The Indian government has signed a contract with auctioneers Sotheby’s to purchase a large archive related to Mahatma Gandhi that was scheduled to go under the hammer on July 10.
Since the contract was signed, the auction would not be held next week, sources in the Indian government told PTI on Friday.
The archive contains thousands of letters, documents and photographs that throw light on the controversial relationship between Gandhiji and architect Hermann Kallenbach, and is expected to be a rich resource for researchers and historians.
Meanwhile, Sotheby’s in a statement said: “The Gandhiji-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Lot 30 in Sotheby’s English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations Auction on July 10, 2012, has been withdrawn from sale.”
The archive was recently examined by a team of experts from the Union Ministry of Culture, which reportedly described it as “very well preserved and of inestimable value.”
The archive was expected to fetch a price between £500,000 and £700,000. The auctioneer’s Catalogue Note said: “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 stayed on the Phoenix Settlement in South Africa, and his third son Ramdas.
“These letters, together with those by other family members, Mahadev Desai, and other of Gandhiji’s close associates in India, provide a detailed portrait of Gandhiji’s personal life in India,” the note said.
“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.”