DNA (Indian Daily Newspaper) reader Shareen Robin rediscovers the life of the Father of the Nation in the museum that brings his dynamic life to the fore: Mani Bhavan
Late Indira Gandhi's words about Mahatma Gandhi, "More than his words, his life was the message", came alive as we accompanied Shareen Robin along the precincts of this tiny, history-ridden two-storied structure on Laburnum Road. Nestling in the quiet by-lanes of Gamdevi, Mani Bhavan brings the 'Mahatma' - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi - that much closer to us. This four-storey bungalow served as Gandhi's home from 1917 to 1934 and has since been converted into a museum dedicated to the Father of the Nation, who led a nation of 350 million to freedom with his non-violence movement.
Leaving his mark behind
When US President Barack Obama visited Mani Bhavan in2010, he described it as a "testament" to Gandhi's life and when you walk down the narrow corridors of Mani Bhavan, you understand exactly what Obama was referring to. The stone and wood structure of Mani Bhavan echoes of unspoken tales of the valiant struggles of a nation and irresistibly remind us of the humble life lived by Bapu. The ground floor houses a library that provides abroad view of Bapu's philosophy - it has over 50,000 books, along with original letters shared between Gandhi with Leo Tolstoy, Adolf Hitler and Franklin Roosevelt. Biographies of Mahatma Gandhi, books of his philosophy, life and struggle grace the shelves along with a prized collection of books that had been read by Bapu himself.
The museum gives you a sneak-peek into Bapu's life through photographs highlighting his birth at Porbandar and his early childhood years, his life in South Africa and fight for freedom to the day he was assassinated. As you take the stairs leading to the first floor, you are welcomed by a gigantic photo of Bapu with Indira Gandhi, when she was a young girl. An exhibition hall showcase rare pictures of Bapu at the second round table conference in London (1931), during a Friends' Social Meeting (1932), along with a photo of him with Charlie Chaplin.
On the ground floor is a section dedicated to postage-stamps and currency from Brazil, Bhutan, Chile, Dominica Cyprus, West Indies, Yemen, Ireland, Malta and Mauritius featuring Bapu. On the first floor is an auditorium where films on Gandhi are shown and recordings of his speeches are played on request.
A venerable historic point from where remarkable freedom movements like Non-Cooperation, Swadeshi, Satyagraha, Khadi and Khilafat were initiated by the Father of the Nation, Mani Bhavan is a quiet memorial today. One of the highlights of the museum is the mini figures created by Susheela Gokhale Patel. These showcase significant moments in Gandhi's life, including the time he met the king in London (1931) and the evening he spent at Romain Rolland's home in 1931, where, on Gandhi's request, Rolland had played Beethoven's fifth symphony.
The room on the second floor in which he used to stay while at Mani Bhavan and which served as Bapu's workspace has been preserved in its original trappings. His spinning wheel, the mattress on which he used to sit, his writing table, a hand fan and his wooden slippers too bear testimony to the simple life he led. Many critics claim Gandhi's legacy does not hold water anymore and as you step out of Mani Bhavan, back into the chaos, you do wonder if Bapu's principles still find merit and relevance in a world clouded by greed, corruption and materialism. Over 60 years since India became independent, has his philosophy lost ground in a country which was once enamoured by it?
9.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. on all days
Working Hours - Library
The Library is open on all weekdays, from 9.30 am to 6.00 pm.
It is closed on 2nd & 4th Saturdays and public holidays.
19 Laburnum Road, Gamdevi, Mumbai 400007, Maharashtra, India
Tel. No. +91 22 2380 5864 | Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, visit Official website of Mani Bhavan: www.gandhi-manibhavan.org