Mahatma Gandhi, full of contradictions throughout his life, famously said, ‘My life is my message’.
To mark the celebrations on his 150th birth anniversary, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi at National Gandhi Museum in New Delhi organised a book exhibition, drawing mela, street plays, storytelling and pledge taking campaigns from October 1-2.
“His philosophy is universal and eternal. As long as we are truthful and not trapped by greed, we keep ourselves close to Gandhi. All these events were based on this philosophy and these events talked all about Gandhi’s life,” said Ansar Ali, who curated the events.
The pledge board at the venue read: ‘I shall adhere to non-violence, respect elders, not use tobacco, be eco-friendly and always speak truth’. It was signed by hundreds of visitors.
At the entrance to the museum was placed a placard carrying Gandhi’s message — “Truth is God”, written both in English and Hindi.
Some students from St Stephen’s College were seen at the museum. They were perplexed when told by the guide Manpreet Singh that Gandhi had visited the college when he came to Delhi on April 1915, staying at the principal’s residence.
“Gandhi used to have short hair, saying, longer hair would give him a headache,” told Manpreet to the students.
When he was in South Africa, he helped form Passive Resisters Soccer Club in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, all for his zeal to fight racial discrimination and injustice in South Africa,” added Manpreet. It was first of a kind—using sports for achieving political ends.
“Gandhi was way more than his specs you see on billboards by the roadside. His kicking the ball was also political,” said another guide talking to students.
A visit to the museum would take you back to Gandhi during his lifetime. It holds 285 photographs of Mahatma Gandhi in chronological order, divided under ten phases, with write-ups for each phase — from childhood up to his final arrival in Delhi in 1947.
This included a photo of Gandhi as a barefoot man riding a bicycle from Gujarat Vidyapith to Sabarmati Ashram to reach evening prayers in 1928.
“This man had a charm, people walked with him leaving aside their work only to attain freedom from the British rule,” said Manpreet, referring to Dandi March, a movement to break Salt Law imposed on Indians by the colonial powers. The museum also has the stick used by Gandhi during the entire march. “He walked very fast; people had to run to catch him. Such was his energy as if he grew stronger with his age,” added Manpreet.
“One of Gandhi’s mission was to raise funds. Wherever he went, he would ask for money to support the Indian freedom movement. Gandhi’s assistants would walk behind Gandhi as they would collect coins and other items showered at Gandhi as he walked,” said Manpreet.
Photos of Gandhi wearing Kashmiri and Assamese headgear are also displayed at the museum. Other objects on display include a silver necklace gifted to him by Abdul Aziz Vayani from Srinagar in Kashmir; medals received by Gandhi including the historic silver medals for organizing Indian Medical Corps in Boer War and Zulu Rebellion in South Africa; a torch owned by a harijan student who had died in Sabarmati Ashram and ivory artefacts presented to Gandhi by workers of Assam Ivory Works.
The museum also has books read and written by Gandhi. Also on display are relics used by Gandhi like a brass spittoon, three pairs of wooden sandals, utensils, a kitchen-knife, a thermos, brass plates, a tasla, a wooden board used for making khakras, alum, a nail cutter, a foot-cleaning stone, a safety razor, a juice making machine, a pen-holder, reed pens, and a cooker.
A photo of Gandhi with J B Kriplani is also seen. “When he came to see Gandhi and asked him to let him help the nation fighting for its freedom, Gandhi sent him to Kasturba, preparing chutney for the visitors. Kriplani — a professor was shocked to see Gandhi teaching him fighting freedom from chutney-making,” said Manpreet.
The museum also has on display one of the three bullets shot at him. His blood-stained shirt is also preserved.