On 2nd October every year, we observe Gandhi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. M.K. Gandhi is a revered name in India. He is the ‘Father of the Nation’. He is world famous for his teachings of non-violence. But apart from India, if there is one more country which not only knows him enough but also celebrates him is ‘South Africa’. During my trip there, I learned a lot about him and his 21 years there. I explored new places and made the best use of my weekends in Johannesburg. On one weekend, I remember visiting the humble abode of Mahatma Gandhi, Satyagraha House at the 15 Pine Rd & Garden Road, Orchard, Johannesburg, 2192. Also known as Gandhi House, this one captures an important chapter of his life. Satyagraha House is not only a historical heritage but also a museum-cum-hotel where you can spend a day or more and indulge in the life and philosophies of Bapu.
Today, on 2nd October 2020, 151st birth anniversary of Gandhiji, as I sit down to reminisce about his memorials, I cannot think of anything better than his 7th house in Johannesburg. Porbander and Ahmedabad in Gujarat in India have lots to tell about him but when it comes to Satyagraha House, it is special because it helps us to know about a completely different avatar of him. In South Africa, Gandhi ji was different to what he was in India. It was there that he learned to stand for the wrongs, for the first time. Join me on this virtual trip to know more about him and his political activism in South Africa. Satyagraha House is one the best preserved places. It also happens to be of utmost importance when it comes to his renowned philosophy of ‘Non-Violence’. His teachings inspired many world leaders, also Nelson Mandela in South Africa. He espoused non-violence, fasting, meditation and vegetarianism and was appreciated world over.
Johannesburg is a city with many historical charms. The city has stood through many ups and downs. While the city has great respect for its own share of freedom fighters, especially Nelson Mandela, the city also loves MK Gandhi. I loved the mention of Gandhi ji even at the Cartlon Center.
I am sure you may be aware that when he went to South Africa, he was a timid barrister but as he worked and lived there, the place grew on him. He not only began to take part in the political unrest but eventually played a very crucial role in the country’s fight for racial freedom. The house has many old pictures which put light on those aspects. It was nice to see them and put some pieces of his life together. At the Satyagraha House, I also learned that he lived in 11 different places in South Africa and this was his 7th house.
The house was designed by his German-Jewish architect friend, Hermann Kallenbach who also lived here. The house is not just a museum but has become a one-of-its kind. After Gandhiji’s return from South Africa, he did not go back. Some of the Gandhi family members did take care of the property after him but gradually it changed many hands. Not its being taken care by a travel company. They decided to add few rooms to let Gandhi ji’s followers come and live here. The most interesting part of the house is the attic where Gandhiji lived. The USP of the place is that it recreates a part of his life through his belongings and his pictures. The simplicity of the place echoes his philosophies. The charkha (spinning wheel) in one of the rooms is enough to remind anyone his love for Charka. There is a Satvik restaurant inside which serves vegetarian food. Some guests like to stay and some stop-by to spend some quiet time in the ambiance where a great leader lived for many years.
Mahatma Gandhi and South Africa!
It is almost impossible to talk about Mahatma Gandhi without mentioning about his life in South Africa. This was my biggest realization in Johannesburg.
The place molded him into a world leader. While India may have been the birthplace of Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi but South Africa turned out to be the place where he went through a personal growth and personality evolution. He lived there for 21 years.
In South Africa, he worked as an attorney and then as a public worker. First he stayed in Durban for sometime, then Pretoria and then came to Johannesburg. The racial discrimination and the segregation disturbed him a lot and he himself faced the injustice a couple of times. After one such occasion where he was forcibly asked to disembark a train in South Africa, he decided to fight it out. He formed a party which helped him draw international attention to the issues. He did return to India but once again went back to South Africa with his family. After nearly two decades, he finally returned to India and played a key role in the freedom struggle against Britishers.
If you know more about him. Do share in the comment below.