Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya
“Being a Gujarati, I thought I should be able to render the greatest services to the country through the Gujarati language. And then as Ahmedabad was an ancient centre of hand loom weaving, it was likely to be most favourable field for the revival of the cottage industry of hand spinning. There was also a hope that, the city being capital of Gujarat, monetary help from its wealthy citizens would be more available than any other place”.
This was an explanation given by Gandhiji for choosing Ahmedabad as is hub of activities.
Gandhiji selected a place on the bank of the river Sabarmati very close to the Saint Dadheechi’s temple as well as from Jail and a crematorium. Gandhi used to remark, “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, thunderbolts of mother nature.” After building a few essential structures, activities of the Ashram commenced in 1917.
Gandhiji had driven all the major activities of independence as well as upliftment of the society from this Ashram which was popularly known as Sabarmati Ashram. He stayed in the ashram for many years before he finally proceeded for a march to Dandi to break the salt law on 12 March 1930. Before starting the march to Dandi, Gandhiji declared that he will not return to the ashram before the independence of the country.
The Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya is run by a public trust established in 1951. The museum’s new premises were built in 1963. The museum’s main objective is to house the personal memorabilia of Mahatma Gandhi. Consequently the exhibits on view depict the vivid and historic events of Gandhiji’s life. There are books, manuscripts and photocopies of his correspondence, photographs of Gandhiji with his wife Kasturba and other ashram associates, life size oil paintings and actual relics like his writing desk and spinning wheel.
Hridaya Kunj, Gandhi’s Home
On his return from South Africa, Gandhi’s first Ashram in India was established in the Kochrab area of Ahmedabad on 25 May 1915. The Ashram was then shifted on 17 June 1917 to a piece of open land on the banks of the river Sabarmati. Reasons for this shift included: he wanted to do some experiments in living eg farming, animal husbandry, cow breeding, Khadi and related constructive activities, for which he was in search of this kind of barren land; mythologically, it was the ashram site of Dadhichi Rishi who had donated his bones for a righteous war; it is between a jail and a crematorium as he believed that a satyagrahi has to invariably go to either place. The Sabarmati Ashram (also known as Harijan Ashram) was home to Mohandas Gandhi from 1917 until 1930 and served as one of the main centres of the Indian freedom struggle. Originally called the Satyagraha Ashram, reflecting the movement toward passive resistance launched by the Mahatma, the Ashram became home to the ideology that set India free. Sabarmati Ashram named for the river on which it sits, was created with a dual mission. To serve as an institution that would carry on a search for truth and a platform to bring together a group of workers committed to non-violence who would help secure freedom for India.
By conceiving such a vision Gandhi and his followers hoped to foster a new social construct of truth and non-violence that would help to revolutionize the existing pattern of like.
While at the Ashram, Gandhi formed a school that focused on manual labour, agriculture, and literacy to advance his efforts for self-sufficiency. It was also from here on the 12 March 1930 that Gandhi launched the famous Dandi march 241 miles from the Ashram (with 78 companions) in protest of the British Salt Law, which taxed Indian salt in an effort to promote sales of British salt in India. This mass awakening filled the British jails with 60 000 freedom fighters. Later the government seized their property, Gandhi, in sympathy with them, responded by asking the Government to forfeit the Ashram. Then Government, however, did not oblige. He had by now already decided on 22 July 1933 to disband the Ashram, which later became asserted place after the detention of many freedom fighters, and then some local citizens decided to preserve it. On 12 March 1930 he vowed that he would not return to the Ashram until India won independence. Although this was won on 15 August 1947, when India was declared a free nation, Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948 and never returned.
Over the years, the Ashram became home to the ideology that set India free. It aided countless other nations and people in their own battles against oppressive forces.
Today, the Ashram serves as a source of inspiration and guidance, and stands as a monument to Gandhi’s life mission and a testimony to others who have fought a similar struggle.
Activities at Ashram
The Ashram is presently involved in a number of activities that serves to both preserve the history of Gandhi and the freedom struggle and also to promote and educate people in the great philosophies, values and teachings of Gandhi.
- Collecting, processing, preserving and displaying archival materials (writings, photographs, paintings, voice-records, films, personal clothes etc
- Microfilming, lamination and preservation of negatives
- Arranging exhibitions on aspects of Gandhi’s life, literature and activities
- Publication of the “Mahadevbhani Dairy,” which chronicles the entire history of the Indian freedom struggle
- The Ashram Trust funds activities that include education for the visitor, the community and routine maintenance of the museum and its surrounding grounds
- Keeping contact with 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 Gandhi’s life
- Maintaining contact with the youth and student community and providing facilities to them for the study of Gandhian thought.
Harijan Ashram Trust: Runs Vinay Mandir for secondary and higher education, hostel for Harijan girls and Mahila Adhyapan Mandir for Primary Teachers’ Training.
Gujarat Khadi Gramodyog Mandal: looks after village industries. It produces and sells Khadi, handmade paper, soap, oil etc and also makes Ambar Charkha, Looms and its accessories.
Khadi Gramodyog Prayog Samiti: conducts research and training in spinning-weaving, solar energy, and bio-gas, etc.
Gujarat Harijan Sevak Sangh: works for removal of untouchability; it also runs the Environmental Sanitation Institute and conducts research and training in rural health and sanitation.
A cow-pen for Bidaj and Lali villages, conducts many experiments and expansion in farming, animal husbandry, cow-breeding and care, and milk production.
Ashram Guest House: Toran is run for Gandhian researchers and visitors and tourists.
The object of this Ashram is that its members should qualify themselves for, and make a constant endeavour towards, the service of the country, not inconsistent with universal good.
Truth is not fulfilled by mere abstinence from telling or practising an untruth in ordinary relations with fellow-men. But Truth is God, the one and only Reality. All other observances take their rise from the quest for, and the worship of, Truth. Worshippers of Truth must not resort to untruth, even for what they may believe to be the food of the country, and they may be required, like Prahlad, civilly to disobey the orders even of parents and elders in virtue of their paramount loyalty to Truth.
Mere not-killing (the animals) is not enough (for this observance). The active part of non-violence is Love. The law of Love requires equal consideration for all life from the tiniest insect to the highest man. One who follows this law must not be angry even with the perpetrator of the greatest imaginable wrong, but must love him, wish him well and serve him. Although he must thus love the wrong does, he must never submit to his wrong or his injustice, but must oppose it with all his might, and must patiently and without resentment suffer all the hardships to which the wrong doer may subject him in punishment for his opposition.
Observance of the foregoing principles is impossible without the observance of celibacy. It is not enough that one should not look upon any woman or man with a lustful eye; animal passion must be so controlled as to be excluded even from the mind. If married, one must not have a carnal mind regarding one’s wife or husband, but consider her or him as one’s lifelong friends, and establish relationship of perfect purity. A sinful touch, gesture or word is a direct breach of this principle.
Control of the Palate
The observance of Brahmacharya has been found, from experience, to be extremely difficult so long as one has not acquired mastery over taste. Control of the palate has therefore been placed as a principle by itself. Eating is necessary only for sustaining the body and keeping it a fit instrument for service, and must never be practised for self-indulgence. Food must therefore be taken, like medicine, under proper restraint. In pursuance of this principle on must eschew exciting foods, such as spices and condiments. Meat, liquor, tobacco, bhang, etc are excluded from the Ashram. This principle requires abstinence from feasts or dinners which has pleasure as their object.
It is not enough not to take another’s property without his permission. One becomes guilty of theft even by using differently anything which one has received in trust for use in a particular way, as well as by using a thing longer than the period for which it has been lent. It is also theft if one receives anything which he does not really need. The fine truth at the bottom of this principle is that Nature provides just enough, and no more, for out daily need. Hence it is also a theft to possess anything more than one’s minimum requirement.
Non-Possession or Poverty
This principle is really a part of (5). Just as one must not receive, so must one not possess anything whish one does not really need. It would be a breach of this principle to possess unnecessary foodstuffs, clothing or furniture. For instance, one must not keep a chair if can do without it. In observing this principle one is led to a progressive simplification of one’s own life.
Man is not omnipotent. He therefore serves the world best by serving his neighbour. This is swadeshi, a principle which is broken with one professes to serve those who are more remote in preference to those who are near. Observance of swadeshi makes for order in the world; the breach of it leads to chaos. Following this principle, one must as far as possible purchase one’s requirements locally and not buy things imported from foreign lands, which can easily be manufactured in the country. There is no place for self interest in Swadeshi, which enjoins the sacrifice of oneself for the family, of the family for the village, and of the country for humanity.
One cannot follow Truth of Love so long as one is subject to fear. As there is at present a reign of fear in the country, meditation on and cultivation of fearlessness have a particular importance. Hence its separate mention as an observance. A seeker after truth must give up the fear of caste, government, robbers etc and he must not be frightened by poverty or death.
Removal of Untouchability
Untouchability, which has taken such deep root in Hinduism, is altogether irreligious. Its removal has therefore been treated as an independent principle. The so-called untouchables have equal place in the Ashram with other classes.
In the Ashram caste distinction has no place. It is believed that
caste distinction has caused harm to the Hindu dharma. The ideas of the
superior and inferior status and pollution by contact implied in cast
distinction serves to destroy the dharma of non-violence. However, the
Ashram does believe in Varna and the Ashram dharma. The division of
Varna is based upon occupation. One who follows that division lives by
his parents’ occupation, not inconsistent with larger dharma, and spends
his spare time in acquiring and advancing true knowledge as well as
The Ashram believes, as in the Varna, so in the four Ashrams of the Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha, and Sanyasa. But the Ashram does not believe that life of renunciation can be lived in a forest only or by giving up performance of one’s duties. The Ashram believes that dharma of renunciation can be and should be observed while leading a normal life and that it alone is true renunciation.
The Ashram believes that the principal faiths of the world constitute a revelation of truth, but as they have all been outlined by imperfect men, they have been affected by imperfections and allowed with untruth. One must therefore entertain the some respect for the religious faiths of others as one accords to one’s own.
Physical Labour (this was added afterwards by Gandhi)
Man can be saved from injuring society, as well as himself, only if he sustains his physical existence by physical labour. Able-bodied adults should do all their personal work themselves, and should not be served by others, except for proper reasons. But they should, at the some time, remember, that service of children, as well as of the disabled, the old and the sick, is a duty incumbent on every person who has the required strength. Keeping in view this object, no labourers are employed in the Ashram, and if at all they are inevitably employed, the dealing with them would not be of an employer-employee.
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