Mu­seum that cap­tures Bapu’s trans­for­ma­tion needs at­ten­tion

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times City - Man­imugdha.Sharma @times­group.com

New Delhi: The cap­i­tal’s old­est mu­seum ded­i­cated to Ma­hatma Gandhi is the Na­tional Gandhi Mu­seum lo­cated bang op­po­site the sa­madhi of the Fa­ther of the Na­tion at Ra­jghat. Set up in 1961, the mu­seum has many of the per­sonal mem­o­ra­bilia of the Ma­hatma apart from rare pho­to­graphs cap­tur­ing his jour­ney from a bar­ris­ter in Lon­don to a cru­sader of equal­ity in South Africa to the apostle of non-vi­o­lence in In­dia. The most strik­ing arte­facts are, of course, those per­tain­ing to his fi­nal mo­ments—his blood­stained clothes, the watch that dan­gled from his waist, and one of the three bul­lets that took his life.

One would as­sume that a mu­seum so cen­tral to Gandhi’s legacy would be thronged by vis­i­tors, es­pe­cially at a time when the coun­try is cel­e­brat­ing 150 years of the man who gave the In­dian Free­dom Strug­gle a new and de­ci­sive di­rec­tion. But strangely enough, there are no crowds, just a hand­ful of cu­ri­ous vis­i­tors when TOI had vis­ited it on Septem­ber 18 af­ter­noon and spent an hour-and-a-half.

For an en­tire hour, there were no vis­i­tors. Then two for­eign tourists walked in—a cou­ple. The man in­tro­duced him­self as David Cold­well from Canada and his girl­friend as An­dreia Ribeiro from Brazil. It was their first time in Delhi.

“We went to Pushkar first and then came to Delhi. We came to this mu­seum on Mon­day, but found it closed. So we came again,” said Cold­well who works with Dell Tech­nolo­gies.

He said that no­body at the ho­tel rec­om­mended a trip to the mu­seum and that they had read up about it on­line be­fore trav­el­ling to In­dia. “We came be­cause of our own in­ter­est. No­body told us about this,” he said.

Cold­well, though, was a bit taken aback by the near ab­sence of vis­i­tors. “We went to the Indira Gandhi me­mo­rial be­fore com­ing here. That place was crowded. Here, there is no­body. Gandhi is huge the world over. The lack of crowd here cer­tainly con­trasts that im­age,” Cold­well said.

Just then, two In­dian vis­i­tors also walked in. We spoke to one of them who in­tro­duced him­self as Sonu Ku­mar. “I am pre­par­ing for UPSC ex­ams here. Gandhi has done so much for this coun­try. For long, I wanted to come here. To­day, I was com­ing to a place nearby and thought I should utilise the op­por­tu­nity to see this mu­seum,” said Ku­mar who is orig­i­nally from Bi­har. are get­ting more school and col­lege stu­dents,” Ali said.

He also said that there are days when sev­eral thou­sands of peo­ple turn up. But when we pointed out that we had met just four in 90 min­utes, he said it was “one of those days”.

The mu­seum is run by a trust and is called Gandhi Smarak San­gra­ha­laya Samiti. It was first es­tab­lished im­me­di­ately af­ter Gandhi’s as­sas­si­na­tion in 1948 in then Bom­bay. In 1951, it was moved to Delhi and was housed in gov­ern­ment hut­ments ad­join­ing Kota House. In 1957, it was moved to a man­sion on Mans­ingh Road. It moved to its present ad­dress in 1959.

Apart from the Gandhi relics, the mu­seum also has a li­brary that has over 30,000 doc­u­ments per­tain­ing to the Ma­hatma and the Free­dom Strug­gle.

There is a tiny sou­venir shop at one end of the mu­seum where badges, watches and books are avail­able for sale. At the other end is a replica of 'Hri­day Kunj', Gandhi's cot­tage at Sabar­mati Ashram in Ahmed­abad.

The mu­seum has rare pho­to­graphs, per­sonal items used by Gandhi, art­works, and Gandhi’s blood­stained clothes and one of the bul­lets that took his life

Gandhi poses for a team photo with play­ers and staff of his foot­ball team, Pas­sive Re­sisters Soc­cer Club

Rare pho­to­graph of Gandhi plug­ging his ears due to the noise made by demon­stra­tors out­side his res­i­dence in Cal­cutta on Au­gust 15, 1947

These tele­phone re­ceivers play Gandhi’s speeches in loop in Hindi and English

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