New Delhi, Jan 27 : Around 1,800 mementos gifted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014 went under the hammer at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) here on Sunday.
The amount raised by the auction will be utilised for the Namami Gange Project, the organisers said.
Reflecting the diverse cultural fabric of the nation, the on-sale objects include swords, musical instruments, 'pagadis' (turbans), shawls, 'angavastrams', traditional jackets, bows and arrows, masks, canvases, prints and photographs of historical and political figures and an array of sculptural media crafted from metal, stone, wood and plaster of paris.
The event was attended by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who lauded the initiative by the Prime Minister to utilise the gifts received by him to accelerate the Namami Gange project.
Sold with a base price set by the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Culture, the live auction was done after exhibiting the items for three months in the NGMA premises, where a few hundred presents are kept on rotational view at all times.
"Initially slated to be auctioned in October 2018, the sale of the presents was delayed due to 'preparations' for the auction," NGMA Director General Adwaita Gadanayak told IANS, adding that the objects reflect India's diverse crafts.
Despite the delay, there was excitement to be seen in the auction room, where at least 60 bidders from across India staked their claims over the objects.
Out of the 1,800 objects, over a hundred were auctioned off in just the first half, with pictorial representations of the Prime Minister gaining popularity among the bidders.
Among the mementos that sold for the highest was a Thangka wall hanging (sold for Rs 12,500), a miniature statue tribute to the Statue of Unity (sold for Rs 11,000) and a painting depicting Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Narendra Modi, which went for Rs 9,000.
The buyer of the painting Surjit Yadav, Vice President of Hindu Sena and an active bidder, told IANS that it was his way of contributing to the Namami Gange project.
The auction, which had no buyer's premium and no Goods and Services Tax (GST) applicable to the purchases, also sold off a Gautam Buddha statue for Rs 10,000, a silver-plated seven-horse chariot sculpture for Rs 5,500, and an illustration titled "Navarasa Nayak" showing Modi in nine different avatars, for the same amount.
The replica of a coin issued by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur (1710 AD) and presented to the Prime Minister by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee also went for Rs 5,500.
Udit Chawla, another participant who bought a portrait of the Prime Minister for Rs 1,600, said he liked the portrait and the man depicted inside.
Many other bidders also felt that the value of possessing an object gifted to the Prime Minister is quite high for them.
The live auction will continue on Monday.
An e-auction of the more expensive items along with the remaining ones, will take place from Tuesday to Thursday on www.pmmementos.gov.in.