Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Gandhi Ashram, also known as Sabarmati Ashram, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, a towering figure in India’s struggle for independence. Nestled on the tranquil banks of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad, this historic site encapsulates the profound philosophy and principles of non-violence, truth, and simplicity that Gandhi preached throughout his life. Some historical and well-known places are close to us but seem far away. One such place is the Gandhi Ashram in the old Wadaj area of ​​Ahmedabad. It is located adjacent to a busy main road.Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Discovering Gandhi Ashram: A Journey Through History and SilenceGandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Hundreds of people would pass that way every day. But the question is: how many of them would have seen Gandhi Ashram thoroughly ? This place remains far away for residents of Ahmedabad despite being nearby. The ‘one day or so time will come’ thinking is probably responsible for that. On the other hand, hundreds of tourists from other cities in the country and abroad flock daily to see the Gandhi Ashram. People of all age groups, from those coming as part of a tour organized for the Ahmedabad visit to those carrying luggage on their way back to the airport, take the time to’meet’ Gandhiji. Many of these visitors have in mind something more special than the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram tour. In this article, we will explore the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the founding of Gandhi Ashram, the significance of silence within its walls, the daily lives of its residents, and the lasting impact of this remarkable institution.

The Life of Mahatma Gandhi

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Before delving into the story of Gandhi Ashram, it’s essential to understand the man behind its creation. Mahatma Gandhi, born in 1869, played an instrumental role in India’s quest for independence from British colonial rule. His unwavering commitment to non-violence and civil disobedience left an indelible mark on the world.

Gandhi’s life was a testament to his values. He believed in the power of truth and led by example, famously stating, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” His life was a constant struggle for justice and equality, earning him the honorific title of “Mahatma,” which means “great soul.”

The Founding of Gandhi Ashram

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

In 1915, Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, where he had already gained recognition for his activism. When Gandhiji returned to India in 1915 after the successful Satyagraha movement in South Africa, he became a barrister and became known as the son of the country. The 46-year-old Gandhi, who returned to India, was invited to establish another ashram in the country, but he chose Ahmedabad. Since Ahmedabad is the center of mill industry, spinning and weaving activities can be carried out there. The economic prosperity of the city was good, so financial support can be provided for various activities, and the country can be served more through the mother tongue. At first in Ahmedabad, he established ‘Satyagraha Ashram’ in Kochrab, but after a while, the space for his life-oriented experiments and activities, including farming, became small, and a place was taken on the banks of the Sabarmati river, away from the city. He chose to establish an ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati River, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This serene location became the epicenter of his socio-political activities.

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

On June 17, 1917, the ‘Satyagraha Ashram’ was started on the banks of the Sabarmati River. Gandhiji was not present in the ashram then. He had gone to Bihar to fight for Satyagraha of Champaran. But before establishing the ashram, Gandhiji had thought a lot about how the life of the ashram should be, where the vows should be observed, who could live in the ashram. The new ashram was established with those ideas in mind. Maganlal Gandhi, Gandhi’s nephew and colleague from South Africa, took over the management of the ashram.

Later, brilliant and devoted colleagues like Mahadevbhai Desai, Kakasaheb Kalelkar, Kishorelal Mashruwala, Vinoba Bhave along with Gandhiji became residents of the Sabarmati ashram.

Revisiting History: The Timeless Legacy of Gandhi Ashram

Gandhi Ashram served as the hub for planning and organizing various movements, including the famous Salt March of 1930. The ashram provided a space for reflection, strategizing, and fostering a sense of community among its residents.Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Although almost a century has passed since the establishment of this historic ashram, the pulse of Gandhian history has not faded away. Hence, many feel that they have come to the pre-independence time frame as soon as they enter the ashram. This is the ashram from which the Dandi Kuch started to loot the foundation of the British Empire, which became not only Gandhiji’s residence from 1917 to 1930, but also the focal point of the country’s freedom movement.

Gandhiji’s Surprising Connection to Art and the Historic Dandi March

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

The popular (and mistaken) impression of Gandhiji is that he is anti-art, but he sought a disciple from the famous classical singer Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar who was willing to abide by the terms of the ashram to lead morning and evening prayers at the ashram. As a result, Pandit Narayan Moreshwar Khare came to the ashram. Pandit Narayana Khare, who appears with Tanpura in hand in pictures of the Ashram, prepared ‘Ashram Bhajanavali’ with the help of colleagues. A historic race that shook British rule was started at the Sabarmati ashram. On March 13, 1930, sixty-one-year-old Gandhi, along with his 79 companions, walked an average of fifteen to sixteen kilometers a day and reached Dandi village on the coast of South Gujarat on April 6, 1930. Apart from being the residence of Gandhiji, Sabarmati Ashram became immortal in history as the starting point of the Dandi march.

Preserving Gandhi’s Legacy: The Sabarmati Ashram Memorial and Museum

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

After Gandhi’s assassination barely five months after independence, the Sabarmati Ashram Memorial and Security Trust was formed to preserve his memory. His intention was to preserve the ashram buildings and Gandhiji’s writings in their original form. It was planned to build a museum in the Ashram premises without altering the old buildings. Renowned architect Charles Correa designed the museum, which opened in 1963. In this museum Gandhiji’s life work in Ahmedabad and various exhibitions related to him were prepared. Even now, many rare pictures and little-known details are known in both the exhibitions ‘Gandhi Ji in Ahmedabad’ and ‘Maru Jeevan Eh Maro Sandesh’ (My life is my message). If you don’t want to read all the text, there is a lot to ‘read’ in the pictures too.

Harmonious Architecture: Charles Correa’s Design for the Sabarmati Ashram Museum

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

The building of the museum has been designed by Charles Correia in such a way that it blends into the overall setting of the Ashram, rather than standing out from other buildings. The viewer knows that it is different, yet the building does not seem to be of a traditional design like other ashram structures. Small and interconnected cottages, thatched roofs, smooth white stones are reminiscent of the original ashrams established directly on the banks of the river. Due to the open spaces throughout the structure and the natural light coming in between the movable panes of large windows, the openness that characterizes Gandhi’s personality can be felt while walking around the museum building.

Main attractions of the Ashram

The area of Satyagraha Ashram established by Gandhiji was very large, but now the main places where Kabarmati Ashram security and memorial are located are:

(1) Gandhiji’s residence Hridaykunj, (2) Asham administrator and Gandhiji’s old companion-nephew, Maganlalan’s resident ‘Magan-niivas’, (3) Where Mirabahen (Madeline Slade), first Vinoba Bhave and later Gandhiji’s English disciple stayed, (4) Nandini Guest House, (5) Udyog Mandir where Gandhi stayed for some time during the founding of the Ashram and (6) Temple of worship for prayer.Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Each of these houses is associated with not only the history of those individuals, but also many incidents of the country’s freedom movement and public life. The first attraction for all kinds of people coming to the ashram is Gandhiji’s abode, which Kakasaheb Kalelkar gave the poetic name of ‘Hrudayakunj’. Even those who have never visited the Ashram will be familiar with Hridaykunjan sitting stone. Because in a scene from Richard Attenborough’s famous film ‘Gandhi’, Gandhiji was shown sitting on that porch and giving important political talks. However, as  Richard Attenborough was not allowed to shoot the film at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, he had to build a vivid set of ‘Hrudayakunj’ in the studio.Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

‘Hrudayakunj’ is a place in the ashram where one has to enter after taking off the shoes. The building with a square in the middle has Gandhiji’s room on the left, where some of his originals routine stuffs and some replicas of them are kept. Inside there is a Kasturba, Wife of Gandhiji’s room, a guest room and a kitchen. The entire Ashram premises have an atmosphere of simplicity, tranquility and natural playfulness unadorned by the trees, but the ‘Hrudayakunj’ gives it a special effect. On its porch, the ashram staff demonstrate the spinning of charkhas to the visitors and also give them the opportunity to spin the charkhas themselves if they prefer.Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

A unique collection of different types of Charkhas is found in ‘Magan-nivas’. Charkhas brought from different parts of India are kept in successive space, after altering the interior design of Maganlal Gandhi’s residence.

A documentary film about Gandhiji is playing continuously on a large monitor in one of the inner rooms. There is also a seating arrangement for visitors in front. Once a guest of several dignitaries from Rabindranath Tagore, the guest house ‘Nandini’ is now closed, while the interior can be contested at Vinoba/Mira kutir, slightly diagonally across from ‘Hrudayakunj’. Vinoba Bhave lived for some time in a very simple and small one-room cottage. Soon after his departure, Gandhiji’s English disciple Mirabehan (Medlyn Slade) also stayed there.

The thrilling feeling of the openness of the ashram and the non-hateful spirit is most felt in the temple of worship, where there is no temple at all, not even a simple construction. Prayer was very important for Gandhiji since he lived in South Africa.Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

In Sabarmati’s Ashram too, regular prayers were offered twice in the morning and in the evening. Bhajans of various religions and languages were included in it. It was obligatory for everyone to attend the prayer (except in compelling circumstances). When the ashram was being built one by one, Gandhiji thought a lot about how the place of prayer should be: whether to build a special place for morning and evening prayers? To keep any idol or picture in prayer or not? Finally he started praying without any structure, under the open sky, sitting in the sand, without any religious idols or symbols. Respect for all religions and their followers and the spirit that motivates one to be a true human being – both of these were the prayer ground that gave an introduction of Gandhiji’s thought. Once upon a time, this place was on the banks of the river. Now because of the riverfront, the river is far away, but under the open sky, one can sit in the sand and pray on one’s own or recall the ideology of Gandhiji.

The Unique Serenity of Gandhi Ashram: Where Rules Are UnspokenGandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

The vigilantes, registers keeping track of visitors and gunmen who incite mental insecurity that are common today in big monuments, small establishments and flat-society are nowhere to be seen in Gandhi Ashram. On the contrary, people can be seen moving freely, reading-writing-drawing-taking pictures and also resting for a long time somewhere. How to dress and how to behave is not written anywhere. However, with relatively few exceptions, most people do not abuse the atmosphere or spread evil. It may seem inconvenient as a tourist that there is no tea-breakfast-meal facility in the ashram, but considering the calm-clean and inner peace-inducing atmosphere of the ashram and the indifference towards cleanliness of the average people, it is good that the ashram does not have such facilities. There are good restaurants and eateries nearby the ashram.

The Significance of Silence

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

One of the most distinctive features of Gandhi Ashram is the emphasis on silence. Gandhi believed that silence was not the absence of speech but the profound ability to communicate without words. Silence was a form of inner reflection and self-purification. It allowed individuals to connect with their inner selves and find clarity in their actions.

Within the tranquil confines of the ashram, residents practiced silent meditation and introspection daily. This practice of silence helped them gain a deeper understanding of Gandhi’s principles and their own roles in the struggle for freedom.

Daily Life at Gandhi Ashram

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Life at Gandhi Ashram was characterized by simplicity, humility, and self-sufficiency. Residents engaged in various activities like spinning, weaving, and farming to meet their basic needs. The goal was to be self-reliant and reduce dependence on external resources, aligning with Gandhi’s philosophy of self-sufficiency.

Community living played a crucial role at the ashram. Residents shared responsibilities, supported one another, and actively participated in the freedom movement. This sense of unity and purpose strengthened their resolve to achieve their goals through non-violent means.

Legacy and Impact

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Gandhi Ashram, as a symbol of peace and non-violence, continues to inspire people from all walks of life. Its impact reaches far beyond India’s borders, influencing civil rights movements and leaders worldwide. Gandhi’s principles of truth, non-violence, and social justice remain relevant even in contemporary times.

The ashram has been meticulously preserved, allowing visitors to step back in time and experience the aura of the place where Gandhi’s transformative journey began. It stands as a reminder that profound change can be brought about through the power of truth, simplicity, and unwavering commitment to one’s ideals.

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Resounds with the Legacy of Truth and Non-violence

Gandhi Ashram: Where Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Gandhi Ashram, where silence speaks louder than words, stands as a living tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s enduring legacy. This sacred place serves as a reminder of the power of non-violence, truth, and simplicity in the face of adversity. As we reflect on the life and principles of Gandhi, we are reminded that the pursuit of justice and equality requires unwavering commitment and the courage to let silence speak for itself. Gandhi Ashram remains a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come, a testament to the belief that even in the midst of chaos, silence can resonate with profound change.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Gandhi Ashram open to the public?
Yes, Gandhi Ashram is open to the public, and visitors can explore its historic grounds and exhibitions.

2. What is the significance of spinning at the ashram?
Spinning at the ashram was a symbol of self-sufficiency and a way to promote the use of locally made textiles during the independence movement.

3. Can I meditate at Gandhi Ashram?
Yes, visitors are encouraged to participate in silent meditation sessions at the ashram to experience the practice that was an integral part of daily life there.

4. How can I reach Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad?
Gandhi Ashram is easily accessible by road from Ahmedabad city, and there are public transportation options available.

5. What is the best time to visit Gandhi Ashram?
The ashram is open year-round, but the winter months from October to March offer the most pleasant weather for visitors.

Good to know Before you plan your Trip:

Timings: Gandhi Ashram is open from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm every day of the year – even on every festival day. Entry is restricted for security measures when V.I.P./dignitaries are due to arrive, so avoid going when there is knowledge of such a big event.

Transportation: Sabarmati Ashram can be reached by taxi or auto rickshaw. There is no ticket to enter the ashram. There are separate parking arrangements for two-wheelers and four-wheelers, which are also available free of charge. There are no restrictions or fees for carrying cameras and video cameras.

Accommodation: Ahmedabad has a large number of hotels ranging from guest houses to five stars.

Books written by Gandhiji, periodicals published by him, hundreds of volumes of The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (with its Hindi-Gujarati translation) and many other rare books written by his colleagues-contemporaries from the ashram at www.gandhiheritageportal.org has been placed.

* The library in Gandhi Ashram is very rich. Also visit it and Khadi Bhandar without fail.

# ‘Gandhi Ashram’ app is available for Android and iOS mobile. With the help of it one can get information and hear about various places and houses in Gandhi Ashram. Apart from Gujarati, the information is also in Hindi and English.

# More information will be available on the website of Gandhi Ashram: www.gandhiashramsabarmati.org

Conclusion

Over the past few years, a new wave of symbolic abuse of Gandhiji has begun. Due to this, the traffic of the dignitaries and their security arrangements are causing inconvenience to the common tourists who come to the ashram with love. Government intentions to make the Gandhi Ashram a world-class tourist destination are also worrisome, as there are fears that the warmth, simplicity, openness and informality of the Ashram’s current location may not be retained once it becomes a tourist destination. Like Gandhiji’s life, the true significance of the Sabarmati ashram lies in its simplicity. If this simplicity is turned into grandeur, the soul of the ashram will be destroyed. After that, Gandhi Ashram will become a place like any ordinary tourist destination without feeling.


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