Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Gandhi's spectacles up for sale

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi led a non-violent campaign against British rule

Mahatma Gandhi's iconic spectacles, which he once said gave him "the vision to free India", are to be sold at an auction in New York.

A pair of the Indian independence leader's sandals and his pocket watch also form part of the sale next month.

Auctioneers have put an estimate of 30,000 ($42,000) on the items but expect the winning bid to be higher.

Because Gandhi had so few possessions, the sale is expected to attract huge attention from across the world.

Gandhi presented the spectacles to Indian army Colonel H A Shiri Diwan Nawabin in the 1930s, after he had asked the great leader for inspiration.

"Gandhi gave him the glasses and said: 'These gave me the vision to free India'," said Michelle Halpern, from Antiquorum Auctioneers in New York which will stage the sale on 4-5 March.

Peaceful resistance

Gandhi's modest lifestyle - epitomised by his simple white robe and few possessions - helped to inspire a generation of Indians to peaceful resistance against British rule in the 1930s.

The glasses, sandals and watch, along with a bowl and plate, are owned by an unnamed collector and all have letters of authenticity.

The Zenith pocket watch, made in about 1910, was given to Gandhi's grand-niece, Abha Gandhi, who was his assistant for some years.

Gandhi was pictured wearing the pocket watch and it is expected to be the highlight of the auction.

All of Gandhi's things should be ideally placed in a museum or place where the public has access to it
Ramachandra Rahi, Gandhi Memorial Foundation

The bowl and plate were also gifts to his grand-niece.

The sandals were given to a British army officer in 1931 before talks in London about Indian self-rule.

"He didn't have much, so anything of his that comes up for sale is worth that much more," Ms Halpern told The Telegraph, in London.

"He's a hero not just in India but across the world for his peaceful methods and the changes he made.

"The items were put together by a collector who is now selling them and there has already been a great deal of interest. I am sure the items will sell for more than the estimate."

However, in India some followers of Gandhi have said they hope that the buyers will put the objects into the public domain.

"All of Gandhi's things should be ideally placed in a museum or place where the public has access to it. It should be available to future generations to see and draw inspiration from," Ramachandra Rahi, secretary of the Gandhi Memorial Foundation in Delhi, told the Indo-Asian News Service.

Gandhi - called Mahatma or "Great Soul" - spearheaded a non-violent campaign against the British Empire.

He was assassinated in 1948, aged 78, by a Hindu radical.

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