Gandhi’s Blood, Prayer Beads to be Sold at U.K. Auction

Mahatma Gandhi’s will, prayer beads, and a shawl he had woven and worn consistently during the non-cooperation movement, are being auctioned by Mullock’s Auctioneers in the United Kingdom May 21. (photo courtesy of Mullock’s). Read more at

Mahatma Gandhi’s will, prayer beads, and a shawl he had woven and worn consistently during the non-cooperation movement, are being auctioned by Mullock’s Auctioneers in the United Kingdom May 21. (photo courtesy of Mullock’s).

By Sunita Sohrabji, Staff Reporter

India West

A fragment of blood from the body of Mahatma Gandhi, taken in 1924 at a Mumbai hospital whilst he was recovering from appendicitis, will be auctioned May 21 at a starting bid of £100,000 – about $155,000 – by Mullock’s Auctioneers in Shropshire, England.

Contacted at his home in Kanpur, noted Gandhian Giriraj Kishore – who is currently senior vice president of the national Vishwa Hindu Parishad – said he was “enraged” about the upcoming auction. “Gandhi is being sold bit by bit on the chopping block every three to four months. It is very objectionable to me,” he told India-West in a telephone interview from his home.
The auction includes items primarily from the early 1920s, when Gandhi was staying at the home of friends in Juhu, on the outskirts of what is now Mumbai. Kishore stated that it was at this period of time that Gandhi started his push for his non-violent movement; Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited Gandhi several times there, according to Kishore. An early draft of the Indian constitution was allegedly written during Gandhi’s stay in Juhu.
Included in the sale of 50 items are Gandhi’s prayer beads, rice bowl, sandals, a shawl he had woven and worn almost daily whilst in Juhu, a will and a power of attorney letter. The will and the power of attorney have not been translated from Gujarati as yet, Richard Westwood-Brookes of Mullock’s, who is curating the sale, told India-West.
Westwood-Brookes said Gandhi had very little of value at the time, so it would be interesting to note what he considered of value to bequeath to his heirs.
An important letter Gandhi wrote in 1937, intervening in a Congress Party dispute between an unknown party and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, is also being sold at the auction, for a starting price of £40,000. The top of the letter is torn, shielding the addressee’s identity.
In the letter, Gandhi wrote: “Your attitude is most bewildering. Before I issue this offer I am prepared to go through the whole of your charges & if I feel convinced that you have been unjustly dealt with by Sardar I shall unhesitatingly say so & do everything humanly possible to undo the mischief.”
“If on the other hand I find against you & you are not satisfied with my finding I shall request Mr Bahadarji or Sir Rabindra Nath Tagore to go through the recorded evidence and review,” wrote Gandhi, adding that he did not fear the proceedings going public.
In February, Mullock’s sold Gandhi’s imprisoned plea for freedom from the British, written in 1943 whilst he was under house arrest. The letter – which changed the course of Indian history – was set to be sold for £10,000, but finally went for £115,000 as an un-named collector bought the letter over the telephone.
In 2009, peace activist James Otis – through the Antiquorum Auctioneers — sold a pair of spectacles belonging to Gandhi for a record $1.8 million to business tycoon Vijay Mallya, despite protests and attempts to block the sale by the Indian government.
Kishore told India-West Gandhi truly understood the plight of rural dwellers. “India is a country of villages, if the villages perish, India will perish too,” he said, quoting who many believe to be the father of Indian statehood. Nehru, on the other hand, said “villages themselves are in darkness,” according to Kishore.
“On policy issues, Nehru and Gandhi vastly differed,” explained Kishore, noting that it was important for the Indian diaspora to have documents to better understand the philosophies that shaped a nation.
Kishore, who has written a biography of Gandhi, said he wrote to Congress Party supreme operative Sonia Gandhi early last year and received a letter in July 2012 from her, saying the government would work to get the documents returned.
“Still, nothing has been done,” he lamented.
Westwood-Brookes told India-West he is aware of the sentiments of the Indian diaspora to the sale of Gandhi’s items, and tries to ensure they will be well-preserved. “Unfortunately, Gandhi wrote on the cheapest material available, which has not suffered well through the test of time,” he said, noting the fragile papers’ exposure to Indian inclement weather, mice, fire and possible civil disputes.
“If you’re going to buy a letter for £115,000, you’re going to make sure it’s well preserved,” said Westwood-Brookes, noting that previous sales of Gandhi memorabilia had been sold to foundations and museums.
Westwood-Brookes said he has always tried to make sure that the materials go to the right places, where they will be available to interested people for many generations to come.