A bronze statue of a seated Buddhist deity presented by Mahatma Gandhi to his Irish friend Emma Harker will go on sale in London on Tuesday.
The 13-inch-high figure, possibly of the Bodhisattva of compassion Avalokitesvara, is estimated to sell for 3,000-5,000 pounds at Bonhams sale of Asian art.
The sale comes at a time when buyers are showing a renewed interest in Gandhi memorabilia. On July 14, three of Gandhi's autographed letters sold for 4,750 pounds while a signed khadi cloth, which was said to have been woven by him, fetched 2,125 pounds.
Emma went to India to stay with her daughter whose husband was in the civil services there. It was through that influential connection that she became close friends with senior politicians, particularly Sarojini Naidu who accompanied Gandhi in his famous Dandi salt march.
A letter from Gandhi to Emma, dated September 19, 1934 suggests she volunteered to assist with relief work among the poor in flooded areas of Bihar and Orissa. It may have been on an appropriate occasion, such as this, that Gandhi presented Emma with the Buddhist figure, the auction house said.
"Emma Harker who died in 1957 knew Gandhi well, corresponding with him over a number of years, and on one occasion introduced her granddaughter, the owner of this sculpture now, to him," said James Hammond, head of Asian Art at Bonhams.
According to Hammond, the little girl asked Gandhi if he had any sweets for her.
"Gandhi replied that he didn't eat sweets but asked: 'where would you keep your love for me? In your eyes or in your stomach? The little girl answered: 'in my eyes'. And Gandhi replied: 'Let it ever be so'," said Hammond.
On February 12, 1928, Gandhi wrote to Emma from the Sabarmati Ashram, outlining to her the expenses and lifestyle of ashram life.
Emma, who was then staying in New Delhi, did not want to miss this opportunity and went to the ashram several times. Gandhi even allowed her to smoke during these visits, the auction house said.
While in prison, Gandhi gave a list of person who should be allowed to visit him that included Emma's name, Hammond said.