Mary Altaffer/AP
The auctioneer at Antiquorum auction house accepts the final bid for items that belonged to
Mohandas Gandhi.

Gandhi Possessions Sold at Auction, Despite Protest

March 06, 2009 05:15 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
In an auction the Indian government at first tried to stop, possessions once belonging to Mahatma Gandhi have been sold to an Indian businessman.

Auction Disputed

The businessman, Vijay Mallya paid $1.8 million for Mahatma Gandhi's spectacles, a pocket watch, sandals and some of his other possessions, according The New York Times. Bidding reached $1 million within two minutes.

The auction began after some confusion. News reports indicated that James Otis, who owned the items, wanted to stop the sale. He indicated that the Indian Consulate in New York said it would seek an order for his arrest or prevent him from visiting India in the future. The Delhi High Court had also ordered that the auction not proceed, but their jurisdiction over the matter was unclear, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Tony Bedi, who served as Mallya's bidder at the auction, said the items would be returned to India for public display. It's uncertain whether the government will take charge of the items, The New York Times explained.

For now, Bedhi said Mallya is happy with his purchase. "He is bringing the heritage of the items back to India," The New York Times quoted him as saying.

Key Player: Mahatma Gandhi

With a far-reaching legacy of advocating peace and equality, Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Gandhi’s first massive nonviolent effort was from 1919–1922 when he inspired his fellow countrymen to boycott anything British—from schools to goods to the English language. It was around this time many began to call him “Mahatma,” literally, “Great Soul”—an honorific bestowed on prominent people, and one Gandhi frequently said he did not feel he deserved.

Related Topic: 12 zodiac statues and Summer Place

China’s relics recovery fund recently placed a fake bid on two sculptures during a Christie's auction, exemplifying the strong attachment nations have to their pasts.
Cai Mingchao, an advisor to China’s nonprofit National Treasures Fund, was the winning bidder at the auction that included items from the estate of late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. But Mingchao said he will not make good on his $40 million bid and wants the two bronze heads, a rabbit and a rat, to be returned to China. The Chinese government considers the heads stolen property and “symbolic of China’s past colonial humiliation,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Associated Press reports that the two “fountainheads … disappeared from the former summer palace on the outskirts of Beijing in 1860, when French and British forces sacked it at the close of the second Opium War.”

In late February, APACE, a group that works “to protect Chinese art on the world market,” filed an official request to a French judge asking that he not auction the relics, reports AP. Bernard Gomez, president of APACE, told sources that although Saint Laurent bought the heads legally, they ought to be held in a museum.

In addition, a coalition of 81 Chinese lawyers wrote a letter to Christie’s asking the auction house not to sell the heads, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The 12 zodiac statues were once part of a fountain, “or clepsydra, a type of clock that uses water to tell time,” according to the BBC. Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione is believed to have designed the statues in the 18th century.

A Time magazine blog entry written in October 2008 reported that the rat and rabbit head statues had turned up in “Saint Laurent's extensive art collection,” and listed the whereabouts of all 12 zodiac statues.

Summer Palace, the imperial garden in Beijing, is where the two zodiac statues first disappeared during the Opium War. The palace, which was destroyed and then rebuilt in 1886, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List for being “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.”

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines