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Rare letters from Gandhi to Kallenbach on display

January 30, 2013 18:12 IST

Seventy-five rare letters that highlight the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and architect Hermann Kallenbach during their stay in South Africa and the communication between their families went on public display on Wednesday.

The letters, two newspapers and journal, which were bought by India for a whopping $1.28 million from a auction house in the United Kingdom, is now part of the Private Paper Collections at the National Archives of India.

The exhibition titled Gandhi-Kallenbach Papers was inaugurated by Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch and Gandhi's grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi on his 65th death anniversary on Wednesday. It will be on till February 15.

Only 75 of the 1,500 letters of the collection are put on display. They reflect upon the beginning of the first Satyagrah movement in South Africa and give an insight into the relationship that was shared between the two families.

The letters reveal that Gandhi's sons address Hermann as ‘Uncle Kallenbach’ and also throw more light on Gandhi's relationship with Kallenbach's brother Simon Kallenbach and niece Hana Lazar.

Gandhi's family kept Kallenbach and his brother informed about the Indian freedom struggle and the health condition of the father of the nation, the letters show.

The letters also give information on how Gandhi became friends with Kallenbach in South Africa and how their relationship transformed over the years.

The correspondence, classified in 13 groups, also contains some letters of Isabella Fyvie Mayo, a close associate of Gandhi and Kallenbach, apart from being a pioneering translator of Tolstoy's writings into English.

Besides, the collection has 287 photographs and memorabilia which shows the impact of Gandhi in the daily life of Kallenbach. The original copies of Young India and Harijan are also part of the collection.

Letters written by Gandhi to Herman Kallenbach and those received at the Tolstoy Farm, which has now become a laboratory for experimenting Gandhian philosophy, business and legal letters of Kallenbach, miscellaneous letters of Gandhi's stay in South Africa are part of the collection that is on public display.

Letters discussing Gandhi's health condition and his habit of taking herbal medicine, which further increased his blood pressure, besides Gandhi's visit to Rajkot in November, 1939 are also displayed at the exhibition.

Sources said none of the letters perceived controversial have been put on display and there was a lot of effort to avoid any kind of embarrassment.

The public display of letters included letters from Gandhiji to Kallenbach narrating his experience of traveling in a third class compartment.

It will be the first time that people will be able to view the collection at the National Archives and the exhibition is being launched on the anniversary of Gandhi's death.

Gandhi lived with Kallenbach in Johannesburg for about two years from 1907 before leaving South Africa to return to India in 1914.

The National Archives of India also launched the digital version of the catalogue of publications till June 2012 on its website.

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