled to Mombasa where a memorial service was held for
the father of Indian nation.
"We then travelled to several African states including
Nairobi where some of Gandhi`s ashes were submerged in various
rivers and lakes.

After more than 28 days we returned to Durban and the
urn was placed at Sarvodaya, at Phoenix (Gandhi) Settlement in
Inanda (north of Durban).

Gandhi had started the settlement during his tenure
here at the turn of the 19th century, undertaking various
human rights projects across South Africa before returning to

Bhoola said some of the ashes were removed from the
urn and kept by Vilas Mehta, a close friend of Gandhi`s son
Manilal, who remained behind in South Africa to continue his
father`s work.

Mehta entrusted the ashes to her daughter-in-in-law
Chanda Mehta, who recently gave them to Ela Gandhi because she
believed it should be with the family.

Gandhi then arranged the ceremony this morning, at a
point where the Umgeni River joined the sea in 1948.

A prayer service and night vigil in memory of Gandhi
preceded the ceremony, which was followed by another more
public prayer service to commemorate the 62nd death
anniversary of Gandhi`s assassination the City Hall here.

And finally the ashes in urns were taken by boat for
the final immersion. Boats carrying the ashes were escorted by
South African Navy vessels.


First Published: Saturday, January 30, 2010 - 17:34

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