Gandhi’s last ashes scattered according to custom

2010-02-01 00:00

The last known remaining ashes of iconic Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi were scattered in the ocean, in an emotional ceremony attended by family members, Indian leaders and local politicians.

The moving ceremony, which also marked the 62nd anniversary of his assassination, began with a night-long vigil at Gandhi’s home in the Phoenix settlement on Friday night.

Gandhi’s ashes were scattered in India after his death in 1948. However, some of his ashes were sent to South Africa and remained with a Durban family.

The family handed over the ashes to the Gandhi family, as Hindu custom states that all ashes need to be immersed in water.

While Gandhi was being honoured in South Africa, about a billion Indians observed a two-minute prayer for the great leader.

At 4 am on Saturday, his granddaughter Ela Gandhi and family, acting Premier Willis Mchunu, Consul- General of India Anil Sharan and members of the Gandhi Development Trust boarded an SA Navy ship and headed out to sea for the ceremony.

The boats formed a semi-circle, with the main boat facing the sun.

Before sunrise, the ceremony commenced.

Religious songs and prayers were offered before the ashes were scattered into the water. Each member offered prayers before they released lit clay lamps onto the water.

An overwhelmed Ela said that it was still an emotional occasion for her, even though her grandfather had died 62 years ago.

“I cannot claim him to be grandfather because he was a father to everyone. The world has claimed him to be their icon,” she said.

Acting Premier Willis Mchunu said the ceremony was both emotional and solemn because it bade farewell to one of the world’s greatest leaders.

“His teachings were that we all loved one another — and to uphold the truth. Through Gandhi’s teachings, the ANC waged its struggle against apartheid,” he said.

Acting High Commissioner of India, Shambhu Kumaran said the immersion ceremony was emotional for every citizen of India.

“We have returned to nature his mortal remains but his teachings will remain immortal. Let us rededicate our lives to the ideals that Gandhi stood for,” he said.

A memorial service was also held at the Durban City Hall yesterday.

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