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Ashes ceremony marks Gandhi's death

Published 31/01/2010

Mahatma Gandhi's grand-daughter Eli Gandhi scatters the ashes of the independence hero (AP)
Mahatma Gandhi's grand-daughter Eli Gandhi scatters the ashes of the independence hero (AP)

Six decades after his death, some of Mohandas K Gandhi's ashes have been scattered off the coast of South Africa.

The Indian leader was confronted by racial discrimination and developed some of his philosophies of peaceful resistance in the African nation.

An early morning service on Saturday in a harbour in the eastern city of Durban on the 62nd anniversary of Gandhi's death included the laying of flowers and candles on the water's surface.

Gandhi - known as the Mahatma or "great soul" - was shot and killed by a Hindu hard-liner in 1948 in New Delhi. His ashes were divided, stored in steel urns and sent across India and beyond for memorial services. It was not unusual for some of the ashes to have been preserved instead of scattered as intended.

South Africans state broadcaster SABC reported the portion of Gandhi's ashes in South Africa was brought to the country by a family friend. SABC quoted Gandhi's great grandson Kidar Ramgobin as saying Saturday's ceremony included the playing of the national anthems of South Africa and India.

Gandhi first came to South Africa to work as a lawyer in the Indian community.

Soon after arriving in 1893, Gandhi was ejected from a train for refusing to leave the "whites only" compartment. As a result, he joined the fight for human rights in South Africa.

Gandhi lived in homes and farms across South Africa for two decades, before returning to India at age 46 to push for independence from Britain.

Many South Africans are descended from indentured workers brought from India in the 19th century to work on sugar plantations in the Durban area.

In 2007, some of Gandhi's ashes were sent to a Gandhi museum in Mumbai by an Indian businessman whose father, a friend of Gandhi, had saved them. Those ashes were scattered in the sea off Mumbai in 2008. In 1997, ashes that had been stored in a bank vault in northern India were immersed at the holy spot where India's Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet.

Press Association

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