‘Simple living and high thinking’. The meaning of this quotation was difficult to understand till I visited Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. A visit to this serene place offering living in its simplest form to the most high thinkable person is really a place to admire and pay homage to the most respectable person of our nation. The life that Gandhiji led in the ashram and made others to follow the same with simplicity in the bank of the tranquil Eiver Sabarmati is really commendable. The peace offered by the place gives a different feeling who visits the place.
I have visited this Ashram twice and every time I promise to visit the place once again. The neat and clean place with small red tiled roof huts, surrounded by big trees giving sufficient shadows in summer, cool breeze coming from the adjacent Sabarmati river, the small prayer place near the river getting lively everyday with evening prayer are a few point of interests which invite people again and again to visit this serene place. It’s really unbelievable that the high thinking person living in that small hut once made the most powerful British raj shake in his fear. The first ever powerful movement of Independence India “Dandi march”, which made the British raj realised that they had to move out of India was carried out by Gandhiji from this Ashram only. It’s surprising to know that during the peak time of India’s Independence Movement, so many powerful political people stayed in that small simple guest house named “Nandini” and took the major decisions of India’s socio-political history.
As history goes, Gandhiji's ashram was originally established at the Kocharab Bungalow of Jivanlal Desai, a barrister and friend of Gandhi, on 25 May 1915. At that time the ashram was called the Satyagraha Ashram. But Gandhiji wanted to carry out various activities such as farming and animal husbandry, in addition to other pursuits which called for the need of a much larger area of usable land. So two years later, on 17 June 1917, the ashram was relocated to an area of thirty-six acres on the banks of the river Sabarmati, and it came to be known as the Sabarmati Ashram.
It is believed that this is one of the ancient ashram sites of Dadhichi Rishi who had donated his bones for a righteous war. The Sabarmati ashram is located between a prison and a crematorium, and Gandhiji believed that a satyagrahi has invariably to go to either place. He said, “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 the thunderbolts of Mother Nature.” After the Dandi March in 1930, the Ashram was seized by the British Raj.
Afterwards the Ashram was renovated and well preserved keeping everything in place as before. Walking through the rooms of “Hridaykunj” where Mahatma and Kasturba once lived was a real temple. Belongings of Mahatma are kept very nicely as if he will return back from his work and pick them up. His spectacle, Kharam, his round watch, stick, etc are some of those items. The charkha used by Gandhiji to spin khadi and the writing table he used for writing letters are kept in a room named as “ Gandhiji’s room” where entry is prohibited and we had seen it through window only. I met two ladies demonstrating thread making from cotton in the front veranda. They inspired visitors like us to take hands on it and so did I try.
Coming out of Hridayakunj we saw a nearby hut where once Acharya Vinoba Bhabe and later Meera Behn lived. It was really surprising to see how Meera Behn stayed in that small hut after leaving her luxurious life as daughter of a British navy officer! It shows the depth of inspirations she had for Gandhiji’s work.
The ashram has a museum, the “Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya”, designed by architect Charles Correa. It was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, on 10th May, 1963. It is a wonderful experience to walk in various rooms of the museum to know various stages of the Mahatma’s life. It was really nice reading the sentence “My life is my message" at the wall at the start of the museum. The photos of the journey of Gandhiji’s life from starting to end along with various activities are very aptly showcased. The letters of various kinds to various people with his own handwriting are very well preserved.
I had my first visit on a summer day when tourists were few. After roaming around the place in that hot summer afternoon, I went down to Sabarmati river through the Ashram ghat and sat for a while under a big tree. The peace I received while sitting in that shadow offered by the huge tree in the riverbank along with cool breeze of Sabarmati inspired me to visit them once again.
When I visited the Ashram the second time, it was a winter afternoon and I found many tourists visiting the Ashram. Many tourists but no noise at all. Accompanying other tourists once again I visited all the places. From their conversation I could understand that they too felt the same way I do. Living in that small little hut with so much of simplicity, how Gandhiji could inspire patriotism in the minds of crores and crores of people is really surprising. It made me realise the meaning of the quotation - Simple living and high thinking.
I met many people that day who came to visit the place from different parts of the country. I saw few foreigners taking notes in the museum. The weather was pleasant that day and time was running out by talking to people. Slowly it was getting dusk. Suddenly we heard prayers coming from the prayer ground “Upasana”. And we all walked down silently to that place. Few gentlemen and ladies were singing prayer very beautifully in the prayer ground. We too joined them. With the tune of prayer, the cool breeze of Sabarmati touched us and enhanced the feeling of serenity manifolds. While coming back, we came with a different feeling with heart filled with complete peace with a different kind of fulfilment as if we have just found Mahatma in the Ashram.