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India acquires Gandhi's letters to Kallenbach

New Delhi, July 10, 2012, DHNS:
This handout reproduction photograph taken in Britain and released by Sotheby's auction house on July 10, 2012, shows a historical photograph showing Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach (middle row, centre) at Tolstoy Farm, South Africa in 1910. India has paid 1.1 million USD to buy a collection of letters, papers and photographs relating to Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi, preventing their sale at a planned auction in London. The archive, which belonged to Gandhi's close friend Hermann Kallenbach, a German Jewish bodybuilder and architect, was to have gone under the hammer at Sotheby's on July 11. 'AFP PHOTO / SOTHEBY

India has acquired an archive of letters and documents that throws fresh life into the personal life of Mahatma Gandhi including his much-talked-about friendship with German architect and body-builder Hermann Kallenbach. 

The archive was to be auctioned by Sotheby’s, a multinational auctioneer of fine and decorative art, jewelery, and collectibles, on June 10.

However, the government acquired the preserved letters and documents from Sotheby’s agreeing to pay $ 1.28 million to the multinational corporation against the purchase.


“Gandhi-Kallanbach Archives have been withdrawn from the proposed Sotheby’s auction and sold to government of India,” Culture Minister Kumari Seilja said here on Tuesday.

Popularly known as Gandhi-Kallenbach archives, the collection of the letter and documents relating to the icon of the non-violence, was in possession of Isa Sarid, the grandniece of Kallenbach.

The Sarid family had quoted $ 5 million for the archives. “This offer was considered unacceptable by the Government of India. Finally, it was settled at GBP 8,25,250, which is equal to $ 1.28 million only,” Selja said, adding that the payment has been made to Sotheby’s under an agreement with the auctioneer and Sarid family.

The archive will be housed in the National Archives of India here in the national capital, the Minister said.

The archive contains a large number of unreported letters of Gandhi, including references to his early political campaigns and the illness of his wife Kasturba. There are several letters which throws a fresh light on the much-talked-about friendship between Gandhi and Kallenbach, who was considered very close to him during his stay in South Africa.

According to Sotheby’s, the Gandhi-Kallenbach archive is a key biographical source for Gandhi and “richly informative of the important and occasionally misunderstood friendship between the two men.”

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