Honouring the Father of India
A ‘Freedom Fighter’, the ‘Father of Indian Independence’, and the ‘Father of the Nation’ are some of the titles given to Mahatma Gandhi. But above all he was a Champion of Human Rights, and used non-violent resistance methods to promote his causes and beliefs.
The Gandhi Smriti (Memorial) Museum in Delhi is the house where Gandhi lived during the final days of his life and the place where he was fatally shot. While I was staying in the city I decided to visit the Gandhi Memorial dedicated to his life. I wanted to see how he had lived and to learn more about the legend who was instrumental in gaining India’s independence.
Why Had Gandhi Been Staying Here?
Gandhi had decided to stay here at Birla House because at the time he needed to be easily accessible to the people in the heart of Delhi and the politicians. He was a close friend of the Birla family and Mr Ghanshyam Das Birla, a prominent Indian businessman, persuaded him to reside here at his house in a small part of the mansion. Gandhi had two rooms at the front of the house.
How Gandhi Died
Whilst staying here at Birla house, Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948. During his normal prayer time, when people would come to sit and listen on the grass, a Hindu rebel, by the name of Nathuram Godse, shot him at point blank range in the chest 3 times. At age 79, Gandhi died within minutes. Ironically, he had been a staunch campaigner against violence and believed ‘all men are brothers’.
After Gandhi’s death, the government purchased the then Birla house and turned it into a memorial, Gandhi Smriti, of the final abode of the great man. As he had spent the last 144 days of his life here, it was fitting that it be turned into a shrine of remembrance in his honour and since 1973 it has been open to the public.
On my visit to the Gandhi memorial I saw the modest rooms he lived in and where he slept. He had little more than a mattress, a pillow, a low writing desk and very few personal belongings. Everything has been preserved as it was when he lived here, as if time stood still. In fact, Gandhi’s pocket watch shows the time of his death, 5.17pm.
The rooms demonstrate the voluntary poverty he adhered to, with no material wealth, as he believed in only having the bare minimum to survive. Thus was his empathy and dedication to the underprivileged and the poor of India.
This Martyrdom site of Mahatma Gandhi has a plethora of material on display to look at and read. The displays include photos, quotes, newspaper articles, information and other memorabilia on Gandhi, his life and beliefs. There are also books, statues, sculptures and lots more honouring the Mahatma.
There is plenty to ponder over, as you walk through the building and the gardens. It is a serene and pleasant setting to stroll around at your leisure.
I was fascinated by the life he lead and his unwavering love for his country.
Interesting Facts About Gandhi
Some of these facts will amaze you.
- Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in Porbandar, Gujarat, India on 2 October 1869.
- The youngest of 4 children.
- Also known as Mahatma which means ‘great soul’. And Gandiji and Bapuji which are both endearing terms.
- Married at 13, yes thirteen, (an arranged marriage) to his wife Kasturba who was 14.
- They had 5 children (the first one died).
- Attended the University of Bombay.
- Went to London to become a barrister.
- Had little success in his Bombay law office when he first started.
- Left India to practice law in South Africa where he lived for almost 20 years.
- A devout Hindu, but believed in all religions.
- The Leader of the Indian Nationalist Movement against British Rule in India.
- Imprisoned several times.
- His wife was also imprisoned, and died there in 1944.
- Succeeded in achieving India’s independence from Britain in 1947.
- Had a life dream of a united India, which he never lived to see.
- Wanted peace between Muslims and Hindus.
- When he died, 1 million people followed the procession of Gandhi’s body through the streets of Delhi.
- Open everyday 10am – 5.30pm, except Mondays.
- Free entry.
- Photography is allowed.
- Time required is about 1 hour.
The legacy of Gandhi lives on here at the memorial. I certainly recommend visiting, if you are in Delhi.
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