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Monday, 22 January 2018

651) Leisure Time (Memories): A photo-journey to Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad: The residence of Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba Gandhi from 1918 to 1930:

 651) Leisure Time (Memories): A photo-journey to Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad: The residence of Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba Gandhi from 1918 to 1930:

Links to some other interesting posts on Mahatma Gandhi's life, thoughts, works and salient role played in the Freedom of India

Sabarmati Ashram on the banks of the river Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, Gujarat goes by various names - Gandhi Ashram, Harijan Ashram,  or Satyagrah Ashram etc.

This Ashram was Mahatma Gandhi's place of stay for about 12 years from 1918 to 1930.

It was from here that Mahatma Gandhi led the Dandi Salt Satyagrah on 12.03.1930. Sabarmati Ashram is today designated as a National Monument.

This post is based on a photo-journey from a trip made of the Ashram by Satyajit Pratap. I will intersperse it with links to my old posts on Mahatma Gandhi wherever I think is relevant for the visitors  to this blog to learn more about the life and times of the Father of the Nation who is an inspiration today as much as he was, when he led India to Freedom from the British Raj through his most potent "weapon" - the "Satyagrah" (a concept which was based on "insistence of one's rights through peaceful means of protest/agitation").

In the words of Satyajit, "there is so much positive energy here that even today one can feel the spiritual presence of Mahatma Gandhi all around the ashram and the impact that he had on India's Freedom Struggle which left a lasting impression on the world."

              The statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Sabarmati Ashram

An image of the main building of the Sabarmati Ashram as it exists today

This inscription is engraved on a marble stone outside Gandhiji's home at Sabarmati Ashram 

"Hriday Kunj" - "These were Mahatma Gandhi's and Kasturba's residential quarters from 1918 to 1930.

From here were inspired all his national activities. It was from here that the famous Dandi March recalling Buddha's renunciation of old began on 12th March 1930"

This poster says - "Was Ashram Life an outcome of Gandhiji's whim". The explanatory note on Gandhiji's concept says- "Ashram here means religious community living. Such ashram life was part of my nature".

This poster describes the reason why this place was called the "Satyagrah" Ashram

"Gandhiji believed that satyagrah was necessary to achieve individual growth for satyagrahis and social change. He used the ashram as a laboratory.

Gandhiji also entertained the idea that the ashram would become a training ground for satyagrahis. He wrote - ' I had full discussions with.... friends, as a result of which we decided to call the institution Satyagrah Ashram ..... My life is devoted to the quest for truth. I would live, and if need be, die in pursuing it' ."

The sign board outside Gandhiji's house at the ashram reads -

"Pledge for Freedom" - Gandhiji lived here from 1918 to 1930. This was the heart "hriday" of the ashram, hence Kakasaheb Kalelkar aptly named it "Hriday Kunj". Many national and international leaders came here to meet Gandhiji. It was while living here that Mohandas Gandhi came to be known as Mahatma Gandhi. From here, Gandhiji set out on the Dandi March, vowing not to return to the ashram until India became free".

The place where Gandhiji lived at the Ashram was called "Hriday-kunj"

Gandhiji's room and the place where he used to meet his Indian and foreign visitors. One can see his favourite "Bardoli Charkha" kept on the side on which he spun his Khadi cloth as opposed to wearing English made clothing/garments

Gandhji is shown on this First Day Cover working on a Charkha. 

A Charkha is a device for spinning thread or yarn from natural or synthetic fibres. He believed that "the spinning wheel represents to me the hope of the masses.... It was the friend and solace of the widow. It kept the villagers from idleness. For the Charkha included all the anterior and posterior industries - ginning, carding, warping, sizing, dyeing and weaving. These, in turn, kept the village carpenter and blacksmith busy." He further believed "I believe in the spinning wheel. It has two main aspects - terrible and benign. In its terrible aspect, it is calculated to bring about the only boycott we need for an independent National existence..... in its benign aspect, it gives a new life and hope to the villager."

He further believed "For every minute that I spin, there is in me the consciousness that I have added to the nation's wealth".

Gandhiji was very keen to improve the"Charkha" technologically in order to improve its productivity. He annoumced a competition for designing of a more efficient Charkha which was required to be simple in operation, cheap to manufacture and be able to produce yarn of good quality in greater quantity. While he was lodged in Yerwada jail and later at the agha Khan Palace, Pune, he himself worked on a portable design of the Charkha, which could be easily carried anywhere.
A miniature sheet of two stamps - the "Bardoli Charkha" (traditional one) and the "Peti Charkha" (portable one) showing Gandhiji working on the Peti Charkha that he had designed.

This Special Cover brought out by India Post bears an image of Mahatma Gandhi at left and his favourite Charkha Rs.5/- stamp. If one runs a finger through the texture of this special cover, one gets the feel of a Khadi cloth
A Rs.100/- Stamp brought out in 2011 on Khadi Cloth for the first time ever showing a Charkha, Mahatma Gandhi's profile and one of his quotes - Be True - MK Gandhi."

The Miniature Sheet brought out on the occasion, shows Gandhiji spinning on a Charkha at the Sabarmati Ashram 

If anyone asked the Mahatma what was his message to the visitor, he always maintained - "My life is my message -M.K. Gandhi".

(At Sabarmati Ashram there exists today a Museum which also has a gallery titled "My life is my message" with more than 250 photographs of some of the most vivid and historic events of Gandhiji's life... The Museum has around 40,000 books mentioning Gandhiji's life, works, teachings, Indian Freedom Movement etc. and hundreds of periodicals. There are about 35,000 letters to and from Gandhiji and about 9,000 pages of manuscripts of his articles which were published in "Harijan", "Harijansevak" and "Harijanbandhu")

              An image of the Museum building as it exists today

At the Ashram, Kasturba Gandhi was always the perfect hostess as this poster recounts -

"Any new guest who arrived would first be met by Ba. She would welcome him with great affection. "Where had he come from?" "had he eaten?"..... She would also often tell the ashram inmates" "Don't put up with any discomfort".

"If people like Pt. Malaviya were able to stay at the ashram for several days, it was only because of Ba. Without Ba how would Rajaji get his coffee? Or Jawaharlal his special tea?"

This poster queries "Was Kasturba even Gandhiji's teacher ?"

It quotes Gandhiji as saying " It was from my wife that I learned the lesson of ahimsa.....I had always tried to make her bend to my wishes. On the one hand, she would firmly refuse to do so and on the other, patiently bear with all the hardships that I would inflict on her in my obstinacy. It was her peaceful opposition that opened my eyes. I felt ashamed of myself and was rid of the foolish notion that it was my birth-right to rule over her."

This bill-board describes "Prarthana Bhoomi (Prayer ground) at the Sabarmati Ashram -

"The Prarthana Bhoomi (prayer ground) provided the vital force for Gandhiji's ideals and actions. Members of the ashram began their day by gathering here to pray. In the evening, they returned to pray and take stock of the day's activities. This spot was witness to Gandhiji's many tribulations, the dilemmas he pondered over and the important decisions he made"

 This poster titled "Was Gandhiji parochial in locating the ashram in Gujarat" explains Gandhiji's decision to set up an ashram in Gujarat -

"Being a Gujarati I should be able to serve the country through the Gujarati language..... (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".

Some of Mahatma Gandhi's visions and inspirational quotes that abound at the Sabarmati Ashram:

This poster recounts why Gandhiji was "kept on Probation" by his political guru - Gopal Krishna Gokhale

"Gandhiji was always prepared to learn from others, both young and old. He acknowledged Gokhale as his political guru. Before Gandhiji returned in 1915 from South Africa with the intention of staying in India, Gokhale had made Gandhiji promise that he would express no opinion on public questions for one year. 

Of this he writes in his autobiography, ' For one year I am to do nothing. Gokhale took from me a promise that I should only travel in India for one year and form or express no opinion on public questions during that time. I fully intend to keep this promise.' "

After his return from South Africa in 1915, when Gandhiji set up the Sabarmati ashram, his mentor Gopal Krishna Gokhale advised him to embark on a "journey to discover India". He travelled all over the country from Calcutta (present day Kolkata) and Shantiniketan in Bengal to Kanpur and to Rangoon (present day Yangon) in Burma and to Rishikesh acquainting himself of the plight of Indians everywhere.

                       Gandhiji's Talisman

Gandhiji said - " I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?
Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away. sd/- M.K. Gandhi."

           A quote from Mahatma Gandhi displayed at the Ashram

"If blood be shed let it be our own. Let us cultivate the calm courage to die without killing."

             Why did Gandhiji give so much importance to the vows?

Gandhiji believed that "Vows should be taken in observance of universally recognised moral principles which we do not habitually act upon...... A vow means unflinching determination. They are necessary for overcoming the difficulties in adhering to moral rules. Determination is worth nothing if it bends before temptation".

Gandhiji projected as social values vows that had hitherto been associated merely with personal virtues.

                     On Civil Disobedience

Mahatma Gandhi believed "Civil disobedience is opposed to criminal and immoral disobedience. Civil disobedience, therefore, can be confined only to those laws which do not carry any moral sanction ......

But a Civil Resister will hesitate to commit any attack upon the rights of others.......

A Civil Resister will therefore not impute motives but examine each act on merits. Civil disobedience is therefore based upon love and fellow-feeling."

                                    On Duty and Right

Gandhiji believed - "I say through violence we cannot obtain even what is rightfully ours. There is only one way to obtain our rights, which I have explained and which everyone liked. It has been asked what are one's rights and what one must do to obtain them. I say that people have no rights. He who does not have duties has no rights either. It means that all rights arise out of one's duties. Therefore, there are no rights. It is merely that I fulfil certain duties and I get results of performing them. These results are my rights"

- spoken at Birla House, New delhi during the Evening prayer meeting. Original speech in Hindi. Duration: 45 seconds. 

While out to teach the poor cleanliness, what did Gandhiji himself learn?

During the Champaran Satyagrah, Gandhiji asked Kasturba to tell the poor women of the Bhitiharya village to wear clean clothes.

One of the women took Ba to her hut and said, "Look for yourself. There is neither a cupboard nor any other place to keep clothes. This sari that I am wearing is the only one I have. How am I to wash it even if I want to? Go and tell the Mahatma to get us clothes so that we may bathe every dayand wear clean clothes."
When Ba recounted this to Gandhiji, he realised the reality of India's poverty.

It was at Champaran that the transformation of Mohandas Gandhi into the "Mahatma" ("Great Soul)", began to take place. This is the story of Gandhiji's first "Satyagrah"and the Champaran Movement began a new chapter in India's Freedom struggle.

The Centenary of the Champaran Satyagrah was commemorated by India Post on 13.05.2017 with the issue of three stamps:
The First Day Cover bears an image of Mahatma Gandhi taking notes at left.

Above him is the Order of the government of Bihar and Orissa titled "Mr Gandhi charged with Disobeying notice" (Orders reserved). To his side isa group of three farmers ploughing/tilling their fields freely as a result of Mahatma Gandhi's successful Stayagrah campaign at Champaran. The three stamps issued individually are:

This Rs.5/- stamp bears an image of a young Gandhiji sitting on a chair. It bears one of his quotes - "It is no exaggeration, but the literal truth, to say that in this meeting with the peasants, I was face to face with God, Ahimsa and Truth." (MK Gandhi).

This Rs.10/- stamp shows an image of Kasturba Gandhi and an image of a Bunyadi School set up by Gandhiji in which three women are reading and learning from books, to earn their livelihood.

This Rs.25/- stamp shows a young Gandhi and farmers at work, harvesting their crops, symbolising the enactment of the Champaran Agrarian Bill which let the ryots grow food crops and stopped their exploitation by the British landlords.

                    On "The Challenge" posed by the British Raj

The challenge came in revolutionary articles Gandhiji wrote in "Navjivan" and "Young India".

Extracts: "this British Empire, which is based upon organised exploitation of the physically weaker races the the Earth and upon the continuous exhibition of brute force cannot live."

"We want to overthrow the government".

Why did Gandhiji choose the ordinary Salt tax as an important issue in the freedom struggle?

"Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life. It is the only condiment of the poor. Even cattle cannot live without salt."

So Gandhiji wrote to the Viceroy, " I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man's standpoint. As the independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil."

                 Why a 241-mile-long march for a handful of salt?

"For bringing awareness and awakening among the people.... on the 12th day of this month (March), I shall proceed from Sabarmati Ashram with such co workers of the ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the salt laws."

Gandhiji's aim was to educate the people about the meaning of swaraj. All along the route of the march, he addressed the people and exhorted them to work for national self-purification through activities such as khadi, communal harmony and abolition of untouchability.

(At Sabarmati Ashram, Mahatma Gandhi had formed a tertiary school that focussed on manual labour, agriculture and literacy in order to advance his efforts for the nation's self-sufficiency).

After deciding on the Dandi March, how did Gandhiji keep the option of compromise open?

35 Paise Stamps brought out in 1980, commemorating 50 years (golden Jubilee) of the Dandi March show symbolic images of Mahatma Gandhi perform his historic Salt Satyagrah

           A 50 paisa coin commemorates 50 years of the Dandi March

This set of two Commemorative coins commemorates 75 years of the Dandi March

Gandhiji wrote to the Viceroy:

"Before embarking on civil disobedience and taking the risk I have dreaded to take all these years, I would fain approach you and find a way out......

This letter is not in any way intended as a threat but is a simple sacred duty peremptory on a civil resister. Therefore, I am having it specially delivered by a young English friend."

Who took over the leadership after Gandhiji's arrest?

Gandhiji was arrested before he could embark upon his civil disobedience to break the salt law at Dharasana. Shri Abbas Taiyabji took over the leadership of the movement. When he too was arrested, the responsibility was handed over to Smt. Sarojini Naidu.

Thus civil disobedience continued on the strength of able leadership and kept itself free of the bondage of caste and religion. This exemplifies Gandhiji's far-sightedness.

What other eminent persons of his time thought of him:

 A quote by Bernard Shaw - the Irish Playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist

" From Mahatma minor to Mahatma major: It is dangerous to be too good."

Gandhiji in the eyes of Albert Einstein - the German-born Theoretical Physicist who developed the Theory of Relativity

"Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth."

John Ruskin- a leading English art critic of the Victorian era, an art patron, draughtsman, water-colourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist said this -

The essence of lying is in self-deception, not in words; a lie may be told by silence, by equivocation, by the accent on a syllable, by a glance of the eye attaching a peculiar significance to a sentence; and all these lies are worse and baser by many degrees than a lie plainly worded.

Bertrand Russell - a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist and Nobel Laureate wrote - 

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 lay down on railways, under trains, the British found such cruelty intolerable.

Will Durant - an American writer, historian and philosopher said this of Mahatma Gandhi -

Not since Buddha has India so reverenced any man. Centuries hence he will be remembered when of his contemporaries hardly a name would survive.

Toynbee - a British historian, philosopher of history, research Professor of International history at the London School of Economics and the University of London was of the view-

The power and creative suffering must be evident to any one of my age; for the generation into which I happen to have been born, has not only been Hitler's generation in the West and Stalin's in Russia; it has also been Gandhi's in India; and it can already be forecast with some confidence that Gandhi's effect on human history is going to be greater and more lasting than either Stalin or Hitler's.

Thoreau - an American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor and historian opined -

I do not hesitate to say that even if there is only one man in Massachusetts who is opposed to slavery, he should effectively withdraw his support from the Government, both in person and property, without waiting till the majority is on his side. For, he is not alone. Any man more right than his neighbours constitutes a majority of one already.

Romain Rolland - a French dramatist, novelist, essayist, art historian and mystic, Nobel Laureate for Literature (in 1915) said this of Mahatma Gandhi -

This is the man who has stirred three hundred million people to revolt, who has shaken the foundations of the British Empire, who has introduced in to human politics the strongest religious impetus of the last two thousand years.

Some old memorable photographs which can be seen at the Sabarmati Ashram:

This photo is captioned - "Mohan at the age of 14, Rajkot -1883"

             Above and below - two photos of the young Gandhi 

This photo is captioned "As a law student, London, 1890"

This photo is captioned "as a Barrister wearing the London Vegetarian Society's badge, Johannesburg, 1906

This photograph is captioned "Indian Ambulance Stretcher-Bearer Corps during the Zulu Rebellion

This photograph bears the caption "With Kasturba, Johannesburg - 1014"

This coin commemorates the Centenary of Return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India - 1915-2015, when he set up the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad

This coin shows images of the young and old Gandhiji. It is the only coin issued by an India Government Mint, showing two images of the same person.

                            The Obverse image of the same coin

(The photos for this post have been contributed by Satyajit Pratap. Post narrated, compiled and researched by Rajeev Prasad. The coins and stamps shown here are from previous posts put up on Mahatma Gandhi on this blog)


  1. Krishna Jee Verma has commented:
    "An excellent effort to bring back Gandhi."

    1. Thank you so much. I am quite a Gandhi fan. There are several posts, that Ihave on my blog - Champaran satyagrah, 1942 Freedom Movement, 100 years of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa. Special cover which feels like a Khadi cloth, a Rs.100/- stamp issued on a khadi cloth, stamps on the Charkha etc.

  2. Satyajit Pratap has commented:
    "Awsum ,wonderfully sewed up and beautifully scripted. Awsum Rajeev..."

    1. Thank you Satyajit. You had made a good coverage of the Sabarmati Ashram thru your photos. This was the "missing link" on my blog.

  3. Kalpana Pratap has commented:
    "Awesome pics and write up !!"

    1. Thanks, Kalpana. I can see many more such collaborative posts/ articles with Satyajit, already.

    2. Kalpana Pratap has further commented:
      "Yes, ofcourse , me too ! Congrats to both of u 👍."

      Sushma Pratap Khanna has commented:
      "Very informative."

    3. Sushma Pratap Khanna has further commented:
      "Keep it up Rajeev.A great effort very enlightening."

    4. Thank you so much for your encouraging comment.

  4. Mahendra Negi has commented:
    Excellent collaboration"

  5. Dipankar has commented:
    "Excellent effort! Kudos to both of you.

  6. Dinesh Sharma has commented:
    "Excellent work, well scripted Rajeev with support from Satyajit"

  7. Vinod Khurana has commented:
    "Excellent work by Rajeev and Satyajit. At a time when we are forgetting virtues and contributions of Gandhiji."

    1. Thank you, Vinodji. I wish the youth of India revisit some of Gandhiji's ideals.

  8. T.N. Vaidyanathan has commented:
    "Nice joint effort .... Satyajit & Rajeev."

  9. Joseph Matthews has commented:
    "Excellent work Rajeev and Satyajit.

  10. Hari Hara Mishra has commented:
    Two thumbs up!!!!

  11. Ninan Vargis has commented:
    "Great tango by Rajeev and Satyajit!! Y only youth! If we could all practice Gandhiji's ideals, we could for starters make India a better place for all her citizens."

    1. Thanks Ninan. Perhaps, we need more billboards at trafficsignals and prominent places highlighting Gandhiji's ideal and principles and those of other Freedom Fighters forsome impact to be made.

  12. Parthasarthi Mukherjee has commented:
    "Brilliantly portrayed. Makes the place come alive. My compliments !!"

    1. Thank you so much, Parthasarthi. Much appreciate.

  13. Krishnayya Ramadana has commented:
    "Wow Rajeev... That is a great write-upon Gandhi and the Kasturba Ashram..... Pratap should be very happy that you brought his feelings alive...."

    1. Satyajit Pratap has commented:
      "Indeed yes.... the script n editing enlivened the photos."

    2. Thanks, Krishnayya. The quote from Satyajit is his original. I just put it in words to express his sentiment.

  14. Wow! such a wonderful and beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing this informative blog. I really got so useful information by reading your post, this is truly helpful. Big thanks to the writer this post. What a great tour and visit! Really this is a great post, Thanks for sharing the information.
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    1. Thank you Ankita for visiting the post and your encouraging comment.