Contains documents of his controversial relatioship with architect Hermann Kallenbach
Mahatma Gandhi’s prized documents and photographs, including those on his controversial relationship with architect Hermann Kallenbach, were saved from going under the hammer as India bought the treasure trove for a whopping $1.28 million.
The archive, which belonged to Kallenbach, Gandhi’s close friend and German Jewish bodybuilder, was to be auctioned at Sotheby’s today but it was cancelled after the back-channel talks by the Indian Government with the auction house and the family members of Kallenbach helped India take possession of the rare documents.
The documents will now be housed at the National Archives of India in New Delhi.
An agreement was finalised in consultation with Ministry of External Affairs and National Archives of India and was signed by the three parties — Government of India, Sotheby’s and the family of Isa Sarid, the grandniece of Kallenbach.
“The acquired material would be housed in the National Archives of India,” Culture Minister Kumari Selja said in a statement in New Delhi.
Though the Sarid family, which owns the treasure trove, quoted $5 million as price for the archives, finally an amount of $1.28 million was paid.
“The payment of £8,25,250 ($1.28 million) has been released to Sotheby’s and the lot has been withdrawn from auction and sold to the Government of India,” the statement said.
The archive, which is likely to be a rich source of information on Gandhiji for researchers and historians, was recently examined by a team of experts from the Ministry of Culture, who described it as “very well preserved and of inestimable value.”
The archive includes several letters that throw fresh light on the controversial relationship between Gandhiji and Kallenbach, one of the foremost associates and friends of Gandhiji during his time in South Africa.
The auctioneer’s Catalogue Note on the archive said that it “is richly informative of the important (and occasionally misunderstood) friendship between the two men, and is a key biographical source for Gandhi.”
The archive includes “poignant letters” by the deeply troubled Harilal, Gandhi’s first son, and reveals Kallenbach’s deep friendship in particular with Gandhi’s second son Manilal, who remained on Phoenix Settlement in South Africa, and his third son Ramdas.
In the statement in New Delhi, Ms. Selja said the Government of India attaches the highest importance to the archival materials and artefacts relating to the leaders of national movement.
A five member Committee led by Prof Mushirul Hasan, Director General, National Archives, was earlier deputed to London to examine the archival material for authenticity and historical value.
The Committee had recommended that in view of the historical importance of the material, the entire archive may be acquired as a matter of highest priority.
In London, Sotheby’s said the deal was concluded in a “private transaction.” However, it did not disclose the amount the Indian government paid for the documents.