It’s hard to discern from the photograph, but Mullock’s, a British auction house, believes it has a sample of dried blood and soil from the scene where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948.
Gandhi was steps from a prayer meeting when he was shot point blank by a Hindu radical. Amid the chaos, a man named P.P. Nambiar scoured the area for Gandhi’s blood, which he found on a nearly dried blade of grass. He gathered some soil and wrapped it all in a piece of Hindi newspaper he found nearby.
In 1996, Nambiar wrote that it was “the most sacred of all relics.” He preserved the soil and grass in a small wooden box with a clear glass lid.
For that, Mullock will ask for between $15,000 to $23,000.
Mullock will also auction Gandhi’s personal prayer book, round-rimmed steel glasses from when he studied law and a spinning wheel. The auction is scheduled for April 17.
Richard Westwood-Brookes, the auction house's historical documents expert, told Reuters that he estimated that Gandhi’s letters and prayer book would sell for $127,000 to $158,000.
"The letters are much easier to value because there's plenty of auction records which give a good pointer as to what an important Gandhi letter is worth,” Westwood-Brookes told Reuters. “But how on earth do you put an estimate on a piece of soil?"
Gandhi’s descendants have called the auction, “reprehensible … morbid,” according to India’s Independent News Service. Gandhi, revered as India’s “father of the nation,” led movements to oust British colonialists from India and to alleviate poverty and improve women’s rights. He was a vegetarian and a firm believer in non-violent civil disobedience, employing an ethos that influenced the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In this 1946 photograph, Indian philosopher and nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi, poses with women during his tour of Bengal province. Two years later, he was assassinated in New Dehli.
“If the ownership of the other objects like the glasses, letters and a spinning wheel are valid, I don't see how you can stop private auctions from selling them,” Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson told the Indepdendent News Service.
He said that he tried to pressure the Indian government to intervene in a sale of Gandhi’s bowls and plates in New York. “Many common Indians took it up as a matter of national pride,” he told the news service.
Tara Gandhi-Bhattacharjee, Gandhi’s granddaughter, lamented that it wasn’t possible to stop the auction.
“The auction is ironical, because Gandhi was a classical and an original minimalist,” she said. “If people want to donate to charity, they can. If we cannot hold him in spirit, what is the point of selling memorabilia of a man who was an apostle of non-violence and peace?”
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