When U.S President Barack Obama accompanied by the first lady Michelle Obama visited the Mahatma Gandhi’s house ‘Mani Bhavan’ in 2010 he quoted “Gandhi is a hero not just to India, but to the entire world”. Obama, an ardent admirer of Gandhi had written this in a visitors book at Mani Bhavan.
“I am filled with hope and inspiration as I have the privilege to view this testament to Gandhi’s life. He is a hero not just to India, but to the entire world” – Barack Obama.
“This visit will be one that I will always treasure. The life and teachings of Gandhi must be shared with our children around the world” – Michelle Obama.
Obama and Michelle are amongst the few high profile visitors to pay tribute to the Mahatma at the Gandhi Museum. Martin Luther King Junior too had visited this place in the 1950’s and in 2020, I happened to step inside this historic landmark 🙂
Before I narrate more about Mani Bhavan, I would like to draw your attention to Gandhi’s image in which he is seen cycling. He believed in the concept of ‘Sustainable Living’ and very much demonstrated it through his speech, writings and actions.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed” – M.K. Gandhi
Throughout his life, Gandhi walked extensively to connect with and mobilize his fellow citizens. Gandhi and his followers covered a distance of 384 kilometers on bare foot, a journey which lasted for 24 days during the significant ‘Salt March’ or the ‘Salt Satyagraha’ movement in 1930. And there are numerous such instances of him walking from one village to the other.
“More from less for more” – M.K. Gandhi
Gandhi emphasized the importance of walking and cycling and was often called as the ‘prince of exercising’. As a law student in London, he walked several miles everyday.
In 1915 when he moved to Ahmedabad, he rode his bicycle from Gujarat Vidyapith to Sabarmati Ashram.
During his stay in Johannesburg in South Africa, he opposed the law which discriminated against people cycling on the streets.
In July 2017, Mahatma Gandhi’s bicycle was restored and kept for public display at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad.
To celebrate Gandhi’s birth anniversary on 2nd October, the Indian embassy in the Netherlands launched a campaign ‘Follow the Mahatma’ to communicate his message of non-violence and peace. Gandhi’s restored bicycle was displayed for exhibition in Amsterdam in October 2017.
Gandhi’s fundamental principles are universally applicable, especially to sustainable transport. The ordinary man he was, should be credited for starting a silent movement of sustainable lifestyle in India. His way of life is the best example of sustainable living for the world through his own words…
“The future depends on what you do today” – M.K. Gandhi
Gandhi’s silent movement has now become more visible in the form of global climate activism. The buzzwords are ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Sustainability’. The peaceful protest ‘Friday’s For Future’ by activists Greta Thurnberg and many youngsters around the world has set and emergency alarm for United Nations and its member countries forcing organizations, and global leaders to act. Yet again, Gandhi’s quote emerges as a meaningful advice to the world.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed” – M.K. Gandhi
About Mani Bhavan:
An old-styled, modest, two-storey building on Laburnum Road in South Mumbai is the house where the Father of the Nation stayed during his visits to Mumbai. Between 1917-1934, Mumbai (then Bombay) Mani Bhavan served as an epicenter for India’s struggle to attain freedom.
It was Mani Bhavan from where Gandhi interacted with other leaders and his loyals. The congress working committee frequently met, planned and initiated peaceful protests from this very house. Gandhi’s association with the ‘charkha’ also started at the Mani Bhavan in 1917. In the early 1900’s, India’s struggle for freedom was at peak and Mani Bhavan served as a launch pad for as many as six notable movements.
Gandhi launched Satyagraha ‘the idea of fighting with peace’ against the Rowlact Act from Mani Bhavan in 1919. The civil disobedience movement ‘an act of non-violence’ against the English rulers took-off from this mansion which eventually led to his arrest from the terrace of Mani Bhavan by the British in January 1932.
Gandhi devoted all his life for the nation and instilled a culture of service and sacrifice for the country. The nationalist, a lawyer and a spiritual leader always propagated the message of non-violence, peace, justice and fought for the rights of the poor. The Museum at Mani Bhavan is a testament to Gandhi’s life and a place where India’s freedom struggle took shape which changed the course of the country’s future.
On the ground floor there is a lobby with Gandhi’s bust. A library on either side, with tables and chairs and books stacked inside wooden showcases. The library has a big collection of books on and by Gandhi, Gandhian thoughts and other periodicals of history.
The first floor has a picture gallery and an auditorium where films on Gandhi and his speeches are shown on request. The picture gallery walk captures the journey of Gandhi’s life through photographic posters depicting critical events using post cards, articles, documents and letters exchanged with prominent leaders.
The room where Gandhi lived and worked is on the second floor. Till today, its maintained in its original setting.
Next to his room is an exhibition showcasing glimpses of Gandhi in mini figures in wooden and glass boxes. I found this to be a very creative idea and exceptionally well executed by the curator Susheela Gokhale Patil.
The terrace was locked during my visit and I was told that the access is limited only to VIP’s. On the second floor balcony, one can stand and admire the Laburnum trees on the road which is over 100 years old.
While exiting from the ground floor visitors can buy Gandhi’s books, stamps, photographs and other memorabilia.
My visit to Gandhi’s residence was insightful and captivating. I could walk through the same stairs which were once used by the great leaders. Amazing work by the concerned ministry and the trust who have managed to retain this important structure.
- Walk-in any time between 09:30 am to 18:00 hrs, open on all days.
- Entry is free, one can donate any amount as per will in a donation box.
- Non-commercial photography and videography is permitted.
- Website: www.gandhi-manibhavan.org
- Address: 19, Laburnum Road, Gamdevi, Mumbai – 400007.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai