Gandhi and Savarkar in north London

KRISHNAVARMA COVER BOOK BY HITESH BHANUSALI

 

MK (‘Mahatma’) Gandhi, born in Porbandar (Gujarat) visited London in 1906. He spent the first two days of his stay at India House, the hostel in Highgate founded in 1905 by Shyamji Krishnavarma (born in Kutch, now part of Gujarat).  Gandhi did not see eye to eye with Krishnavarma and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was living in India House. These extracts from my book “IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS” describes Gandhi’s meetings with Krishnavarma and Savarkar.

 

Extracts

During October 1906, India House received one of its most well-known guests. On the 20th of that month, MK Gandhi arrived at Waterloo Station, having recently disembarked from a ship that had carried him from South Africa. He was met by the father of Henry Polak (Gandhi’s South African associate), Lewis Ritch, and others of his followers. They travelled together to India House, where Gandhi spent two nights. After that, he moved to the now long-since closed luxurious Cecil Hotel, which used to stand in the Strand. During his stay in London, he attended at least three of the Sunday evening meetings held every week at India House. These meetings were to discuss matters connected with India, to celebrate Indian festivals, and to allow Indians in London to socialise…

… Savarkar was not friendly to Gandhi when he visited India House in 1906. He strongly disapproved of this visitor’s thoughts and actions throughout his life. It is said that on one of Gandhi’s visits to India House, Savarkar, who loved prawns, offered some to the vegetarian visitor, who politely refused them. Savarkar said to Gandhi:

Well, if you cannot eat with us, how on earth are you going to work with us? … this is just boiled fish … we want people who are ready to eat the Britishers alive…”

Incidentally, Shyamji Krishnavarma was, like Gandhi, a strict vegetarian. He preferred cooked food and had his favourite food, mung dal (a lentil preparation), sent from India. Also, he avoided onions and chillies. Regarding food at India House, especially as it reached its final year, Asaf Ali wrote:

Within a fortnight of our stay in India House, Rauf [Ali’s brother] and I decided to move out of it. For here food served there defied description. And here were Madrasis, Mahrattas, and Punjabis, each so far apart in tastes…”

Gandhi had not come to Highgate to discuss eating habits with the young revolutionary Savarkar. The future Mahatma, who had praised the work of Shyamji, wanted to confront and argue his case with Shyamji, who had been very critical of the assistance that he had offered the British during their war with the South African Boers.

On one of his visits to India House (Sunday 21st October), Gandhi spent the whole day there. During the day, he spent time talking to young Indians. In the evening, he spoke with Shyamji. One of the matters that particularly concerned Shyamji was the forthcoming election of the President of the Indian National Congress. BG Tilak, whom Shyamji admired, was one of the candidates. The ‘moderate’ Indian nationalists favoured Dadabhai Naoroji. Shyamji tried to persuade Gandhi to dissuade Naoroji from standing. However, Gandhi felt that Naoroji was the right man to be President. In November 1906, Shyamji wrote an article in Indian Sociologist, condemning Naoroji. He made comments such as:

We have ample evidence to show that Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji is ever ready to oblige his Anglo-Indian friends at the cost of his country … Mr. Dadabhai is allowing the great reputation he made in the past to damp down the aspirations of the Indians of today … How long does Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji expect that the Indian people will continue to be hoodwinked by him?

Three years later, Gandhi published a booklet called Hind Swaraj. It was, in part, a thinly veiled criticism of the extremists like Shyamji and Savarkar.

 

End of extracts

 

IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS” by Adam Yamey may be bought here:

https://www.bookdepository.com/IDEAS-BOMBS-BULLETS-Adam-YAMEY/9780244203870

AND here:

https://www.amazon.com/IDEAS-BOMBS-BULLETS-Adam-YAMEY/dp/0244203873/

Also on KINDLE

And (in India only):

https://pothi.com/pothi/book/adam-yamey-ideas-bombs-and-bullets

 

Picture shows Krishnavarma on a book by Hitesh Bhansali

Happy birthday, Mahatma: 2nd October

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Martin Luther King said: “If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk.

And, Gopal Krishna Gokhale  said: “He is a man among men, a hero among heroes, a patriot among patriots and we may well say that in him Indian humanity at the present time has really reached its high water-mark. “

The author Pearl S Buck wrote: “He was right; he knew he was right, we all knew he was right. The man who killed him knew he was right. However long the follies of the violent continue, they but prove that Gandhi was right. ‘Resist to the very end’, he said, ‘but without violence’. Of violence the world is sick. Oh, India, dare to be worthy of your Gandhi.”

MAHATMA GANDHI (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) was born in Porbandar (Gujarat) on the 2nd of October 1869. He helped India achieve independence from the British. Long may we remember this remarkable man!

Gandhi in Bhavnagar

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MK (‘Mahatma’) Gandhi matriculated (gained the qualifications for entering university) in 1887. He enrolled at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar in Saurashtra. This is a photo of the room in which Gandhi studied at Samaldas College. It is now use as a gymnasium by a girl’s school (Majiraj Girls High School).

Gandhi wrote of his time in Bhavnagar in his book The Law and the Lawyers:

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 taking 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.”

Two famous vegetarians

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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.

 

 

Quotes from https://shawsociety.org/Sri.htm

 

Ellis Bridge

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.

Happy birthday, Mr Gandhi!

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:

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Gandhi’s parents

 

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The swastika marks the spot where Gandhi was born

 

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His spirit lives on…

A short excerpt from Adam Yamey’s new book about Gujarat

GUJ LULU PIC

 

In the Baroda Museum:

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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.

 

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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.’

 

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Close to the urn in Baroda, there is a letter of condolence written by Gandhi to a friend, who had just lost a daughter.

 

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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.

 

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Indian Independence Day

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Gandhi in Porbandar

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.

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Hyderabad, 2012

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Gandhi in Bhavnagar … briefly

BHAVNAGAR is a fascinating city in the south of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat…

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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An afternoon in Bhavnagar