Today, the most famous son of South Africa and the world’s biggest anti-apartheid leader would have turned 100. Nelson Mandela’s India connect runs deep and strong – here are five things he loved about our nation!

The Mahatma

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Nelson Mandela was an avid follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and way of life, and he visited India frequently. In fact, it was the first country he set foot on in 1990, after being released from 27 years in jail for leading the movement against apartheid in South Africa. He had said, "I could never reach the standard of morality, simplicity and love for the poor set by the Mahatma...While Gandhi was a human without weaknesses, I am a man of many weaknesses."

Indian cricket

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Madiba watched our leading men play on field back in 1997 when his famous handshake with Sachin Tendulkar made big news and so did his impromptu lunchtime TV addressal. Spanning over 15 minutes, his TV speech swept fans with admiration as he spoke richly of Indian values and kindness.

Amitabh Bachchan

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During one of his visits, Madiba had an endearing meeting with the big star of Bollywood, the magnanimity of which the latter had tweeted saying, “What a moment!” Mandela’s smile says it all about how much he loved Indian cinema and Big B!

The Indian lady who won his heart

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Madiba had reportedly grown fond of Amina Cachalia – a human rights activist who fought against apartheid—and proposed his love to her. This was after his divorce from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1996. In her book, Amina is reported to have written, “On one of these visits I must have been looking rather flustered as I bustled about doing my chores. [Mandela] sat me down on the two-seater couch in the living room and kissed me passionately. Running his fingers through my hair he said: ‘Do you know that you are an exceptionally beautiful, vivacious and enticing young lady?’” Amina, the widow of ANC activist Yusuf Cachalia, is however reported to have said that she did not share the same feelings for him although they continued to share a special friendship for many years.

Indian honours

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We’re sure he loved the Bharat Ratna that the country conferred him with in 1990, and the International Gandhi Peace Prize in 2001.