Mahatma opened Gokhale institute during maiden visit to B'lore

Mahatma Gandhi made his first visit to Bangalore 98 years ago (in May 1915, when he launched one of the City’s famous landmarks — the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs). The story behind Gandhi inaugurating the institute is interesting.

Speakers of eminence extolled the personality and works of Gopal Krishna Gokhale at a public meeting in the City on February 25 that year, six days after his death. Sir M Visvesvaraya, the then Dewan of Mysore, was among those who addressed the meeting.

Inspired by this, personalities like D V Gundappa, K S Krishna Iyer, A R Nageshwara Iyer, N Narasimha Murthy, M G Varadachar, C S Anantha Padmanabha Iyer, S Surya Prakash, Mokshagundam Krishna Murthy, Belur Srinivasa Iyengar, B V Subba Rao and
K Bheema Rao decided to form the Mysore Social Service League.

They invited Mahatma Gandhi, who was then touring South India, to launch the League. A telegram was sent to Bapu and he accepted the invitation. The Mahatma’s visit had an electrifying effect and the inaugural function was a hit. M Venkatakrishnaiya, the Grand Old Man of Mysore, was among those present. Buoyed by the public response, the League planned public lectures. It took up relief measures during the epidemic of influenza that hit the City in 1918-19. In the next 10 years, public service remained an unfulfilled goal for them and they were, by then, popularly known as the Gokhale Group. The idea was revived in 1930 and people felt the need to inform the public about India in a responsible manner.

Thus the League was reborn as the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs. Says veteran lexicographer G Venkatasubbaiah: “Gokhale was one of Gandhi’s mentors. Gandhi was thus the right person to open the institute, though the idea was that of intellectuals from Mysore and Bangalore.”

Gandhiji made several visits in later years. A most telling one was in the 1930s when he came to mobilise the “Harijan Fund.” He visited Malleswaram as part of his campaign. In 1936, Gandhi visited Nandi Hills for 45 days when he was ailing. Gandhi left Nandi Hills and reached Bangalore after visiting Chikkaballapur, Shidlaghatta, Chintamani, Kolar, Bangarpet and KGF, and stayed there up to June 10, 1936. In City, he visited Kengeri. Gandhi held prayer meetings at Kuma­­ra Park. He visited Malleswaram Ladies Club and on a later visit stayed at Kumara Krupa guesthouse for a month. Venkatasubbaiah, then 15, recalls meeting Gandhi.

“In 1928, I was made the waiting boy for Gandhi. I was to do whatever work he wanted me to and was to be at hand for him. This was in Madhugiri. He was staying at the Municipal Bhavan. I remember distinctly how he removed his garland and gave it to me.”

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