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Gandhi's Mani Bhavan: The most rebellious rooms in Mumbai
Mahatma Gandhi's Mumbai headquarters was also the setting for the most effective non-violent freedom struggle in the history of mankind. That's no small claim for a little museum
Mani Bhavan, a two-story bungalow in the heritage precinct of leafy Laburnum Road (named for the trees with buttery flowers that line it), served as Gandhi's humble abode between 1917 and 1934.
It's now a museum, but not one of lonesome looking furniture and empty windows. There's pictures here, his passport, books and best of all, letters that let you into the mind of the Mahatma, like this one:
To Winston Churchill,
July 17, 1944
DEAR PRIME MINISTER,
You are reported to have the desire to crush the 'naked fakir', as you are said to have described me. I have been long trying to be a fakir and that, naked - a more difficult task. I therefore regard the expression as a compliment though unintended. I approach you then as such and ask you to trust and use me for the sake of your people and mine and through them those of the world.
Your sincere friend,
M. K. GANDHI
Since Mumbai was a key city for the Independence movement, when in town the Mahatma had his headquarters at Mani Bhavan. Its walls and verandahs are witness to what he accomplished: Such as opposing a couple of Acts (Rowlatt Act, Indian Press Act); learning carding and spinning (in order to defy fabric imports); lending support to the Khilafat agitation' organizing boycott and bonfires of foreign cloth; issuing manifestos to rally people’s support against the government; fasting for peace, and meeting with the Congress Working Committee to launch a Civil Disobedience Movement. Only events that shaped India's destiny.
The library, with reference and lending sections on the ground floor, has more than 50,000 books on subjects relating to social science, peace, and Gandhian thought. And on the first floor there’s an auditorium, should you ever need to conduct meetings, seminars and film screenings related to Gandhi.
Up on the second floor is Gandhi’s living and working space. Airy but bare, featuring a mattress, worktable, spinning wheels and a pair of slippers -- all telling in their austerity. Adjacent to this room is one of the highlights -- the exhibition room with 28 tableaux of sculpted figures on display. Each depicts various significant scenes in Gandhi’s life.
The sense of history in the bungalow is palpable, as is an understanding of the power of one dhoti-clad bespectacled man and his ideals.
Visiting Mani Bhavan is definitely like looking back in time with a spyglass.
Entrance to Mani Bhavan is, appropriately, free to all.
Open Monday – Sunday: 9:30am- 6:00pm
Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya,
19 Laburnum Road
tel +91 (0) 22 23805864