Gandhi’s sandals up for auction in Britain

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An undated handout picture released by Mullocks auction house in Shropshire, central England, on May 9, 2013 shows a pair of sandals owned by Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi, part of a collection of Gandhi memorabilia due to go on sale at Mullocks auction house in Shropshire, central England, on May 21, 2013. A pair of sandals formerly owned by Mahatma Gandhi is to go under the hammer in Britain later this month. Auction house Mullock’s said the battered leather shoes, due to be sold on May 21, were expected to fetch up to 15,000 GBP (23,000 USD, 18,000 euros) despite being “in a bad state”. AFP/MULLOCKS

LONDON — A pair of sandals formerly owned by India’s independence hero Mahatma Gandhi is to go under the hammer in Britain later this month.

Auction house Mullock’s said the battered leather shoes, due to be sold on May 21, were expected to fetch up to £15,000 ($23,000, 18,000 euros) despite being “in a bad state”.

The sandals are among the star lots in “one of the largest collections of memorabilia relating to Mahatma Gandhi ever to be offered”, the auction house in Shropshire, central England, said.

The collection also includes Gandhi’s will — written “in a neat secretarial hand” and signed by him in Gujerati — which is expected to sell for up to £40,000, as well as a shawl hand-woven from thread that he spun himself.

Other items up for sale include letters, paintings, prints, audio recordings of Gandhi’s speeches, and a fragment of his blood on a microscope slide.

The auction house said the sandals had come from Gandhi’s home in Juhu, western India, where he lived between 1917 and 1934.

Gandhi’s sandals were an instantly recognizable part of his image along with his glasses, loin-cloth, shawl and staff.

Sandals also feature in a story that is often used to illustrate the independence icon’s personal philosophy.

Running to catch a train, Gandhi supposedly lost one of his sandals. Unable to snatch it from the platform as he sped away on the train, he decided to throw the other one after it so that someone could use them — a classic example of his practical generosity.

A pair of Gandhi’s sandals and also a pocket watch, a bowl and a plate that belonged to him were bought for $1.8 million by an Indian businessman at an auction in New York in 2009.

India has in the past fretted about private auctions of Gandhi’s belongings, saying that they insult the memory of a man who rejected material wealth.

Auctions of his personal items often raise an uproar at home, where many feel the items are part of their cultural legacy.

Known as Mahatma or Great Soul, Mohanchand Karamdas Gandhi spearheaded a non-violent campaign against the British Raj which finally saw India gain its freedom from colonial rule in 1947.

He was shot dead by a Hindu hardliner in New Delhi in 1948.

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