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Gandhi's ashes sent across India for final homage

NEW DELHI, India -- The ashes of assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were taken from her funeral pyre Monday and sent in urns across India for final homage before being scattered over the peaks of the lofty Himalayas.

Gandhi, whose assassination last Wednesday by two Sikh bodyguards triggered a wave of violence across northern India that has claimed about 1,100 lives, was cremated Saturday in a ritual Hindu ceremony before hundreds of thousands of mourners.

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A Hindu priest Monday gathered the ashes from the concrete-and-brick platform on the banks of the sacred Yamuna River, where the body of the woman who dominated Indian politics for nearly 20 years was engulfed by flames in a ceremony designed to guarantee safe passage of the soul.

The priest then packed the ashes in 40 urns and gave them to her son, India's new prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Rajiv, 40, sworn into office hours after his mother's slaying, solemnly placed the urns in a flower-bedecked carriage for transport to Teen Murti House, the slain leader's childhood home that has been turned into a museum.

Rajiv put one of the urns under a tree on the grounds of Teen Murti House, where his mother's body lay in state for three days last week to allow Indians to catch a final glimpse of the woman known as 'Mother India.'

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Gandhi's grandson, Rahul, placed a flower wreath at the House, followed by his sister, Priyanka, and their mother, Sonia, wife of the new prime minister.

President Zail Singh, a Sikh, Vice President R. Venkataraman and other national leaders also placed floral wreaths at the house in tribute to Gandhi.

The remaining urns were sent on a tour of India's 22 states and nine union territories by special train and aircraft to allow the nation's 720 million people to pay final respects to their slain leader.

The remains were to be returned to New Delhi on Saturday and taken aboard an aircraft to be scattered over the Himalayas in northern India on Sunday.

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