Sim­plic­ity marks his fi­nal rest­ing place, vis­i­tors say Bapu even more rel­e­vant now

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times City - Anam.Aj­[email protected] times­group.com

New Delhi: There is no mau­soleum to mark the Ma­hatma’s life, no tomb­stone with elab­o­rate epi­taphs — just a black mar­ble plat­form lo­cated in an open air com­plex at Ra­jghat. The me­mo­rial, sur­rounded by a neatly man­i­cured lawn, dot­ted by trees planted by dig­ni­taries, was de­signed by ar­chi­tect Vanu G Bhuta to re­flect Gandhi’s sim­ple life. At one end of the black slab burns an eter­nal flame, while the other end has just two words: ‘Hey Ram’. Th­ese were the last words the Fa­ther of the Na­tion is sup­posed to have ut­tered after he was shot by Nathu­ram Godse.

Gandhi’s life and mes­sage are summed in the words of the 15th cen­tury poet, Nar­simha Me­hta’s ‘Vaish­nav jan toh taine kahiye’. One of Gandhi’s favourite bha­jans, it plays on a loop at Ra­jghat, re­mind­ing vis­i­tors of his teach­ings: re­spect ev­ery­one, re­nounce crav­ings and for­sake greed.

On Gandhi’s 150th birth an­niver­sary, vis­i­tors trick­led into Ra­jghat, and they re­mem­bered the man who was not just cen­tral to In­dia’s free­dom strug­gle but also be­came a moral com­pass for the world.

Mem­bers af­fil­i­ated to a cit­i­zen­led ini­tia­tive called Jai Ja­gat, which aims to be a “wake-up call to re­spond to the deep­en­ing eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal cri­sis”, started a pady­a­tra from Ra­jghat, which would reach Geneva next year on Oc­to­ber 2. Peace ac­tivist Daya­paran, a mem­ber and cit­i­zen of Sri Lanka who had come for the cel­e­bra­tions, told TOI that the pady­a­tra would pass through 10 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Afghanista­n and Iran, to spread the mes­sage of equal­ity for all.

“Gandhi taught us an al­ter­na­tive and moral way of achiev­ing our goals, be it eco­nomic or so­cial. His

Gmes­sage of truth and non-vi­o­lence were not po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and that’s why th­ese are time­less. Gandhi is more im­por­tant than ever be­fore. We have seen a con­sol­i­da­tion of power in the hands of a few, and that has led to a huge im­bal­ance. We need to cor­rect this im­bal­ance by fol­low­ing in his foot­steps,” he added.

On week­days, the me­mo­rial sees at least 5000 vis­i­tors. The num­ber dou­bles on week­ends, say of­fi­cials. The site is man­aged by the Ra­jghat Samadhi Com­mit­tee, which comes un­der the min­istry of hous­ing and ur­ban af­fairs. Over the past two years, au­thor­i­ties have come un­der fire from the Delhi high court at least twice over poor main­te­nance of the site. The is­sue is re­solved now, claims an of­fi­cial, adding that the com­mit­tee does not em­ploy per­ma­nent staff for main­te­nance but has out­sourced the work to Cen­tral Pub­lic Works Depart­ment, which man­ages the site.

When TOI had vis­ited Ra­jghat a week ago, au­thor­i­ties were busy re­pair­ing and ren­o­vat­ing the site. A con­struc­tion worker from Mad­hya Pradesh, who did not know that Ra­jghat was the Ma­hatma's fi­nal rest­ing place, recog­nised Gandhi's name. “We have been work­ing here for the past three months. I knew that this place is called Ra­jghat but I did not know that Gand­hiji was cre­mated here. Ev­ery­one knows Gandhi. Who doesn't know him? He fought for our in­de­pen­dence and made us free," said a worker, en­thu­si­as­ti­cally adding that she would pass on the in­for­ma­tion to other work­ers. And it is per­haps in this en­thu­si­asm that Gandhi's uni­ver­sal ap­peal lies. He is known by all, owned by many and ap­pro­pri­ated by some — from re­li­gious groups to so­cial causes, from politi­cians to busi­nesses, and from teach­ers to labour­ers.

Piyal Bhat­tachar­jee

On Gandhi’s 150th birth an­niver­sary, vis­i­tors con­tin­ued to trickle into Ra­jghat all day

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