Mahatma Gandhi spent all his savings from South Africa to buy land for Sabarmati Ashram: Amrut Modi

Before he left Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhiji had already transferred the ownership of the 110 acres of land and the buildings on it to the Satyagraha Ashram trust

Mahatma Gandhi spent all his savings from South Africa to buy land for Sabarmati Ashram: Amrut Modi
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Nachiketa Desai

On his return to India from South Africa in 1915, Barrister Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, as he was known then, decided to settle down in Ahmedabad where he first set up his Ashram at Kocharab in a rented house which had a small campus.

The next year he moved to Sabarmati where he purchased 115 acres of land in his own and his nephew Maganlal Gandhi’s name in 1916. All the houses, including Hriday Kunj, the cottage in which Kasturba and Bapu lived, were built by the Ashram inmates’ manual labour.

Since the Ashram lay between the Sabarmati central jail on the north and the Dudheshwar crematorium in south-east, Bapu used to jokingly say that the ashram inmates should be prepared for both – to be jailed and meet the Creator.

“Gandhiji transferred the ownership of the land to the Satyagraha Ashram trust in 1926. In the declaration of the Ashram trust, Gandhiji and his nephew described their profession as weavers and cultivators,” says Amrut Modi, secretary of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust.

The first 5 trustees of Satyagraha Ashram were: Jamnalal Bajaj, Revashankar Zaveri, Mahadev Desai, Imamsaheb Abdul Kadar Bawazeer and Chhaganlal Gandhi.

The objectives of the Satyagraha Ashram, according to the trust deed, were: 1. Antyaja – uplift of the downtrodden 2. Cultivation of cotton, development of the crafts connected with it, hand-ginning, carding, spinning and weaving 3. Train workers for activities necessary for the moral, economic and political uplift of India 4 Establish and run schools for under privileged children and 5. Undertake activities for cow-protection and improving the breed of cows.

Amrut Modi, 88, has been managing the affairs of the Sabarmati Ashram since 1974, said, “Gandhiji had invited weavers, spinners and cobblers from villages of Gujarat to come and stay in the Ashram to teach the Satyagrahis how to spin yarn on Charkha, weave cloth on handlooms and make sandals and shoes from the hide of dead animals. These artisans were provided residential quarters in the ashram.”

Recounting the history of the Ashram, Amrut bhai said the historic Dandi march for the Salt Satyagraha had begun from the Ashram on March 12, 1930. Gandhiji had then declared that he will not come and reside in the ashram till India did not attain independence.

Gandhiji then shifted to Wardha at the invitation of Jamnalal Bajaj, the founder of Bajaj Group of industries. Gandhiji established the Sevagram Ashram, 8 km from Wardha, on the land donated by Bajaj.

Before he left Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhiji had already transferred the ownership of the 110 acres of land and the buildings on it to the Satyagraha Ashram trust.


Subsequently, in 1933 the Satyagraha Ashram was renamed as Harijan Ashram after it was handed over to the All-India Harijan Sevak Sangh. Earlier, Gandhiji had offered to the government to take over the Sabarmati Ashram since most of the inmates had abandoned it. But the government did not take over the Ashram and Gandhiji converted it into a settlement of Harijans engaged in various constructive activities such as Khadi and cottage industries. .

Besides the residential quarters of weavers, spinners and other artisans associated with production of Khadi, there was a tannery to process the hides of dead cattle for making sandals and shoes.

After Gandhiji’s assassination in 1948, the All-India Harijan Sevak Sangh was managing Sabarmati Harijan Ashram.

Since there were different types of activities in the ashram such as production of Khadi, a tannery and making of sandals and shoes, residential schools for Harijan boys and girls and, breeding and rearing of cows, manufacturing of hand-made paper, it became difficult for the Delhi-headquartered Harijan Sevak Sangh to manage such diverse activities. Hence, it was decided to assign responsibilities of different activities to four autonomous trusts – Gujarat Khadi Gramodyog Board, Gujarat Harijan Sevak Sangh, Sabarmati Harijan Ashram and Goshala trust.

Meanwhile the central Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Fund decided to support Gandhiji’s memorial museum and archives in Sabarmati ashram. For this the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust was formed.

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