The pilgrimage to the Kumbha fair was my second visit to Hardvar.
The Satyagraha Ashram was founded on the 25th of May, 1915.
Shraddhanandji wanted me to settle in Hardvar. Some of my Calcutta
friends recommended Vaidyanathadham. Others strongly urged me to
choose Rajkot. But when I happened to pass through Ahmedabad, many
friends pressed me to settle down there, and they volunteered to
find the expenses of the Ashram, as well as a house for us to live
I had a predilection for Ahmedabad. Being a Gujarati I thought I
should be able to render the greatest service to the country through
the Gujarati language. And then, as Ahmedabad was an ancient centre
of handloom weaving, it was likely to be the most favourable field
for the revival of the cottage industry of hand-spinning. There was
also the hope that, the city being the capital of Gujarat, monetary
help from its wealthy citizens would be more available here than
The question of untouchability was naturally among the subjects
discussed with the Ahmedabad friends. I made it clear to them that I
should take the first opportunity of admitting an untouchable
candidate to the Ashram if he was otherwise worthy.
'Where is the untouchable who will satisfy your condition?' said a
vaishnava friend self-complacently.
I finally decided to found the Ashram at Ahmedabad.
So far as accommodation was concerned, Sjt. Jivanlal Desai, a
barrister in Ahmedabad, was the principal man to help me. He offered
to let, and we decided to hire, his Kochrab bungalow.
The first thing we had to settle was the name of the Ashram. I
consulted friends. Amongst the names suggested were 'Sevashram' (the
abode of service), 'Tapovan' (the abode of austerities), etc. I liked
the name 'Sevashram' but for the absence of emphasis on the method
of service. 'Tapovan' seemed to be a pretentious title, because
though tapas was dear to us we would not presume to be
tapasvins (men of austerity). Our creed was devotion to truth, and our
business was the search for and insistence on truth. I wanted to
acquaint India with the method I had tried in South Africa, and I
desired to test in India the extent to which its application might
be possible. So my companions and I selected the name 'Satyagraha
Ashram', as conveying both our goal and our method of service.
For the conduct of the Ashram a code of rules and observances was
necessary. A draft was therefore prepared, and friends were invited
to express their opinions on it. Amongst the many opinions that were
received, that of Sir Gurudas Banerji is still in my memory. He
liked the rules, but suggested that humility should be added as one
of the observances, as he believed that the younger generation sadly
lacked humility. Though I noticed this fault, I feared humility
would cease to be humility the moment it became a matter of vow. The
true connotation of humility is self-effacement. Self-effacement is
moksha (salvation), and whilst it cannot, by itself, be an observance,
there may be other observances necessary for its attainment. If the
acts of an aspirant after moksha or a servant have no humility
or selflessness about them, there is no longing for moksha
or service. Service without humility is selfishness and egotism.
There were at this time about thirteen Tamilians in our party. Five
Tamil youngsters had accompanied me from South Africa, and the rest
came from different parts of the country. We were in all about
twenty- five men and women.
This is how the Ashram started. All had their meals in a common
kitchen and strove to live as one family.