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Gandhi’s gift to his Irish friend to be auctioned

world Updated: Jul 08, 2009 20:44 IST
Emma Harker

A seated Buddha statue, a gift given by Mahatma Gandhi to his Irish friend Emma Harker, is to be auctioned in London on September 8.

The gift, a Burmese Arakan gilt bronze figure of Buddh, a seated Buddhist Deity -- possibly Avalokitesvara, The Bodhisattva of Compassion, 17th Century, will be sold by Bonhams. It is estimated to sell for 3,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds.

According to reliable Harker family tradition, the sculpture was given to the vendor’s grandmother, Emma Harker by Gandhiji. Emma Harker was an Irish widow and one of the close friends of the Mahatma.

Emma Harker went to India to stay with a woman whose husband was in the Civil Service there. It was through that influential connection that Emma became close friends with senior Indian politicians, particularly Sarojini Naidu, who had accompanied Gandhiji on the Salt March.

A letter from Gandhi to Emma, dated September 19, 1934, suggests that she volunteered to assist with relief work amongst the poor in the flooded areas of Bihar or Orissa. It may have been on an appropriate occasion, such as this, that Gandhi presented Emma with a reminder of The Buddha’s Compassion and Humanity.