Bapu went here too

Last Updated 28 September 2013, 14:32 IST

Anurag Mallick and Priya Ganapathy discover a lesser-known trail of historic buildings linked to the Mahatma.

Here we go beyond Gandhi’s birthplace in Porbandar, and Birla House in New Delhi, where he breathed his last, to give you an overview of places that cherish fond memories of his visit:

Kaba Gandhi No Delo, Rajkot

While Gandhiji’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad is fairly renowned, not many know of the house where he spent his early years from 1881 to 1887. Mahatma Gandhi’s father, Karamchand Uttanchand Gandhi or ‘Kaba’ Gandhi, served as Diwan (prime minister) in Rajkot, erstwhile capital of the princely state of Saurashtra. Located on Ghee Kanta Road, Kaba Gandhi No Delo is a typical Saurashtra house with a central approach through an arched gateway. Today, it houses Gandhi Smriti Museum with a photo essay on his life and personal belongings.

Mani Bhavan, Mumbai

It was from a humble two-storeyed house on Laburnum Road in Gamdevi that Gandhiji launched Non-Cooperation, Satyagraha, Swadeshi, Khadi, Khilafat and Home Rule movements. His association with charkha (spinning wheel) began here in 1917, and Mani Bhavan served as his political nerve centre till 1934. The mansion belonged to the Mani family and later to Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri, Gandhi’s friend and host in Mumbai. In 1955, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi converted it into a memorial.

Beyond Mahatma’s statue is a staircase leading to the first-floor gallery with press clips, letters and photos. In a stark room on the second floor beyond a glass partition, two spinning wheels, a book and a bedroll bear testimony to his stay. The hall on the opposite side has exquisite clay models in display boxes depicting events from his life. Susheela Gokhale Patel (grandmother of actress Amisha Patel) painstakingly created these models in 1969. The tour ends on the terrace where Gandhiji was arrested on January 4, 1932.

After Martin Luther King’s visit in the 1950s, in November 2010, Barack Obama became the first high-profile international visitor in 50 years. A fitting tribute to Gandhian simplicity, Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya is open to all, completely free, with no bags or cameras to be deposited, nor any overbearing security guards.
Kumara Krupa Guest House, Bangalore

To intensify the struggle against the British, Gandhiji toured Karnataka 18 times and made 14 trips to Bangalore. During his first visit in 1934, he collected money for Harijan Fund and held a series of meetings in Malleswaram, where members of the Malleswaram Ladies Club generously donated their jewellery for the national cause. The club bears a pictorial record of this visit. Most places in the city associated with Gandhiji have been converted into commercial establishments.

The spot at Kumara Park where Gandhiji held prayer meetings is today a five-star hotel’s swimming pool. A board tersely cites — ‘This was the place where Gandhiji used to hold prayers’. The place at Nandi Hills where Gandhiji stayed for three months is also a club. Dwarfed between Chinnaswamy Stadium and M G Road’s shopping complexes, his statue lies forgotten in a quiet park on one end of the road named after him!

The Mahatma stayed for a month at Kumara Krupa Guest House, a beautiful heritage structure in a 14-acre patch on Kumara Krupa Road. Originally the house of K Seshadri Iyer, Mysore’s longest-serving Dewan and architect of modern Bangalore, the bungalow was named after Kumaraswamy, his family deity. Purchased by Mysore State during the reign of Krishnaraja Wadiyar, plans are afoot to build a swanky nine-storey building to house state guests and VIPs. Gandhi Sahitya Sangha at Malleswaram and Gandhi Bhavan in Kumara Park East still carry on Gandhiji’s message of peace and equality.

Aga Khan Palace, Pune

Pune’s Aga Khan Palace wascommissioned by Sultan Muhammed Shah (Aga Khan III) in 1892 as a charitable project to help locals during famine. After launching Quit India Movement, Mahatma Gandhi was held here in captivity from August 9, 1942 to May 6, 1944, along with his wife Kasturba, secretary Mahadev Desai, Miraben and Sarojini Naidu. Ironically, Desai died on August 15 and Baa on February 22, 1944. Their samadhis (resting places) are located in the palace complex alongside a memorial bearing Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes.

In 1969, Prince Karim Al Hussenim (Aga Khan IV) donated the palace to Indian people as a mark of respect to Gandhiji and his philosophy. In 2003, ASI declared it as a monument of national importance. Archival photos offer glimpses into Gandhi’s life and other freedom fighters. Also on display are personal items like utensils, clothes, beads, slippers and Gandhiji’s letter on the death of his secretary. The palace serves as the headquarters of the Gandhi National Memorial Society, and has a small shop selling khadi products and handloom textiles.

Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai

Gandhiji visited Madurai five times, and the city played an important role in his life. It was on his second visit in 1921 that the sight of poor farmers made him adopt his trademark loincloth. In 1934, he refused to enter Madurai Meenakshi Temple when his Harijan escort was stopped from entering the shrine. This triggered the Temple Entry Movement for untouchables, and Gandhiji entered the temple only in 1946 after Vaidyanath Iyer made it accessible to people of all castes and creed. In a fit of inspiration, a mural artist painted an image of Mahatma Gandhi on the temple walls during a renovation project!

The Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai is one of the seven museums in the country dedicated to the Mahatma. Set in the Tamukkum Summer Palace of Nayaka queen Rani Mangammal, it depicts Gandhiji’s life through rare photos, quotes, murals and letters. The Hall of Relics and Replicas contains 14 original artefacts used by Mahatma Gandhi including a shawl, spectacles, some yarn spun by him and the bloodstained garment worn by him when he was assassinated.

Gandhi Mandapam, Kanyakumari

Located on the edge of Indian Ocean near the famous shrine of Kanyakumari, Gandhi Mandapam stands like a pink lotus waiting to bloom. The temple-like memorial enshrines the urn that held Mahatma Gandhiji’s ashes before being immersed in the sea. On February 12, 1948, thousands gathered here to pay their last respects to the Father of the Nation, and many continue to do so. A charkha, Gandhiji’s symbol for India’s freedom struggle, is emblazoned on its facade. The 79-feet-high central spire denotes Gandhiji’s age when he was assassinated. A unique architectural innovation allows sunrays to fall directly on the urn every year at noon on Gandhi Jayanthi, his birth anniversary.

The memorial bears an evocative quote from Gandhi written at Kanyakumari: ‘I am writing this at the Cape, in front of the sea, where three waters meet and furnish a sight unequalled in the world. For this is no port of call for vessels. Like the Goddess, the waters around are virgin’.

(Published 28 September 2013, 14:32 IST)

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