History & Culture

Visiting the Sabarmati ashram

The ashram: The room in which Gandhiji used to read and also spin.  

I have always wanted to visit the birthplace of Gandhiji. So when my father was going on work to Ahmedabad I accompanied him. He took me to the Sabarmati Ashram earlier known as Satyagraha Ashram which was set up in 1915 by Mahatma Gandhi on returning from South Africa.

Only on visiting the ashram did I realise the importance of this place and that it was witness to many historical events. As Gandhiji said, “This is the right place for our activities to carry on the search for truth and develop fearlessness, for on one side are the iron bolts of the foreigners, and on the other the thunderbolts of Mother Nature.”

Indeed it was from here on March 12, 1930 that Gandhiji marched towards Dandi. It was 241 miles from the Ashram, and Gandhiji accompanied by 78 companions marched to Dandi in protest of the British Salt law, which taxed Indian salt in an effort to promote sales of British salt.

The Ashram which houses a museum, Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalay is divided into five units — office, library, two photo galleries and an auditorium. It also has a large open prayer ground. It is a treasure trove, having the largest number of original manuscripts of Gandhiji's letters and articles. The museum has eight life-size colour oil paintings and an exhibition on Gandhiji's life titled “My life is my message” and “Gandhiji in Ahmedabad”.

An archive is also set up, which stores 34,066 letters written by Gandhiji, manuscripts of his 8,633 articles, negatives of 6,367 photographs, 134 reels of microfilms of his writings and 210 films on Gandhiji and the freedom struggle. The library has over 30,000 books, 155 letters of felicitation received by Gandhiji besides miscellaneous memorabilia comprising coins, postal stamps and so on.

The visit to Sabarmati ashram was not only an eye-opener but it also helped me get a feel of Gandhiji's life and thoughts and what they mean for everybody, for children like me, the youth, society, government, industry and for humanity at large.

There were a lot of interesting quotes by Gandhiji and the relevance of them is timeless. The ones I liked were on Honesty — Honesty from policy is as acceptable as honesty for its own sake, Lie – A lie has no bottom, Freedom – The highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest measure of discipline and humanity, Education – Cleanliness of the mind and body is the first step to education and Eating – One should not eat in order to please the palate but just to keep the body going.

What perhaps was most interesting was Sabarmati being a perfect example of a model community based on rules and values. The Ashram was a human laboratory where Gandhiji could test his moral and spiritual ideas. It is a family not linked by blood or property, but by an allegiance to common ideals which include education, truth (non-violence and love), control of the palate (no liquor or meat), no stealing, non-possession (simple living, high thinking), use of home-made articles, conquer of fear, and the eradication of untouchability.

Currently the activities at the ashram include keeping contact with people in the field as well as helping and undertaking study and research in Gandhian thought and activities and publishing the results of such study and research and allied literature for the benefit of the people, observance in a suitable manner of occasions connected with Gandhiji's life and maintaining contact with the youth and student community and providing facilities to them for the study of Gandhian thought.

There is a guided tour which starts with slide show and provides brief details for the location of Ashram, its history, its activities and above all the mantra of Mahatma Gandhi of maintaining diary for daily activities, and wearing at least one pair of hand spun khadi garment.

My visit to Sabarmati Ashram was very useful because I came to learn a lot of things about Gandhiji and his thoughts to be implemented in our daily life. I very strongly recommend that everybody visit this ashram.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2021 11:22:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/Visiting-the-Sabarmati-ashram/article16185915.ece

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