Mahatma Gandhi travelled across India during the freedom struggle. On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti (October 2), professor Aparna Basu, chairperson, National Gandhi Museum, retraces the route he took during the first phase of his nationwide tour
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, returned to India from South Africa on January 9, 1915. The British allowed him to land at Apollo Bunder in erstwhile Bombay (now Mumbai), a privilege that was accorded mostly to British officials. Hundreds waited for him at the quay and thousands more lined the streets of Mumbai showering petals and garlanding him. Dressed in his iconic dhoti, an angarkha and turban, with wife Kasturba by his side, Gandhiji greeted the people of Mumbai with a smile. He was coming home after a long struggle of 21 years in South Africa, fighting for the rights of Indians there. And he planned to tour India for a year, interact with as many people as possible, before actively joining the freedom movement. From January to May that year, Gandhiji covered as much of India as he could, travelling by train, in third class.
After Mumbai, Gandhiji’s first destination in India was Porbandar in Gujarat to meet his family members, including his sister. A coastal city and a flourishing port, this is where the Mahatma was born on October 2, 1869 (making 2018 his 150th birth anniversary). Kirti Mandir, a beautiful haveli built adjacent to Gandhiji’s ancestral home, is now a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi. The building was purchased from the members of the Mahatma’s family, who were residing there. Gandhiji’s own consent to sell the home is now displayed at the museum in the Kirti Mandir complex.
After brief stopovers at Rajkot and Kathiawad to meet his relatives, the Mahatma reached Ahmedabad and from there proceeded to Santiniketan in West Bengal, the university town developed by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Mahatma Gandhi called Santiniketan his second home and established, on the principles of its rural reconstruction model, his ashrams at Wardha and Sevagram in Maharashtra.
While returning from Haridwar, Gandhiji came to Delhi at the invitation of the then principal of St. Stephen’s College, Sushil Kumar Rudra. The college was at that time housed in a building close to the historic St. James Church at Kashmiri Gate.
His next destination was Chennai (then known as Madras) to meet the students and professors of Pachaiyappa’s College. After this, he returned to Ahmedabad via Bengaluru in May.