William and Kate hail 'India's visionary leader' at Mahatma Gandhi museum


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have paid tribute to India's founding father Mahatma Gandhi, describing him as a "visionary leader" as they visited the place where he was assassinated.

In a poignant ceremony William and Kate scattered rose petals on the spot in New Delhi where the man who led India to independence was shot and killed in 1948.

The royal couple, who are on the second day of their seven-day tour of India and Bhutan, spoke of how they were struck by the simplicity of his life. 

Gandhi was shot three times at what was then called Birla House by Nathuram Godse, an extremist who rejected his lifelong call for peace.

The spot where he fell aged 78 is marked by a stone pillar bearing the words Hey Ram - "Oh God," Gandhi's last words.

The house where he was killed by a Hindu nationalist in New Delhi has been turned into a museum, where concrete footsteps mark his last journey from the house to the garden where he was gunned down.

The Duke and Duchess were given a private tour of the Gandhi Smriti - ''Gandhi memory'' - by the director, Dipanker Shri Gyan.

Inside the museum, they were shown five panels about the historical background of Gandhi's life.

Mr Gyan then showed them Gandhi's room where he spent much of the final 144 days of his life, including a mattress on the floor where he slept, with his prayer book on the pillow. At the foot of the mattress sat his weaving loom, and next to it, a cabinet and small, low table.

William and Kate were then shown Gandhi's ''worldly possessions'' now housed in a glass cabinet - his pocket watch, spectacles and case, two forks, two spoons, a knife, a small scythe and his walking stick.

Mr Gyan said: ''They told me they were surprised by his simple living, that such a man had such a simple life.''

He then showed the couple the prayer spot in the garden where Gandhi regularly prayed. Inside, the walls are covered with murals of scenes from throughout Gandhi's life, including him playing the violin as a child and dressed in a suit and tie when he was studying in the UK.

"They were very surprised to know that he had played the violin and adopted British customs before returning to India," Mr Gyan said.

The couple walked the length of the garden alongside the path that Gandhi took on the afternoon of January 30 1948, before removing their shoes to see the prayer hall where he used to address his followers.

The Duke walked across the lawn in his socks while the Duchess removed her shoes to reveal a barely-noticeable pair of tights.

After viewing the prayer room they paid homage to him at the memorial where he was shot at 5.15pm.

They also listened to children singing an interfaith prayer and one of Gandhi's favourite hymns, Vaishnavajana Tau.

Before leaving they signed the visitors' book, inscribing it ''To India's visionary leader''.

Rajdeep Pathak, programme director of the Gandhi Smriti, said: ''They seemed very humane and very down to earth.

''More than that they requested to hear the children sing and gave them enough time to give a full performance. They said afterwards that it was beautiful.''