We owe our freedom to the infinite struggles and the contribution of freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives to realise the dream of a free India. By Priyanka Lamba
The past is a reminder of the war waged by them. When we talk about India’s independence, one of the revered personalities that the citizens of the country idolise is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known as the honorific Father of the Nation or Mahatma around the world. On October 2 every year, the nation comes together to celebrate the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. To commemorate this day, we take you to Ahmedabad’s Gandhi Ashram where he laid the foundation of non-violence and self-sufficiency.
With the vision of a free India, Gandhi and his companions worked towards bringing about a change through the practice of ahimsa (non-violence) and fostering a new social construct.
A symbol of the battle Indians fought against the tyranny of British rule, Gandhi Ashram will always remind us of Mahatma Gandhi’s mission and ideals.
Here are some facts you must know about Gandhi Ashram.
Soon after his return from South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi set up his first ashram in India at barrister Jivanlal Desai’s bungalow in the Kochrab area of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on May 25, 1915, and named it Gandhi Ashram.
His involvement with farming, animal husbandry, cow breeding and Khadi-related activities led him to shift the location of the ashram to an open area on the banks of the Sabarmati River on June 17, 1917. The ashram was his home until 1930 and became famous for being one of the major centres of the Indian freedom struggle.
At the ashram, Mahatma Gandhi, who was fondly called Bapu (meaning father), established a school that focussed on three things to further the practice of being self-sufficient — manual labour, agriculture and literacy.
Two major goals of the Gandhi Ashram were to seek truth and organise a group of “fearless” people who believed in the idea of non-violence and would fight for the freedom of the country. Gandhi’s followers led a community life, following the principles of non-violence and continuing on their quest to find the “truth”—which, according to him, is God and morality — the ultimate reality. The Sabarmati Ashram was indeed a ray of hope in bleak times.
Gandhi’s thoughts on choosing the site
Another fascinating fact about the location of the ashram in Sabarmati is that it is nestled between a jail and a crematorium, as Gandhi believed that “satyagrahi has to invariably go to either place.”
“This is the right place for our activities to carry on the search for truth and develop fearlessness — for on one side, are the iron bolts of the foreigners, and on the other, thunderbolts of Mother Nature.” These were Gandhi’s words when he assessed the site of Sabarmati Ashram and deemed it fit for his work.
The 14.5 hectares of land where the ashram stands was a wasteland full of snakes. However, Gandhi gave strict orders not to harm any of them.
Different names, one vision
The ashram was first called the Satyagraha Ashram, which was renamed Sabarmati Ashram after being shifted to the banks of Sabarmati. It was also known as Harijan Ashram because of Gandhi’s commitment to free India from the clutches of untouchability.
History meets mythology
Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Ashram is situated at the site of Dadhichi Rishi’s ashram. The sage had sacrificed his life so that the celestial beings — devas — could make a weapon called vajra (a mythical weapon wielded by Lord Indra) from his bones.
It was at Sabarmati Ashram that Gandhi started writing his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, in the 1920s.
The ashram’s vicinity
Gandhi lived in a quaint cottage called Hridaya (heart) Kunj at the ashram. On the right side of his abode is Nandini — the ashram’s guest house.
Vinoba Kutir, named after its occupant Acharya Vinoba Bhave, is also known as Mira Kutir. Daughter of a British Admiral, Mirabahen, was a disciple of Gandhi.
Upasana Mandir is the open-air prayer ground; and Magan Niwas housed the ashram manager, Maganlal Gandhi. Both Mira Kutir and Upasana Mandir are now tourist attractions at the Sabarmati Ashram.
Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya
The Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya museum is a crucial part of the ashram and was inaugurated by the late former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on May 10, 1963. Measuring around 2,230 square metres, the museum consists of a library, two photo galleries, an auditorium and a conference room.
The museum’s archive consists of 34,066 letters and 8,633 articles written by Gandhi, 6,367 negatives of photographs, 134 reels of microfilm of his writings, and 210 films on Bapu and the struggle for freedom.
On March 12, 1930, the historical Dandi March commenced from the Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhi, along with 78 others, protested against the British Salt Law, which aimed at increasing the sale of British salt in India by imposing a tax on Indian salt. The Dandi March united Indians and made its iconic place in the golden history of India’s freedom struggle.
On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi pledged to only return to the ashram when India gained independence. While the country got its freedom on August 15, 1947, Gandhi was assassinated a year later on January 30, 1948, and could never return to his beloved ashram.