NEARLY 70 years after his death, property belonging to Mahatma Gandhi continues to be in demand at auctions, especially in the UK.
A metal food bowl, wooden fork and two wooden spoons, which probably did not even cost a rupee, are being auctioned with the starting bid set at £22,900 – enough to set up the Mahatma in fine bone China from Harrods.
They are being sold in an online auction run by Paul Fraser Collectibles, which describes itself as “a high-end memorabilia dealer based in Bristol”. It says it has the world’s largest private stockholding of collectibles.
The auction runs until September 29.
Daniel Wade, a spokesman for the auction house, explained why there is still magic attached to the Mahatma.
“The name ‘Gandhi’ has taken on an almost mythical quality throughout the world, not just in India,” he said.
“It is the thought of owning something tangible connected with a man and a story so fabled that helps drive demand for his memorabilia,” he added. “And with so few personal possessions, demand for those rare items remaining on the private market will continue to be strong for decades and centuries to come, as the legend of Gandhi grows.”
Gandhi used the food bowl and wooden utensils daily while incarcerated at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune between 1942 and 1944.
The British authorities imprisoned Gandhi following his Quit India speech in August 1942, in which he urged India to seek independence through passive resistance.
Wade commented: “The wonder of these items isn’t just that Gandhi held them and used them, it’s that he did so during one of the most important periods of his life and in the history of India. Victory is close for Gandhi when he uses these, because after his release in 1944, India wins independence just three years later. Historically important artefacts such as this rarely come up for sale.”
The items have “superb provenance”, according to the auction house. They originally come from the collection of Gandhi’s close friend Sumati Morarjee. When Gandhi was released in May 1944, he went immediately to Morarjee’s house in Bombay, taking the bowl and utensils with him.
Morarjee (1909-1998), who was born into a wealthy family, was known as “the first woman of Indian shipping” as she headed the Indian National Steamship Owners’ Association. Gandhi counted her among his most loyal friends.
There clearly is a market for Gandhi memorabilia.
Previous sales of Mahatma Gandhi artefacts have included: collection of Gandhi’s belongings, including a pair of iconic eyeglasses: $1.8 million (£1.36m) in 2009; spinning wheel Gandhi used during his Quit India protests: £110,000 ($154,775) in 2013; and a letter, written by Gandhi in 1943 during his imprisonment: £115,000 ($161,810) in 2013,
Gandhi would probably have seen the irony of his simple possessions becoming such desirable collectors’ items.
People were reminded of how he took on British imperialism whilst remaining friends with the British people when his statue was erected in Parliament Square earlier this year.