Gandhi’s diary notes on a Bengaluru dairy

Mahatma Gandhi's entry.

It appears to be a forlorn, dilapidated building of demi-mansion proportions although it occupies a pivotal position in the massive NDRI (National Dairy Research Institute) campus in Adugodi, Bengaluru. But it bears relevance to Mahatma Gandhi, whose 150th birth anniversary falls on October 2.  

Mahatma Gandhi visited this place regularly for a fortnight during June 1927 while he was convalescing in the then Pensioners’ Paradise.

Bengaluru, a heaven

According to the records maintained at the NDRI, Gandhiji had been operated on by the British surgeon Major Maddock. He had been advised rest in any place with a temperate climate.

The choice was Bengaluru and the Mahatma was invited and welcomed as a guest by the then Maharaja of Mysore. He stayed at the Kumarakrupa Guest House.

The Imperial Dairy Expert’s office was the next-door neighbour. Then, the incumbent of the office was William Smith. Several sessions with Smith evoked much curiosity in Gandhiji, who was invited by him to visit the institute and personally inspect and gain firsthand knowledge about the latest in dairy technology.

Time slot fixed for the purpose was 5 to 5. 45 pm every day. 

Gandhiji would arrive at the institute, which was then known as Imperial Dairy Research Institute, on the dot with educationist and politician Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya to learn about the subject. Farm Officer Zil Kothavalla would take the duo around the farm and explain to them the various aspects of breeding cows and dairy technology. 


A section of the National Dairy Research Institute, Adugodi, Bengaluru

The visits added to Gandhiji’s knowledge about the cows so much that their welfare was a key concern for the Mahatma. Gandhiji took special interest in the Jill breed of cow, a cross between the Ayrshire bull and the pure-bred white Haryana cow.

Born in Military Farm in Adugodi, one Jill cow lived for 19-and-a-half years and produced 18 elite calves, rendering them lactation, and yielded 1.54 lakh pounds of milk during her lifetime.

Gandhiji produced several columns about cow-breeding and its improvement in Young India, the journal he had been editing. 

Gandhiji continued to visit the institute throughout the fortnight and gathered copious notes about the cow and dairy technology.

On his final day, he signed in the visitor’s book of the institute: ‘M. K. Gandhi’ and added ‘Farmer from Sabarmati’ under the column ‘designation’.


Gandhi’s remarks in the visitor’s diary.

According to Dr K P Ramesha, Head, NDRI, the Alumni Association of the Institute thought it appropriate to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi with a cow belonging to the breed Jill within the enclosure opposite to the building during the Platinum Jubilee celebration of the institute.

The main entrance of the building, too, has a photograph of the Mahatma and Pandit Malaviya with the cow.


Gandhiji and Madan Mohan Malaviyaji with a Jill cow at SRS
of NDRI during July 1927.

The building was inaugurated in 1923 and served initially as the main administrative building. Work had begun for its construction in 1917. It housed the institute’s library till 1996.

Ramesh says a proposal has been sent for the renovation of a part of the building. It will be turned into a skill-development centre.

A look at the solid columns, girders and rafters suggests that the fundamentals are robust and the edifice could survive in the days to come with proper upkeep. 

Ramesha has produced a small booklet, 'Bapu and Dairying', documenting Mahatma Gandhi’s views about cows and their utilitarian aspects. 

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