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Lot #6027
Mohandas Gandhi Autograph Letter Signed (Early in Struggle for Indian Independence)

Gandhi writes to his old friend on struggles at his Ashram and successes in the Swadeshi movement for Indian independence: "The handlooms are making very good progress. I hope to send you some new cloth"

Estimate: $15000+
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Gandhi writes to his old friend on struggles at his Ashram and successes in the Swadeshi movement for Indian independence: "The handlooms are making very good progress. I hope to send you some new cloth"

ALS signed at the head, “From M. K. Gandhi,” three pages, 5 x 8, May 20, [1916]. Handwritten letter to his close friend Hermann Kallenbach, written from Ahmedabad, India, but penned on the reverse of stationery imprinted "P.O. Box 2493, Johannesburg." In full: "My dear friend, your letters have become most irregular & so I imagine have mine become. Sometimes I get two at a time. I hope the parcels have been safely delivered to you. They contain your clothing biscuits & cut brushing sticks. I wish your opinion on the biscuits. They were turned out alright so far as I could judge.

You will be pained to hear that Maganbhai is leaving the Ashram. Next to Maganlal he was the strongest man. Indeed, Mrs. Gandhi thought that Maganbhai was the stronger of the two. Maganbhai is leaving as he frankly tells me that he can no longer observe the right rule of the Ashram. He wants to go out into the world and have a taste of it. His remaining in the Ashram can now make of him only a hypocrite. He will be leaving in a day or two. So it may come to pass what I said might and I may be left all by myself. Just now Maganlal seems to be strong like a lion. But so did Maganbhai. No man can beforehand stipulate about his future conduct. Peter thought he would not wince but even so great as he did though with him the shock was momentary.

Harilal’s wife is again with me. She is leaving in a few days to join her husband at Calcutta. I described to you Navansang & Bela’s small girl. They are now quite alright. The handlooms are making very good progress. I hope to send you some new cloth. With love from us all. Yours ever old friend." In fine condition, with inconsistent ink flow, not adversely affecting overall readability. Accompanied by an export certificate from the French Ministry of Culture.

This interesting letter demonstrates the strong link between Mohandas Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach, who met in South Africa in 1904. The two men bonded over extensive discussions of religion and Satyagraha (non-violent civil disobedience), a concept that Gandhi brought into action while working as an activist in South Africa and would become critical to his later fight for Indian independence. Gandhi and Kallenbach became close friends through their association in Johannesburg, for a time living together in what is now known as the 'Satyagraha House.'

In 1914, Gandhi left South Africa to return to his native India, bringing with him an international reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist, and community organizer. Though he would not see Kallenbach again, the two maintained a regular correspondence. In this letter, he writes of the struggle to preserve his newly founded Kochrab Ashram and the departure of his reliable associate, Maganbhai. Gandhi compares him to his most faithful follower, Maganlal Khushalchand Gandhi, expressing both hope and despair: "No man can beforehand stipulate about his future conduct."

Gandhi's closing mention that the "handlooms are making very good progress" is particularly noteworthy, as he had adopted the loom, or spinning wheel, as a symbol of economic independence very early on. He encouraged all Indians to wear khadi (homespun cloth) instead of British-made textiles, and exhorted all Indian men and women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement. Thus the spinning wheel—and the resultant textile itself—became symbolic of the movement toward Indian independence.

Despite momentary struggles at the Kochrab Ashram—which Gandhi used as a center to practice the ideals of satyagraha, self-sufficiency, and upliftment of the poor and struggling—he soon outgrew the facility, and in 1917 established a new ashram on the banks of the River Sabarmati. Maganlal remained true to the cause, managing the Sabarmati Ashram until his death in 1928.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: #669 - Ended September 23, 2023

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