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Gandhi's Ashes Scattered Off South African Coast, 62 Years After His Death

PTI 31 Jan 2010, 10:41:58 IST

Mahatma Gandhi's ashes were sprinkled off the coast of South Africa on Saturday morning - more than six decades after his death.

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

After Gandhi's funeral, 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 Africa's state broadcaster, SABC, reported the portion of Gandhi's ashes in South Africa was brought here 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 his arrival in South Africa in 1893, Gandhi, was thrown off a train for refusing to leave the 'whites only' compartment.

As a result, he threw himself into 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 the age of 46 to help fight for independence from Britain.

A large number of 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 found in a bank vault in northern India were immersed at Prayag, the holy spot where India's Ganges and Yamuna rivers met.

'Today we commemorate his death anniversary and the important message of that is the intolerance that goes on in this world,' said Gandhi's 69 year-old granddaughter Ela Gandhi, a respected activist.

'All these intolerances end up in violence, end up in wars and so on. If we can just do something to control those intolerances and promote love in the world for each other.'

Gandhi's ashes were brought to South Africa after his death in 1948 but only some of them were immersed in the ocean while the rest were given to a family friend who kept them for decades.

'The teachings of Gandhi through the sadia graca philosophy was that of us human beings universally having to love one another, having to live in peace with one another, having to uphold the truth, to uphold correct ideals,' said KwaZulu Natal's provincial leader, Acting Premier Willis Mchunu.

Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in New Delhi by a Hindu radical Nathuram Godse. Godse was later hanged.