Gandhi ashes scattered off South African coast

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mahatama Ghandi inspired movements for freedom and civil rights worldwide.

Some ashes from Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi have been scattered off the coast of South Africa to mark the 62nd anniversary of Gandhi's death.

Two hundred family and friends attended the Hindu ceremony, conducted by the South African navy, in which the ashes were sprinkled on to the Indian Ocean. Hindu custom dictates that ashes are scattered over a body of water after cremation, but Gandhi's ashes, Gandhi being cremated after he was assassinated in 1948, were instead divided up and distributed to friends and family. It is difficult to work out how many portions of ashes are still in the hands of the recipients.

After a priest recited hymns, Gandhi's great-grandson poured the ashes into the sea. People then threw flowers into the sea.

I think one of the important messages of his death is the intolerance that goes on in this world

—Ela Gandhi

The ashes were given to the family by a friend, Vilas Mehta, who had decided to keep the ashes as a memento, not realising the Hindu custom. She passed on a "little silver container" to her daughter-in-law, who, in turn, gave it to Gandhi's family last year.

Ela Gandhi, the Indian national hero's sixty nine year-old granddaughter, attended the ceremony, as well as making a speech, in which she highlighted the fact that intolerance was still rife. She said, "I think one of the important messages of his death is the intolerance that goes on in this world, the intolerance of people for other people on the basis of religion, on the basis of race, on the basis of ethnicity, of class and of caste and so on". She went on to say that the Indian Ocean was chosen as it linked the two countries "on which he had such a profound influence".

Gandhi campaigned for rights in both South Africa and India. He is also known as the "Father of India", and he was a pioneer of the non-cooperation movement. He is synonymous with peace, and has an award named after him.

This is not the first time Gandhi's ashes have resurfaced. In 2008, his ashes were donated to a museum in Mumbai, who scattered them into the Arabian Sea.