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Remembering Mahatma Gandhi: A walk through his 200-year-old ancestral home in Porbandar

All those born post 1950 have seen Mahatma Gandhi only in movies, documentaries and of course on currency notes.

The glory of this dhoti-clad leader in our history books, about his relentless efforts for India’s independence and his philosophies on non-violence and truth, makes him a man who is up there, unreachable and, may I say, sometimes even unrelatable in this complex, manic world.

But a visit to Kirti Mandir complex, in Porbandar, gives you a glimpse into the life of a man behind the Mahatma. A walk through the 200-year-old ancestral Gandhi home, which witnessed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s birth and childhood, almost humanises the celebrated hero of India’s history.

Some rare black and white photographs of the father of the nation gives you a sneak peek into his personal life and his vulnerabilities. One such picture captioned ‘Gandhiji at seven’, shows a young boy, wearing a round hat, a tikka, like a bindi, on his forehead, he has a bulky chain around his collared jacket and his eve brows arched perfectly. Quite boisterous as compared to the simple life he chose as a national leader.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi at age 7. Image courtesy: Riddhi Doshi

A hand-written house agreement, signed by Gandhi’s great grandfather Harjivan Raidas Gandhi, and dated 1833, would take most of us by surprise. It has no revenue stamps or government symbols on it. It’s just a plain paper, describing the agreement in Devanagari script and a Swastika drawn at the bottom. A solid proof of the time simple times.

Agreement letter of Gandhi's ancestral home. Image courtesy: Riddhi Doshi

Agreement letter of Gandhi's ancestral home. Image courtesy: Riddhi Doshi

A swastika is also drawn in the corner of a ground-floor room, marking the exact place Gandhi was born in 1869, in the original three-storey building.

In here, I could almost imagine the toddler playing freely with his mother Putlibai, father Karamchand, uncle Tulsidas and grandfather Uttamchand, without a worry of the country and its future. The haveli, an old square-shaped building, with a courtyard in between, iron grid windows, an open terrace, thatched roof and walls painted with torans (a line of leaves and flowers) across the corridors has narrow, wood staircases that must be climbed with the help of a thick rope, hanging from the middle of the staircase.

A Gandhi fan peeping out of the old windows of Gandhi's building of birth. Image courtesy: Riddhi Doshi

The charming and quaint building is not just popular with Gandhians and political dignitaries, but also lay men.

“I never imagined that Gandhiji was born in such a spacious home,” said Dinnath Kape, of Marathwda, visiting the place with his wife and other friends from his village. Nirmal Kaur, from Punjab and here with her girlfriends viewed the place differently. “It’s hard to believe that father of the nation was born in a simple house like this.”

Whether simple or spacious, this is the space that gave birth to the father of the nation and hence its special.

Old residents of Porbandar thought the same and decided to build a temple dedicated to Gandhi next doors. In 1947, a noted Gandhian Darbar Gopaldas Desai laid the foundation stone of the memorial. The work was funded and overseen by businessman Najibhai Mehta. The memorial was completed after Gandhi’s death in 1950 and was inaugurated by Sardar Vallabhai Patel.

A photograph of Gandhi's mother Putlibai. Image courtesy: Riddhi Doshi

Kirtimandir, or Temple of Fame, doesn’t garland the idols of Gandhiji or his wife Kasturba as Gandhiji didn’t was against the idea of people giving him the status of God. Built in Rs 50,000, the 76-feet high building, signifying 76 years of Mahatma’s life, borrows architectural elements from Hindu, Buddhist, Parsi, Jain temples, mosque and a church.

It houses a small photo and books library and two large oil paintings of Gandhi and his wife.

The entry to Kirti Mandir is free. It can be visited from 7.30 am to 7 pm. Porbandar has both a railway station and an airport.


Published Date: Oct 02, 2017 15:01 PM | Updated Date: Oct 02, 2017 15:10 PM

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