In A Nutshell
When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, his body was cremated. However, the ashes were not all immersed in water as dictated by Hindu tradition. Instead, they were distributed among friends and family, and sent on a tour of India to help heal a grief-stricken nation. Even 65 years after his death, collections of Gandhi’s ashes continue to be discovered.
The Whole Bushel
On January 30, 1948, Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse, who believed Gandhi favored the Muslim nation of Pakistan over India. Gandhi’s funeral was a national event, with two million mourners lining the route of his procession. He was cremated, per Hindu custom. Under normal circumstances, Hindus inter the ashes of their dead in a river as an offering to the gods. However, due to Gandhi’s fame, his ashes were split up, some given to friends and family, and some sent all over India for use in ceremonies.
One collection of Gandhi’s ashes is held in Pune, India, at the Aga Khan Palace, where he had once been held prisoner. Another is located at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Los Angeles, California. They were sent to America as gift from Dr. V.M. Nawle of India to Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded the Fellowship and was close to Gandhi for many years. The ashes are kept in an ancient Chinese stone sarcophagus. Gandhi’s relatives have since asked that they be removed from the shrine and immersed in water, claiming it is “sacrilege” to keep the ashes.
In 2008, ashes that had been held on a controversial exhibit at the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum in Mumbai, India were scattered in the Arabian Sea by Gandhi’s great-granddaughter Nilamben Parikh. Parikh is the daughter of Gandhi’s late estranged son, Harilal, and the family believed that the ceremony healed the rift between the two in the afterlife. A similar ritual was performed in 2010, ashes that had been kept by a friend of the Gandhi family were scattered off the coast of South Africa in a ceremony of some 200 people, including Gandhi’s great-grandson and granddaughter Ela.
It is impossible to say how many different portions of Gandhi’s ashes were parsed out, and several are probably still held by private individuals or lost. Some may yet emerge as those who might have received them 65 years ago pass away.