LAND OF MAHATMA GANDHI
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
Gujarat was the home of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known to the world as Mahatma Gandhi or Gandhiji, who played a major role in India’s independence struggle. For visitors to Gujarat, a tour of the state offers an insight into the life and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, and glimpses of his struggle against social discrimination.
Born at Porbandar in 1869, Gandhiji went to school in Rajkot and college in Bhavnagar. After his return from South Africa, Gandhiji made Ahmedabad the base for his struggle for the independence of India, the alleviation of poverty, the liberation of women, universal brotherhood, the economic self-sufficiency of the nation and ending caste discrimination in Indian society.
During his stay at Ahmedabad from 1915 to 1930, Gandhiji became a key figure in the campaign against British Rule. He led two great revolts of Indian farmers against the tyranny of the British government and allied landlords during crop failures in Bihar and in Gujarat. The latter resulted in the Gujarat Sabhawhich represented and worked for the political, social and economic welfare to take a new direction for the good of the farmers following the 1917 crops failure in Gujarat. Success in both initiatives not only helped farmers economic and civil rights but electrified India’s people to take up the Satyagraha movement. The Bardoli Satyagraha which was taken up by Sardar Patel on the basis of Mahatma’s teachings in 1925 is an important landmark in India’s independence struggle. In the 1920s, Gandhiji started the Gujarat Vidyapith at Ahmedabad as an educational institute that is today a deemed university.
Gandhiji best captured the minds of the people when he led a protest march to Dandi, south of Surat, against the hated salt tax imposed by the British government. The simple act of making salt from evaporated water at Dandi in protest against the act resulted in millions across India taking up Gandhiji’s Satyagraha or passive resistance campaign that is said to have broken the back of the British Empire in India.
This booklet aims to guide travellers who visit the places associated with the life of Gandhji about what they can see and experience at each destination. The travel facts box provided at the end of each chapter informs potential visitors to the destinations about their accessibility and accommodation options. There is also a chapter featuring possible sights and activities of interest to a traveller at each of the destinations featured in this book.
In 2007, which is the 60th anniversary of India’s independence and the 150th year from the start of the freedom struggle, the state of Gujarat welcomes you to discover the path of the Mahatma.
Porbandar was the historic port of the JetwaRajputs, a clan that ruled this part of the Kathiawad peninsula (Saurashtra) for centuries. Holding onto a prime coastal kingdom for centuries was not easy for the Jethwa dynasty and they had to face skirmishes and battles with neighbouring rulers.
The capital of the Jethwa’s kingdom kept changing according to the military strategies of the rulers from Ghumli in the Barda Hills to Ranpur in the plains to Chaya near the Porbandar coast and finally, in the 18th century, Porbandar became their seat of power.
After the Walker Treaty brought peace to Saurashtra in the 19th century, Porbandar prospered as a port focatedon the western most coast of Gujarat trading with the middle-east and African countries. Besides merchandise brought in from the hinterlands, Porbandar’s cream-coloured stone isused in Victorian-period buildings of Karachi and Mumbai. Porbandar is still an important port and an exporter of mangoes. The artisans of Porbandar build dhows (ocean-going vessels) at the harbours continuing its ship building tradition. The prosperity of Porbandar in the 19th century is reflected by a number of palaces, pavilions, stone mansions and grand public buildings in the town.
At the time ofGandhiji’s birth on 2nd October 1869, his father, Karamchand (called Kaba Gandhi), was the prime minister in the Porbandar court. Gandhiji recalls in his autobiography having spent his childhood in Porbandar and even going to school here.
The house where Gandhiji was born is a blue toned three-storeyhaveli with a warren of rooms housing a few belongings. Adjoining the haveli is the imposing Kirti Mandir built in 1950 with paintings, a library, a few relics of the Gandhi family and enlarged digital versions of the original photographs of Gandhiji that offer an insight into his life and work.
Gandhiji spent his formative years at Rajkot. He was about seven when his father left Porbandar for Rajkot to become a member of the influential Rajasthanik court.
Rajkot was a major centre of power in Saurashtra in the 19th century. One of the four largest cities of Gujarat today, Rajkot still has relics of its past including the old palace and beautifully carved wooden havelis. Kaba Gandhi was a diwan in the Rajkot court and also in the princely state of Wankaner near Rajkot.
Gandhiji went to primary school in 1876 at Rajkot and was betrothed to Kasturba, daughter of merchant Gokuldas soon after that. He went to Alfred High School in 1881 and was married to Kasturba two years later. His studies continued after his marriage. He wrote, “I always enjoyed the affection of my teachers. Certificates of progress and character used to be sent to the parents every year. I never had a bad certificate. In fact, I even won prizes after I passed out of the second standard.”
In his autobiographical work, ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’, Gandhiji wrote, “In Rajkot, however, I got an early grounding in tolerance for all branches of Hinduism and sister religions. For my father and mother would visit the Haveli as also Shiva’s and Rama’s temples, and would take or send us youngsters there. Jain monks also would pay frequent visits to my father and would even go out of their way to accept food from us non-Jains.” He also mentions his father’s Muslim and Parsi friends who would talk to him about their faiths, inculcating a tolerance for all religions. After his primary schooling, Mahatma Gandhi went to Sir Alfred High School, which has now been renamed after him as the Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi School. Many photographs and documents related to his life are exhibited at Kaba Gandhi no Delo, which was Mahatma Gandhi’s family home from 1880/1 to 1920.
In 1915, Gandhiji visited his brother’s widow and other relatives at Porbandar and Rajkot. During this visit, he also visited the Gondal RasashalaAushadhashram where he met AcharyashriCharantirthMaharaj. A plaque recalls the date of his visit to the ashram.
Another site in Rajkot associated with the life of Gandhiji is the RashtriyaShala he founded on February 21, 1921. This is a living legacy of the Mahatma as it is still a working school. The RashtriyaShala has departments working to train people in spinning, weaving and cottage industry work. Even today, many ikat silk weavers of Saurashtra owe their skills to this institute.
The princely state of Bhavnagar was one of the most prosperous in Saurashtra. The city was founded in the 18th century by BhavSinhji to replace their capital Sihore in the hinterland and became a port of significance that brought considerable wealth to the Gohil Rajput rulers. Progressive rulers of Bhavnagar in the 1800s commissioned well-known European architects like Mr Simms and Sir William Emerson (whose works include the Crawford Market in Mumbai, the cathedral of Allahabad and the Victoria Memorial at Kolkata) to build hospitals, schools, public administrative buildings and one of Saurashtra’s first colleges .
In The story of my experiments with truth’, Gandhiji wrote, “there was a college in Bhavnagar as well as in Bombay, and as the former was cheaper, I decided to go there and join the Samaldas College. I went, but found myself entirely at sea. Everything was difficult. I could not follow, let alone taking interest, in the professors’ lectures. It was no fault of theirs. The professors in that College were regarded as first-rate. But I was so raw. At the end of the first term, I returned home.” The university campus of Bhavnagar has the Samaldas Arts College and Sir P.P. Science Institute, with. a plaque outside stating that Gandhiji studied here. The Gandhi Smriti in the Barton Museum building at the Crescent circle of Bhavnagar exhibits Gandhiji’s mark-sheets and a collection of photographs of his life.
During the rule of His Highness Krishna Kumar Sinhji of Bhavnagar, a RashtriyaShala (national school) was opened at Bhavnagar based on Gandhian principles. An experiment in running a Village Panchayat at JunaSarvar followed his Swaraj (self-governance system).
When Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, he toured the country and decided to settle in Ahmedabad in 1915. He wrote, “I had a predilection for Ahmedabad. Being a Gujarati I thought I should be able to render greatest service to the country through the Gujarati language. And then, as Ahmedabad was an ancient centre of handloom weaving, it was likely to be the most favourable field for the revival of the cottage industry of hand-spinning. There was also the hope that, the city being the capital of Gujarat, monetary help from its wealthy citizens would be more available here than elsewhere”.
Gandhiji’s successful effort to stop harassment of Indian passengers by the customs department in Viramgam is said to be his first Satyagraha initiative in India. He worked from Kochrab Ashram, which is located in Paldi area of Ahmedabad and was called the Satyagraha Ashram. He received a letter from Amritlal Thakkar saying that “A humble and honest untouchable family is desirous of joining your Ashram. Will you accept them?”. The letter was welcomed by Gandhiji and his companions who took the landmark decision of accepting the Harijan family as inmates of the ashram .
After a plague affected Kochrab, Gandhiji moved his ashram and inmates to the Sabarmati Ashram, named for the river it faced, as his base for the struggle for freedom, eradication of untouchability, dignity of labour, instilling respect for all religions, creating the spirit of fearlessness and promoting the use of Indian goods. This ashram was later renamed Harijan Ashram as uplifting the downtrodden was one of its prime objectives.
Gandhiji’s cottage-like residence, the HridayKunj, exhibits his possessions including his spinning wheel, working table, Chinese toy of three monkeys, coconut chopper, wooden spoon, thali, chappals (slippers), stone bowl, a tumbler he used in jail, an urn for water, a shirt made by Gandhi for a Harijan, his dhoti, a bedsheet, handspun yarn spun by Vinobaji, towel, bag, purseand other belongings. Near the HridayKunj are accommodations of Mandeline Slade (Gandhiji’s adopted European daughter), VinobaBhave, ashram guests, Gandhiji’s followers, and the harijans and weavers who worked in the complex.
The ashram has a memorial museum designed by Charles Correa who in 1990 was awarded a gold medal for “the exemplary nature of his life’s work, in homage to his artistic insight and his human qualities that are an integral part of his architecture” which also included his work on this museum. The memorial museum is built using simple materials to match the philosophy of the man it was commemorating but with a pleasant atmosphere created by courtyards, quiet passages and well-ventilated galleries. The memorial’s galleries offer an insight into the life of Gandhiji through pictorial displays of photographs, press clippings, sketches, anecdotes from his life, and selected quotes from his autobiography and speeches. One of the accounts from his life mentioned in the museum relates to his leading the strike of mill workers in 1918 asking for better conditions though one of his benefactors and friends was Ambalal Sarabhai, a leading textile industrialist of Ahmedabad. Inscribed in the memorial building are quotes on the Mahatma from many great men.
The great German philosopher and humanist, Albert Schweitzer, said author Goethe and the selfless Hindu saint Mohandas Gandhi made the deepest impression on his life and philosophy as they achieve inner fulfilment through the order of love principal.
Betrand Russell: “Non-violent resistance it certainly has an important sphere; as against the British in India, Gandhi led to triumph. But it depends upon the existence of certain virtues in those against whom it is employed. When Indians laydown on railways, and challenged the authorities to crush them under trains, the British found such cruelty intolerable.”
Martin Luther King: “The intellectual and moral satisfaction that I failed to gain from the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill, the revolutionary methods of Marx and Lenin, the social-contracts theory of Hobbes, the ‘back to nature’ optimism of Rousseau, and the superman philosophy of Nietzsche, I found in the non-violent resistance philosophy of Gandhi.”
Albert Einstein: “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth.”
Romain Rolland: “This is the man who has stirred three hundred million people to revolt, who has shaken the foundations of the British Empire, who had introduced into human politics the strongest religious impetus of the last two thousand years.”
Will Durant: “Not since Buddha has India so reverenced any man. Centuries hence he will be remembered when of his contemporaries hardly a name would survive.”
BernardShaw: “From Mahatma minor to Mahatma major: ‘It is dangerous to be too good’.”
These quotes add to the moving experience of visiting this well-designed memorial to the Mahatma.
The ashram complex is a treasure-trove of information about Mahatma Gandhi’s life and philosophies housing about 30,000 books, thousands of articles and manuscripts, filed letters to and from the Mahatma, films and microfilms.
The ashram was the launching pad for some of Gandhiji’s greatest initiatives against British rule and the caste system.
The ashram campus has a book store. Handicrafts can be bought at outlets run by NGOs inspired by the Gandhian principles of truth, non-violence, uplifting the poor and oppressed, promoting health and sanitation, and the need to educate the poor masses. There is a handmade paper factory near the ashram.
In March 1930, Mahatma Gandhi began the march from Ahmedabad to Dandi at the Sabarmati ashram in protest against the unfairness of the act that gave the monopoly of salt production to the British. His band of followers kept increasing as the march proceeded towards the coastal point near Surat. On reaching Dandi, he picked a handful of salt defying the British law, a simple act that got international attention and considerable national support for his freedom struggle effort. Thousands were arrested following this march and protests followed that shook the empire.
A memorial marks the spot where he picked the handful of salt. There is a picture gallery at Dandi depicting moments from Gandhijirs life.
The journey from Ahmedabad to Dandi has been declared a heritage route with plans for putting up statues of Gandhiji and his followers at Dandi. The 21 places on the 386kms walk where Gandhiji and his followers stopped between March 12 and April 6 of 1930 are notified for development as heritage sites.
Prior to the Dandi march, an event that moved the revolt against the British Empire was the Bardoli Satyagraha.
In 1925, Bardoli suffered from floods and famine but the Government of the Bombay Presidency refused to reconsider the tax rate which they had increased by 30% that year. Sardar Vallabhai Patel instructed all the farmers of Bardoli taluka to refuse payment of their taxes. The government seized their properties and kept them to auction but did not get any buyers in Gujarat. Angered by the terrible treatment of the protesting farmers, Indian officers resigned their offices and expressed open support of the farmers. In 1928, an agreement was finallybrokered by a Parsi member of the Bombay government. The Government agreed to restore the confiscated lands and properties, as well as cancel revenue payment and postponed the raise until after the succeeding year. Sardar Patel gave the credit to Gandhi’s teachings and the farmer’s efforts but his own position as a great leader was consolidated by this movement.
THE GANDHI TRAIL IN GUJARAT
The main sites associated with the life of Gandhiji in Gujarat arc Porbandar where he was born, Rajkot where he went to school, Bhavnagar where he went to college, Ahmedabad which was his headquarters from 1915 to 1930, and Dandi and Bardoli near Surat.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES
At Porbandar, visit Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace in the old walled township of Porbandar between the triple gates and the ManckChowk. Besides the house where he was born, you can see the collections of photographs and memorabilia in the Kirti Mandir, meditate in the prayer hall, read aboutGandhiji at the library, and shop for handlooms and handicrafts from the surrounding shops open from 7.30 to 19.30 hrs.
Walking down from Sanganwa Chowk of Rajkot where most visitors park their vehicle, come to the Kaba Gandhi No Delo, the house where Mahatma Gandhi lived during his childhood. It has lots of information, photographs and documents related to the life of Gandhiji. The caretakers can direct you to smaller places associated with Gandhiji, like the schools where he studied as a child. The house is open from 9.00 – 12.00 hrs, 15.00 – 17.30 hrs. Another reminder of Gandhiji Is childhood in Rajkot is Sir Alfred High School, renamed the Mohandas Gandhi High School, near the Jubilee Gardens, the Watson Museum and the Lang Library.
In 1921, Mahatma Gandhi started the Rashtriya Shala, a school at Rajkot based on his ideology of education. Today, besides the Bal Mandir for pre-primary children who arrive in bullock carts and Keshav Kumar Mandir for primary schoolchildren, Rashtriya Shala also has the Sangeet Mahavidhyalaya which teaches music and classical dance, Library and Reading Room with about 5000 books in Gujarati, Hindi and English mainly those related to Gandhian ideals, Gita-Ramayan Examination centre (as Gandhiji was inspired by many tales from the epics) and the Khadi Mandir for the production and sale of handloom woven fabrics. The Khadi Mandir employs about 700 lady spinners who work on Amber Charkhas in Rajkot and in villages of the Padadhari Taluka to supply hand-spun yarn to nearly 80 weavers residing in different villages of Saurashtra. There are Khadi Bhandars or handloom fabric shops in Rashtriya Shala premises and at Padadhari. From 1951, the Rashtriya Shala has started the Patola centre for training weavers in the intricate processes of ikkat weaving. At the time of writing, ten weavers make 125 Patola silk saris annually on order at the centre. The Rashriya Shala also has a Telghat for extracting sesame seed oil using small rotary motors certified by Khadi& Village Industries Commission. Visitors can meditate at the Bapu Upawas Khand where Mahatma Gandhi went on a fast during the Rajkot Satyagraha of 1939 or in the open-air theatre at the Rashtriya Shala.
In the 1880s, Mahatma Gandhi studied in the Samaldas Arts College which was one of the first institutions of higher education in Saurashtra. The university campus has impressive buildings worth seeing for their own sake.
Gandhiji’s marksheets are displayed at the museum building at the Crescent Circle of Bhavnagar. The building has the Gandhi Smriti with halls exhibiting old sepia photos of Gandhiji and documents related to his life. It is open for visitors from Monday to Saturday between 8.30 – 12.30hrs and 15.30 – 19.00 hrs. The Barton Museum in the same building has Buddhist, Jain and Hindu stone sculpture, bronzes, farming implements, coins, stamps, archaeological finds and geological exhibits. Visitors can shop for handloom woven fabrics and garments, including cotton shirts, handmade products and even food items made at home industries, at the Khadi Gramodyog in the museum building.
There is a library here and the historic Barton Library elsewhere in the city with books and other material on Gandhiji’s life and philosophy.
Sabarmati Ashram, also called the Harijan Ashram, is one of the most important landmarks in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Besides seeing the memorial museum and the simple residences, visitors can research from the huge collection of books, filed letters to and from Gandhiji, films and microfilms in the library, buy books on Gandhiji and others that go with his ideology, visit the office of Manav Sadhana, an NGO based at Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad working for education of the underprivileged masses, and shop for products handmade by needy artisans at the Gramshree retail outlet. Many come to meditate at the ashram. The ashram is open from 8.30-18.30 hrs. The sound-and-light show has evocative classical music accompanying the story and speeches of Gandhiji. Kochrab Ashram, the earlier workplace of Gandhiji, is located in Paldi. An important Gandhian legacy in Ahmedabad is the Gujarat Vidyapith, started by Mahatma Gandhi as RashtriyaVidyapith (National Institute of University Education). It is now a deemed university with co-curricular activities based on Gandhian principles like community work, residential life, social service, community prayers, simple and self reliant living, study tours and field studies. The institution also imparts training in spinning and handicrafts. It has one of the most extensive libraries in Ahmedabad and publishes periodicals on many subjects including tribal welfare. The Tribal Research & Training Institute here has a museum with diaromas depicting the life of the tribal groups of Gujarat.
At Dandi, see the memorial picture gallery and meditate in the PrarthnaBhavan where Gandhi addressed followers at the conclusion of the salt satyagraha march. Another interesting place with information on the Indian freedom struggle is the Sardar Patel National Museum at Bardoli which has paintings and photographs depicting the life of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, and information about the farmers’ agitation at Bardoli which he credited to the teaching of Gandhiji.
MAHATMA GANDHI’S LIVING LEGACY
Mahatma Gandhi believed that for India to achieve self-reliance it was important to revive handlooms and other local cottage industries that were declining during the British rule over India with the increasing import of millmade textiles. The promotion of khadi, handspun and handwoven fabrics, as a replacement for foreign made goods was integral to his approach towards achieving independence for India.
Today, the success story of his efforts to keep the handloom industry alive is reflected in the number of production and retailing centres for silk, cotton and wool khadi in the country, specially in Gujarat which has always been a weaving centre besides being the land of Gandhiji. This handmade fabric, which is ideal for summer and winter clothing, is now popularly used in the making of upmarket designer garments.
Interesting places on the Gandhi circuit forwatching weavers at work are Dholka, Gundi Ashram near Burkhi and Ranpur that can be visited en route from Ahmedabad to Bhavnagar. Rajkot is also an important ikkat weaving centre with weavers’ workshops on Pedak Road and around Virani School. Ikkat silk weaving also thrives at Somasar, Sayla, Jo ravarnagar, Wadhwan and other centres of Surendranagar district that can be visited on the way from Ahmedabad to Rajkot.
MORE ON THE MAHATMA
Mahatma Gandhi has been much portrayed in movies, books and drama.
Mahatma- Life of Gandhi 1869 – 1948 directed by VithalbhaiJhaveri and produced by The Gandhi National Memorial Fund in cooperation with the Films Division of the Government of India in 1968 was a 5 hrs 10 min black & white movie in English.
The most famous movie featuring Gandhiji was the multiple award winning 1982 English film, Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough in which Ben Kingsley portrayed Gandhiji’s life. His philosophy is the centre of the Bollywood blockbuster Vinod Chopra Films’ Lage Raho Munna Bhai in which Munna-bhai (Sanjay Dutt) propagates the ideals of Gandhism which he refers to as “Gandhigiri”.
Mahatma Gandhi’s stand against child marriage, the caste system and other archaic laws of Indian society also feature in Water, Deepa Mehta’s film and Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel.
The Apprenticeship of the Mahatma by South African writer Fatima Meer and the Shyam Benegal directed film The Making of the Mahatma document Gandhiji’s non-violent struggle for human rights during his decades in South Africa.
Hey Ram, a film in Hindi and Tamil, directed and produced by Kamal Haasan, deals with the theme of Gandhiji’s assassination and its precursors.
Feroz Gandhi’s play, Mahatma vs. Gandhi based on Dinkar Joshi’s Gujarati novel, which was scripted in Marathi by Ajit Dalvi and Mukta Rajadhyaksha in English, explores the troubled relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his eldest son Harilal Gandhi.
A play, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi written by the Turkish author Mehmet Murat Idan, first published by the Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in 2002, presents the life story of Gandhi from the age of twelve until his death including the vision of modern India. The opera Satyagraha, composed by Philip Glass (in 1980) as parr of his portrait-trilogy with a libretto by Constance De Jong, is based on Gandhiji’s time in South Africa.
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