A photograph of Mahatma Gandhi stands above a fire place in the home of the great paywright George Bernard Shaw at Ayot St Lawrence in Hertfordshire. Gandhi, born in Porbandar in Gujarat, met Shaw in London in 1931.
Both of these great men were vegetarians. Shaw said: “Animals are my friends . . . and I don’t eat my friends.” And Gandhi said: “To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body“.
While Gandhi never visited Shaw at his home, Jawaharlal Nehru did in 1950.
In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour politician, is also a vegetarian. I wonder what Shaw would have thought of him and whether he would have put Corbyn’s photograph on his mantle-piece.
Ahmedabad was founded on the east bank of the River Sabarmati in the 15th century. Until 1871, there was no bridge across the river from the city to the west bank. In that year, a wooden bridge was constructed.
A few years later, the wooden bridge was destroyed by floods. In 1892, a steel bridge was constructed. This was designed by an Indian engineer HD Bhachech and named in honour of a British colonial official named Ellis.
The Ellis Bridge remained in use until 1997, when it was closed. By 1999, two concrete bridges were constructed, one on each side of the old bridge. These new, wider bridges form what is now known as the Swamivivekananda Bridge. The old Ellis Bridge flanked by the two concrete bridges, heavily laden with traffic, has been preserved as a heritage monument.
The old Ellis Bridge, which existed when Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in about 1917, leads from the old city to Kochrab, where the Mahatma set up his first ashram in India.
Mohandas K Gandhi, the Mahatma, was born in Porbandar (Gujarat) on the 2nd of October 1869. The house in which he was born still stands, and is now part of the Kirti Mandir memorial complex in the centre of Porbandar. Here are some photos of Gandhi’s birthplace that Adam Yamey took in March 2018:
A short excerpt from Adam Yamey’s new book about Gujarat
In the Baroda Museum:
“There are two ‘memento mori’ on display. One is an Egyptian mummified corpse with exposed blackened feet, and the other is of more recent origin.
Unlike the painted container containing the age-old ‘mummy’, the other item concerned with the end of life is empty. It is a copper urn used to carry the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi to the Morli sangam at Chandod. Other urns, which contained some of the great man’s ashes, exist elsewhere. An article in the Guardian’s on-line newspaper, dated 31st of January 2008, says of another urn containing Gandhi’s ashes:
‘The vessel was one of dozens containing Gandhi’s cremated remains that were distributed around India in 1948.’
Close to the urn in Baroda, there is a letter of condolence written by Gandhi to a friend, who had just lost a daughter.
The letter, which was written on 19th of January 1948, includes the words:
‘Death is a true friend. It is only our ignorance that causes us grief. Sulochana’s spirit was yesterday, is today, will remain tomorrow”. Gandhi was assassinated eleven days after writing this. His spirit lives on.“
On the 15th of August 1947, India won its independence from the British Empire. Independence was achieved through the efforts of many men and women in the Indian sub-continent. The best-known of these is a Gujarati born in Porbandar, MK Gandhi, later known as the Mahatma.
At the precise instant when India became independent, moments after the 14th of August had ended, Gujarat was still divided into many so-called Princely States, and the small enclaves of Daman and Diu were still Portuguese colonies. Through the efforts of the Gujarati Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the more than 500 Princely States of India were ‘encouraged’ to give up their autonomy to become integrated into the newly independent India. Daman and Diu only became part of India in 1961.
Sardar Vallabhai Patel in Ahmedabad
Independence Day is celebrated throughout India. I have been in India several times on the 15t h of August and been privileged to watch flag-raising ceremonies that celebrate the important day when after centuries of foreign rule, the people of India were at last ruling themselves. Of these celebratory occasions, one stands out in my memory.
Back in 2008, we were travelling through northern Kerala on the 15th of August when I spotted a rural school amidst the palm trees close to the sea. The outer walls of the school were covered with colourful paintings including a map of India. We stopped so that I could take photographs of the pictures.
Doorway in the house where Gandhi was born, Porbandar
When I got out of our car, a teacher invited the three of us to enter the school where Independence Day celebrations were being held. We walked into a courtyard filled with school children standing in rows. The teacher invited us to join the school’s director and other teachers on a podium. Flower garlands were draped around our necks.
The director gave a speech and then introduced me as a “special guest from England”. Totally unprepared, I was then asked to address some words to the assembled school and its staff. Although I say so myself, I believe that I was able to improvise a short speech suitable for the occasion.
I felt honoured that I had been invited to give this speech, and gratified when the pupils mobbed me to shake my hands and even to take pictures of me.
BHAVNAGAR is a fascinating city in the south of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat…
Front of Neelambagh Palace (now a hotel), Bhavnagar
MK Gandhi, the future ‘Mahatma’, wrote in his autobiography: “I passed the matriculation examination in 1887… My elders wanted me to pursue my studies at college after the matriculation. There was a college in Bhavnagar as well as in Bombay, and as the former was cheaper, I decided to go there and join the Samaldas College. I went, but found myself entirely at sea. Everything was difficult. I could not follow, let alone take interest in, the professors’ lectures. It was no fault of theirs. The professors in that College were regarded as first rate. But I was so raw. At the end of the first term, I returned home.”
Having read this, we wanted to see the college. We took an autorickshaw to Samaldas Arts College, which is away from the city centre just over three kilometres southwest of the Gandhi Smrti. The college is laid out in a huge campus. Lopa waited in the shade whilst I walked along a busy private road linking the university’s well spaced buildings. There were many students going along it on foot and on two-wheelers. I reached an imposing stone building at the end of a short driveway. Outside its entrance, I saw an old school bell hanging from a wooden post. It looked Victorian in style and was topped with a metal model of a royal crown. I wondered if this was a memento from the days when the college was founded. There was nobody in the building except a security guard, who only spoke Gujarati. I tried to ask him whether this was where Gandhi had studied, but he could not understand me. Then I returned to the road, and asked a couple of passers-by, who did speak English, about Gandhi and Samaldas College. Their vague answers were uninformative.
Former Samaldas College, Where Gandhi studied
We had a rest in our hotel next to the Neelambagh Palace after having had a delicious lunch at a brand-new restaurant called Sugar and Spice, which is near the Samaldas College. While I was relaxing, two things worried me about the campus that I had just visited. First, none of it looks old enough to have been present in 1887, when Gandhi attended it. Secondly, the place is too far from the what would have been the city’s boundary in Gandhi’s day. A little research on the Internet revealed that in Gandhi’s day, Samaldas College was nowhere near its present location, but in the centre of Bhavnagar.
Classroom where Gandhi studied in Samaldas College
Having located the site of Gandhi’s college, we took an ‘auto’ to the Majirav Girls School on High Court Road. The bulk of the school is a two-storey building arranged around three sides of a large rectangular courtyard. As it was a Saturday afternoon, there were few pupils around. The security guards asked us our business. We told them that we wanted to see the college where Gandhi had studied. Someone went off to find the school’s Director, who kindly agreed to show us what we wanted to see. This lady, who has several degrees and a PhD in education, is a high-flyer in the education department of the State of Gujarat. She escorted us to a neo-gothic building attached to the rear of the school, and then asked us to wait beside a locked door.
Detail of gateway into the old Royal Palace (‘Darbagadh’) of Bhavnagar
Eventually, somebody found the keys to the door and the Director unlocked it. We entered a large hall, two storeys in height, with a wooden ceiling. It is filled with gymnastic equipment because it is now used as the girls’ gymnasium. A small inscribed stone plaque on one wall below an old coloured photograph of the Mahatma reads (both in Gujarati and English): “The Samaldas College was founded in 1874 in this building. Mahatma Gandhi studied in this class room as a first-year student from January to June 1888”. The Director of the girls’ school told us that the class room where Gandhi had studied had once been the primary school of the Majirav School, but for a brief while it had been lent to Samaldas College, and that was when Gandhi attended it.