COMPILED BY NIMI KURIAN
Some of the last of Mahatma Gandhi's ashes, kept in secret for decades by a family friend, were scattered at sea off South Africa's coast recently, 62 years after his assassination, his family said. Gandhiji was assasinated on January 30, 1948, and cremated according to Hindu custom. Normally, ashes are immersed in rivers or the sea within days, but for Gandhiji, his remains were divided to many urns and sent around India and across the globe so his followers could hold memorials. One urn went to South Africa. A family friend, Vilas Mehta, helped with the arrangements for the prayers, and the ashes were immersed after 10 days, according to the Gandhi Development Trust in Durban. Unbeknownst to the family, Mehta kept a few remnants of the ashes, and guarded them in secret for the rest of her life, the trust said. She "decided to take a little bit of the ashes and keep it in safekeeping as a memento of that occasion, not realising that it is our custom to immerse them," said Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of India's liberation hero, who lives in South Africa. "When she passed on, her daughter-in-law decided to give them to the family," said Gandhi, a former South African parliamentarian.