RAJKOT, GUJARAT – Mahatma Gandhi needs no introduction. Well-known as ‘Bapu’, he shook the foundation of mighty Colonial rule through the weapons of truth and non-violence and devoted his entire life to achieve freedom for India.
As India celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of the father of the nation, Rajkot city in Gujarat has a special mention. It was Rajkot where Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi got transformed from Mohan to Mahatma and embarked upon a journey that inspired the entire world.
Gandhi was born in Porbandar, but it was in Rajkot where values got nourished in his childhood days. On September 30, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, inaugurated one of its kind world-class state-of-the art museum in Rajkot known as the Mahatma Gandhi Museum, as a part of the Swadesh Darshan Project and forming of the Gandhi Circuit in Rajkot.
Built at cost of Rupees 26 crores, the museum has come up at the same school where Gandhi studied. This 164-year-old building Alfred High school – the oldest English medium school of Saurashtra – is where Gandhi studied from class 1 to class 7 between the year 1880-87.
The school was originally founded on October 17, 1853, as ‘Rajkot English School’ with 36 pupils. It was the 9th school out of the 10 English schools in Bombay Presidency to initiate young aspirants into Western Education. It was housed at the time in two small rooms with a thatched roof. Within a short span of 13 years, the school was raised to a high school, teaching all standards from 1 to VII.
The high school from its inception was supported mainly by princes and chiefs with their donations, grants and endowments. Interestingly enough, the school had four names at different stages – ‘Rajkote English School’ – 1853-66, `Rajkote High School’ – 1866-68, ‘Kattywar High School’ – 1868-1906 and Alfred High School (named after Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria to commemorate his Indian visit in 1870 as the Duke of Edinburgh) from 1907 till date. The school will now be named Mahatma Gandhi Museum.
The museum will become a focal point of destination for people across the world to understand the values and ideas lived and breathed by Gandhi throughout his life. A total of 40 rooms inside the museum will depict Gandhi’s journey from Mohan to Mahatma and the events and incidents that transformed his life.
Right from his birth, lessons learnt in early childhood, his bad habits, his South Africa journey, birth of satyagraha, to his contribution in the Indian freedom struggle movement, people who inspired him and relevance of Gandhian thoughts in today’s world are depicted vividly in the museum.
Extensive use of technology including projection mapping, animation, augmented reality, simulation technology and 3D displays gives a real time feeling of Gandhi era. There is also a 30-minutes projection show on 130 feet× 50 feet façade wall, on Gandhi – the biggest in India.
There is also a class room where students can ‘interact’ with Gandhi with pre-set questions. The administration is hopeful that the state-of-the-art-museum will give the feel of Gandhi’s ‘presence’.
Of the 40 rooms, 11 rooms have been solely dedicated on the 11 vows observed by Gandhi, including truth, non-violence, non-stealing, self-discipline, non-possession, bread labor, control of palate, fearlessness, equity of all religion, use of locally made goods and removal of untouchability.
Other rooms will depict the influence of people, including Gopal Krishna Gokhale, John Ruskin, Henry Davi and Leo Tolstoy on Gandhi. Gandhi’s letter, speeches and leaflets are showcased in a separate room. A special class room has been created known as Mohandas Vargkhand to give the feel of Gandhi as a student.
There is a prayer and meditation hall where visitors can sit and mediate in front of the Gandhi statue. The hall has some of Gandhi’s quotes written in calligraphy on hand spun khadi and mud work is done to get the ‘real’ feeling.
A huge library with books written by and on Gandhi is also there to facilitate students and researchers and those interested in knowing Gandhi better. The museum has been kept open for the public from October 1.
After inaugurating the museum, Modi addressing a huge crowd, said, “this glorious moment (of dedicating Mahatma Gandhi Museum) is not just for the people of Rajkot but for the entire world and generations to come. Everyone has the right to learn about Gandhi and his school life. Our efforts are to ensure that historical events associated with the country should be made available to the society so that they do not forget the history. Gandhiji was a man of history. The solution and guidance to the problems associated with today’s world if today lies with any person it is with Punya ‘Bapu’. On October 2, Mahatma Gandhi was not born, but in the form of Mahatma Gandhi an entire era was born.”
Gandhian lovers and those interested in knowing more about Gandhi are excited about the museum and are hopeful that it will contribute in shaping the new generation and help understand Gandhi better and deeper.
“I feel like we need spaces that remind of the values that great souls have endowed humanity with. Having a museum that shares more about Gandhian values will great keep the legacy of Gandhian values for future generations. The core of Gandhian values is an understanding that outer change in society is directly proportional to inner change within an individual. That insight is more relevant today than ever before. As we face personal, inter-personal and systemic disconnection, all our innovations tend to be extrinsic, and that only paints part of the solution. I hope in this way Gandhian values are important in today’s era,” winner of Dalai Lama’s hero of compassion award Nipun Mehta, who lives in Berkeley, and is currently in India, said.
Rajkot Municipal Commissioner Banchanidhi Pani said, “the museum will help knowing and understanding Mahatma Gandhi in a much better way. The school that serves as a pivotal point for Mahatma Gandhi will become a focal point of destination for the values and ideas lived and breathed by Gandhi throughout his life. Very soon we will connect the three important land marks in Rajkot connected to Gandhi Museum, Kaba Gandhi no Delo and Rashtriya Shala under Gandhi Circuit to help tourists take maximum benefit from this land of Gandhi which transformed Gandhiji from Mohan to Mahatma.”
Alpana Trivedi, Secretary, Gandhi Smriti Trust, Kaba Gandhi no Delo, said,” if Porbandar was Gandhiji’s janm bhoomi (birth place) and Sabarmati his karma bhoomi, Rajkot was his sanskar bhoomi (where he imbibed values). For researchers, tourists and those interested in knowing Gandhi thoroughly, they cannot do without visiting Rajkot.”
Rashtriya Shala, another historic landmark in Rajkot, was founded by Gandhi in 1921, along with the famed Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad. After returning from South Africa, Gandhi felt that British education cess was the root of slavery and there was a dire need to change the education system to prepare students for Independence movement.
Spread on 13 acres of land, the main motive behind this school was to give value-based education based on Gandhi thoughts and to prepare students for the satyagrah movement and nation building.
Even the constitution of Rashtriya Shala was penned by Gandhi. Rashtriya Shala came into light at the national level when Gandhi sat on a fast for five days in 1939 against the tax imposed by the then ruler in Rajkot.
Dhirubhai Dobariya, a Gandhian and trustee of the Rashtriya Shala Trust, said, “it was at Rashtriya Shala when at the age of 70 Gandhiji sat on fast against the tax imposed by the then ruler of Rajkot. All prominent leaders including Kasturba Gandhi were sent to jail for supporting Gandhiji. While leaving the premises after giving up fast, plans were made to kill Gandhi by inviting a force of 500 horse riders. Gandhiji was advised to leave from another route, but he said that it will a blot on my practice of non-violence. He moved out from the main gate were the horses were standing. The plan failed as one of the horse riders shouted loud to make way for Gandhi. We plan to make a gate of non-violence here at the premises in the memory of this incident.”