Gandhi Ashram Ahmedabad: An abode of Peace & Calm
Posted by Shashank Shekhar on May 5, 2013
The Gandhi Ashram or the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad is an abode of peace and tranquility. The ashram in itself is a modest complex located on the banks of the Sabarmati River but it was here that Mahatma Gandhi spent 12 years of his life with wife Kasturba. What gives the ashram its iconic status is the fact that it was from here that Gandhiji launched the historic Dandi march that led to a nationwide civil disobedience movement against the British.
But the moment you enter the calm compounds of the ashram, it kind of puzzles you… How can a place so quiet, so serene be the epicenter of such a mass movement that rocked the empire! I guess it all had to do with the man who was once famously ridiculed by Winston Churchill as the ‘Half-naked fakir’.
While the most sought after sight at the ashram is ‘Hriday Kunj’ which was Gandhiji’s residence throughout the years he stayed there, other points of interests include Vinoba Kutir and the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalay a.k.a Gandhi Museum which was inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1963 and designed by famed architect Charles Correa among others.
While planning my stay at Ahmedabad I had subconsciously kept an entire day aside for visiting the Gandhi Ashram. Although geographically the ashram falls on the opposite side of the other popular attractions of Ahmedabad (mostly old Ahmedabad), I wasn’t quite convinced about my planning till I reached the spot.
The Magan Niwas, named after Gandhiji’s favourite nephew, is the first cottage that the visitor sees upon entering the gates. A few steps further and you find yourself staring at the Sabarmati waterfront and standing next to the Upasana Mandir or Prarthana Bhooni (Prayer Ground). But it’s the spartan settings of Hriday Kunj and Vinoba Kutir that reminds you of the austere ways of the divine souls who once lived in these humble abodes.
The Hriday Kunj was home to Gandhiji between 1918 and 1930. On display at the cottage with a beautiful courtyard is Gandhiji’s Spinning Wheel or Charkha, the image of which symbolized Gandhi’s philosophy of self-sustenance and his disapproval of British made garments using Indian cotton. Although his personal room can only be viewed by visitors from outside, its stark simplicity is enough to give us a little peep into the great man’s thought process.
The Vinoba Kutir is actually called Vinoba-Mira Kutir. That’s because this bare cottage was home to Acharya Vinoba Bhave, leader of the led Bhoodan Andolan, between 1918 and 1921 and later on between 1925 and 1933 to Madeleine Slade, a British Admiral’s daughter, who devoted herself to Gandhi’s philosophy and was called ‘Mira’ by Gandhi.
The museum, on the other hand, is probably the best thing to have happened to the ashram after its eminent tenants. The displays have been divided into various categories which include a collection of real-life photographs from the Mahatma’s life under the title, “My life is my message.” My favourite here was the amazing library that has over 30,000 titles and manuscripts in its reservoir. Whatever age group you belong to and whatever your political leanings might be, you’ll find a book here with a Gandhian twist to it! I picked up a short title that read, “Karl Marx and Gandhi.” I still have to read it. Although the auto-biography of the Mahatma is a must buy even though the language is a bit dated now and now other that Suketu Mehta is at work on it.
I’m sure that as travellers most among us must have come across destinations or historical monuments that left us spellbound. However, there are few of those rare destinations that leave a lasting impression upon us. And if you, as a traveller who is unafraid of tapping in new experiences, will be willing to let Gandhi and his philosophy seep through you senses, then the Sabarmati Ashram will be one such place that will recur in your memories for quite some time to come.
A walk through the ashram is, however, the story of how the fakir eventually triumphed.
Ashram timings 8:30 am to 6:30 pm
Ahmedabad is very well connected via luxury and state transport buses from all major cities in Western India. Click here to view options of the available buses from your city.
If you wish to know more about other popular tourist destinations in Ahmedabad the click here.
And on your way back from the ashram don’t forger to stop by at the Toran Dining Hall which is located close by. Over the years, the Toran Dining Hall has become a sort of an institution for one of the best Gujarati Thalis is town.
Here’s a pic of the Toran Dining Hall if you’re interested….
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