The Mahatmas Earth Hour
By Pallavi Pundir
A lump of soil and grass blades spotted with Mahatma Gandhi’s blood that were auctioned amid controversy in London a month ago, will be a part of an exhibition in Delhi. On August 15, arts organisation Osian’s will inaugurate its museum, Osianama at the Kila, near Qutub Minar, with this exhibition. Other displays will include Gandhi’s famous round glasses and a wooden charkha.
The Gandhi memorabilia had been acquired at an auction — by the UK-based Mullocks — by the Mumbai-based Kamal Morarka Foundation for the Arts. “These pieces belong to the country and, if the government had asked for them to be displayed at the National Museum or any other institution, I would have given them,” says Kamal Morarka, who heads the arts foundation. He adds that the exhibition was the idea of Neville Tuli, founder-chairman of Osian’s.
Morarka acquired Gandhi’s legendary spectacles for £34,000 (approx Rs 29 lakh), the charkha for £26,000 (approx Rs 22.5 lakh), a prayer book signed by the Mahatma for £10,500 (approx Rs nine lakh) and a wooden casket containing soil and blades of grass pigmented with Gandhi’s blood, for £10,000 (approx Rs eight lakh). Other items include letters and documents of Gandhi.
The auction of these artefacts had upset several of Gandhi’s followers. Will the exhibition, too, raise similar questioning? “No museum requires the support or permission of estates and or heirs to mount major exhibitions,” says Tuli. He adds that Osian’s is one of the largest collectors of Gandhi-related artefacts, from paintings and photographs by Henri Cartier Bresson to antiquarian prints.