London: A rich archive containing thousands of items related to Mahatma Gandhi will soon return to India after the Union Ministry of Culture signed a contract with auctioneers Sotheby's to purchase it before it was put up for auction on July 10.
The price paid by the ministry has not been revealed, but it is likely to be between Rs 4 crore to Rs 6 crore, since Sotheby's expected the archive to fetch between 500,000 and 700,000 pounds.
Sources in the Indian government told PTI that the contract had been signed with Sotheby's and that the auction will not go ahead.
Confirming this, Sotheby's said: "The Gandhi-Kallenbach archive, which had been scheduled to be offered as Lot 30 in Sotheby's English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations Auction on 10th July 2012, has been withdrawn from sale."
The archive includes several letters that throw fresh light on the controversial relationship between Gandhi and architect Hermann Kallenbach, one of the foremost associates and friends of Gandhi during his time in South Africa.
The archive, which is likely to be a rich resource for researchers and historians, was recently examined by a team of experts from the ministry, who reportedly described it as "very well preserved and of inestimable value".
The archive is now expected to be lodged in National Archives, New Delhi.
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 living on Phoenix Settlement in South Africa, and his third son Ramdas.
The archive contains mostly unpublished correspondence over five decades, including references to Gandhi's early political campaigns and the illness of Kasturba.
He writes in a letter: "I no longer want to be angry with her so she is sweet... She had a few grapes today but she is suffering again. It seems to be me she is gradually sinking".
In another letter, Gandhi writes before returning to India: "I do all my writing squatting on the ground and eat invariably with my fingers. I don't want to look awkward in India".
"These letters, together with those by other family members, Mahadev Desai, and other of Gandhi's close associates in India, provide a detailed portrait of Gandhi's personal life in India," the Catalogue Note said.
It added: "This extraordinarily rich archive stands... as a testament to a hugely significant figure in the life of Gandhi and a key member of his inner circle".
Story first published:
July 07, 2012 13:28 IST