The Mahatma visited Mangalore, Mulki, and Puttur during three short trips

From arterial roads to important areas, Mahatma Gandhi’s mark on the city is unmistakable here. But what is unquantifiable is the impact his three short visits to the city made, when thousands gathered to hear him speak.

Surendra Rao, a retired history professor from Mangalore University, traces Mahatma Gandhi’s visits to Mangalore – in 1920, 1927, and 1934 – as having galvanised the freedom movement and social reform here. “The freedom movement was not very active here. There were no major protests against the British rule. However, the Mahatma’s visits created great buzz, and inspired nationalist emotions here,” he said.

His visits were a part of a larger South India tour, and Mangalore was then a gateway to Kerala and northern Karnataka. During his visits to the city, Mulki and Puttur, he spoke on social reforms, eradicating untouchability, and abstinence from alcohol.

“Mahatma Gandhi had truly captured the imagination of the people. Spinning chakras, picketing liquor shops all became Gandhian rituals performed here, while local Gandhian leaders became revered for the connection. For example, K. Sadashiva Rao was called Kumara Gandhi, Devappa was called Kumble Gandhi,” said Mr. Rao.

The programmes were a part of fundraising for Gandhi Nidhi, and Mr. Rao said the affluent district traders and agriculturists contributed to the movement.

As in most tours of the Mahatma, during his travels often by train and bus, he participated in functions during his stopovers. H. Raghavendra Rao, current Headmaster of Canara High School, Dongerkery, said that in 1927, the Mahatma unveiled a portrait of Lokamanya Tilak in the school, and in 1934 laid the foundation of Krishna Mandir in Canara Girls’ High School nearby. Although the school received his permission to use his name for the museum, the Mahatma is reported to have said in the letter, “I don’t know what purpose it (naming the Museum after him) will serve,” said school authorities.

Mahatma Gandhi Museum now stands on the school premises.

Situated in front of the Gandhi Park in Gandhi Nagar lies Saraswati Niwas, which for one day was the chosen place of stay for Mahatma Gandhi.

Having little information of the stay, Rajgopal Rao (79), who inherited the property and stories about Mahatma Gandhi’s stay from his uncle Nagar Ramnath Rai can only reckon that the freedom fighter chose the place because it was clean and “he could graze his goats in the gardens” here.

Unfortunately, details of Mahatma Gandhi’s stay were lost when Mr. Rai died in 1968 and the couple are only left with fuzzy details from the stories told by Rajagopal Rao’s aunt.

Similarly, letters written by Mahatma Gandhi to Canara High School, archival photographs of his visits there, were lost when, due to a misunderstanding, a whole trunk of papers were sent as municipal waste.

While little remains in the form of documents or pictures, what is certain as Surendra Rao explains, is the impact of Mahatma Gandhi’s three short visits to the district.