Gandhi memorabilia auction worth over Rs 15 lakh

As many as 11 lots of Mahatma Gandhi memorabilia, including signed notes, letters and a khadi cloth, will hit the auction block in the US.

Last Updated: Feb 06, 2011, 13:56 PM IST

New Delhi: As many as 11 lots of Mahatma
Gandhi memorabilia, including signed notes, letters and a
khadi cloth, will hit the auction block in the US this month
and expected to rake in over Rs 15 lakh.

The items will be offered in Bonhams auctioneers sale
of Fine Books and Manuscripts on February 13 in California.

The auction house said the lots were acquired over
several decades by a Los Angeles collector interested in the
history of non-violent movements.

Of late, sale of personal belongings of Gandhi has
created a lot of controversy and the government has tried in
vain to stop a couple of auctions abroad. Bonhams said the
Indian government has not approached it regarding this sale.

"Manuscript collectors seek out letters, documents,
and historical memorabilia because of their great admiration
of a particular person, or because of their great interest in
a particular historical moment," Catherine Williamson,
Bonhams` US director of Fine Books and Manuscripts, told PTI.

"Most of the great libraries in the world were founded
by private collectors, whose collecting activities saved many
great rarities from oblivion," Williamson said.

Julian Roup, director of Press and Marketing, said the
collector`s primary focus has been letters and documents - one
of the jewels of his collection is the two-page autograph
letter of Gandhi in which he discusses his thoughts on the
Catholic faith and other world religions.

In it, Gandhi makes a profound argument for global
religious tolerance, "I have been confirmed in my belief that
one can grow fully in one`s own inherited faith (estimated at
USD 5000-7000)".

"Other manuscripts in the collection include several
notes by Gandhi written on the margins of telegram
communications from university students in India and
supporters in Pakistan, in which he sends words of
inspirations or arranges visits, giving a unique glimpse into
his daily correspondence ritual (estimated at USD 800-1200
each)," Roup said.

"Also present is a one-page blood report performed on
Gandhi not long before his assassination, indicating that he
was generally in very good health (estimated at USD
5000-7000). A related document was sold by Bonhams in 2010 for
USD 6,100," Roup said.

Perhaps the most unusual Gandhi item in the sale is
not a manuscript at all, but a white cotton khadi cloth, with
a period note indicating it was hand woven in Gandhi`s
ashram, "It is the product advocated by him under his program
of `cottage industries`, and has come to replace the materials
made by Manchester, England, and other manufacturers of the
Continent altogether under the nationalist movement"
(estimated at USD 4000-6000).

Accompanying the cloth is a period photograph of
students and staff of Lucknow Christian College and a note
indicating that the cloth was originally collected and
identified by an American missionary to India associated with
the college in Uttar Pradesh.

"True students of Gandhi`s work know the importance of
his efforts to provide economic independence for the poor as a
foundation for political independence. This cloth stands as a
rare memento of a pivotal moment in modern history," Roup
said.

In July 2009, a series of letters and postcards signed
and autographed by Mahatma Gandhi were bought in an Sotheby`s
auction by leading NRIs Sir Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon and Prof Nat
Puri almost for double the pre-sale estimates.

Last October, rare photographs of Gandhi, taken during
the Quit India movement days, sold for 2,880 pounds, nearly
double the pre-sale estimates, at Bonham`s "Travel and
Photography: India and Beyond" sale.

India is also making desperate attempted to acquire
Gandhi`s house in Johannesburg, where he had lived a century
ago, to convert it into a memorial.

After learning about the sale of the house, where
Gandhi stayed from 1908 to 1910 as a young lawyer, state-owned
Coal India Ltd. attempted to buy it in 2009 but it was snapped
up by a French tourism company in an auction for what was
believed at the time to be almost twice the asking price of
USD 3,77,029.

Despite the auction, the house could not be sold as it
was not registered. Coal India is now hoping that it would be
able to purchase it.

PTI