Where Gandhian philosophy continues to flourish
Where Gandhian philosophy continues to flourish, Mahatma Gandhi first came to Sevagram Ashram on September 23, 1936, and stayed there for 2,588 days,...
Mahatma Gandhi first came to Sevagram Ashram on September 23, 1936, and stayed there for 2,588 days, where several important issues of the State were discussed and some of the most striking features of Gandhian way of social change took shape. It is the only place that continues to adopt ashram-life and now the International Hindi University adds a feather in its cap.
On September 23, just over a week before the Gandhi Jayanti, Wardha station near Nagpur relived the moments of the Mahatma’s arrival in the city. As the Bombay- Howrah mail berthed in on the platform around 10 am the loco motormen, AkhileshGiri and Manish Manohar, and the guard, Sanjay Mahajan, were surprised with the shower of flower petals on the engine. They were then persuaded by the local Gandhi ashram office-bearers to accept a brief felicitation with bouquets, sweets, shawls and mementoes. The organisers led by the Sevagram Pratishthan Chairman, JaywantMathkar thoughtfully felicitated the oldest porter of the Wardha station, Narayan Dhole and the station master BS Joshi.
Once the train departed, the local citizens were treated to another fare, with a young pupil from the local school leading a march in Gandhi attire from the station to Maganwadi, Bapu’s temporary abode when he first arrived at Wardha, 80 years ago in 1933. For a programme not publicised enough there was a sizeable crowd that joined the procession with the fervour that reflected the depth of the sentiment in the region for the Mahatma despite the erosion of other values.
Mahatma Gandhi reached Sewagram on April 30, 1936 early in the morning at about 5 am and chalked out plans with the permission of the villagers. In less than a week, he decided to settle down here. Initially he had no plans to associate with anybody except his wife Kasturba. But with growing social acceptability, the pressure of work increased and Sevagram Ashram also became a full-fledged institution.In less than three years of arriving at Wardha, Gandhi had begun his experiments with socio-political changes at an austere laboratory he had set up with Kasturba at a small village called Shegaon (later called Sevagram). Gandhi began dealing with issues like social discrimination, economic independence, new educational pattern and evolution of Hindi as a national language. To Wardha and Sevagram goes the credit for shaping some of the most striking features of Gandhian way of social change.
Gandhi was 67 years old when he came to this village that was surrounded by forest. Snakes and scorpions were a common feature. There was only one footpath or cart track to Wardha which had a post and telegraph office. Letters used to be brought from Wardha. There was another nearby town also called Shegoan, in Buladhana taluqa that was witness to the spiritual exploits of the saint, Gajanan Maharaj around the same period. That town is now a busy pilgrimage. Gandhi's letters would often get misdirected. It was therefore decided in 1940 to rename this village as Sevagram.
Gandhi’s disciple Meera Ben (Madeleine Slade) was already settled in Sevagram even before Gandhiji. At the time there was no approach road for the village. A make-shift road was constructed. Later, when Congress ministry was formed in the Central Provinces in 1937, under provincial autonomy, the Government constructed a metalled road.
Gandhiji had put a condition that the construction of his hut (now known as AdiNiwas) should not cost more than Rs500 and material should be available to serve food to inmates.
Meera Ben had constructed a hut for herself and she used to teach spinning to villagers. With AdiNivas getting crowded, Bapu and Kasturba shifted to Meeraben's hut, who had left her hut to make room for Gandhi’s office.
Kasturba had to live in BapuKuti in the midst of many men, so a new hut was constructed for her. Kasturba lived in this new hut (now called Ba Kuti) with a few inmates and sometimes with women guests.
Bapu used to sit on simple palm leaf mats. His office was also nearby. His secretary Mahadev Desai or Pyarelal or anyone who would assist him, used to sit next to him. The visitors also had to squat on the ground.
On the north-eastern side of BapuKuti was one hut that was prepared for Kishorebhai Mashruwala. He was a scholar and studied Gandhian thought. He also acted as a Secretary to Gandhi for some time.
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as Frontier Gandhi, stayed with Bapu for some time. Ghaffar Khan lived in the AdiNivas. Gandhi had permitted him to eat meat which was cooked at some distance from the Ashram.
Visitors to Sevagram can now see a telephone installed in Gandhi’s office at the insistence of the then Viceroy and the famous trio of monkeys made of china that are preserved in the ashram. Bapu lived in Wardha and Sevagram for 2,588 days.