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Last urn of Mahatma's ashes to be immersed today

January 30, 2008 02:19 IST

Almost 60 years after his ashes were immersed in rivers and oceans across the country, the last known urn containing the ashes of 'Father of the nation', Mahatma Gandhi, will be immersed in the Arabian Sea on Wednesday.

The urn containing the ashes presently lies at Mani Bhavan in south Mumbai -- a building in which Mahatma Gandhi lived when he visited the city -- where tourists, schoolchildren and people continued to stream in on Tuesday -- the last day of its public display.

Gandhi, the architect of India's freedom struggle with the use of non-violence, was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in Delhi.

"The visarjan (immersion) of Gandhiji's ashes took place on February 12, 1948 in rivers and seas across the country but in some cases the asthi kalash (the urn containing the Mahatma's ashes) were not immersed and kept by his followers," Dhirubhai Mehta, head of the trust, which maintains Mani Bhavan, told PTI.

This is the second such incident in 60 years where an urn containing Gandhi's ashes has been found. In the first instance, an urn was found in a bank locker in Bhubhaneshwar in 1997 and the ashes were immersed in Allahabad, Mehta said.

The urn presently in Mani Bhavan was donated by Bharat Narayan, a resident of Gujarat and grandson of industrialist Jamanalal Bajaj, who wanted the ashes to be preserved properly.

"However, family members of the Mahatma decided that the ashes should be immersed in the sea in a simple ceremony instead of being kept here," Usha Gokani, grand-daughter of the Mahatma, said.

"For me it is a mixed feeling since I did not even know the ashes existed," Gokani said.

Mehta said the sentiment of the hundreds who were coming to see the ashes was understandable.

"I saw the ashes being immersed when I was a 12-year-old. For this generation, which has not been able to see the Mahatma in flesh and blood, this is perhaps a last chance to pay their respect to him," he said.

Also, as far as we know this is the last urn of the Mahatma's ashes, which has not been immersed, Mehta said.

The ashes will be immersed in a ceremony on Wednesday morning, which is expected to be attended by members of the Mahatma's family, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Governor S M Krishna and Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil.

A guard of honour by the city police will also be present and children singing Gandhi's favourite songs are expected to lead the procession.
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