The Sabarmati Ashram situated on the banks of river Sabarmati was home to Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 to 1930 and served as one of the main centres of the Indian freedom struggle. It was from here on March 12, 1930 that Gandhiji launched the famous Dandi march. He vowed that he would not return to the Ashram until India won independence. India did win independence and was declared a free nation on 15 August 1947, but before he could return to the ashram, he was assassinated in January 1948.
India is a home to many buildings of stark political and symbolic importance. However, one building stands apart and tallest amongst these – the Sabarmati Ashram– house to Father of our nation during the crucial years of the freedom struggle. The Sabarmati Ashram was a small house of a very big man. Not only a shelter and a political space where all the strategies and movements to counter the mighty British rule was planned during the freedom struggle but it was also a place where the Mahatma dreamt of a pure India liberated from the evils of untouchability, inequality and societal divides. At a time when the world was witnessing violent warfare and armed revolutions, Bapu started a mass movement for freedom from the British colonial rule through non-violent means, termed as Satyagrah and ultimately got freedom for India.
The reason the Sabarmati Ashram is so very important is because of the person who lived in it and the role the ashram played in the nation’s life during his residency. The humble lifestyle of the Mahatma showed a model way of life for a young country striving for independence. Satya and Ahimsa were his ideals. He wished to free the country of firstly the ills that plagued the Indian society specially the practice of untouchability that had deep roots in the Indian psyche and secondly the strong notions of inequality which governed the society.
The world sees the Ashram as a representative of the historical significance and non-violent means of mass scale civil agitation against the oppressive British rule where the political movement of Satyagrah was waged, which made India a role model for others to follow. It serves as a source of inspiration and guidance, and stands as a monument to Gandhi’s life mission and a testimony to others who have fought a similar struggle. Over the years, the Ashram has become home to the ideology that set India free and has inspired nations and people in their own battles against oppressive forces.
Today the Ashram lives on but what it sees around is a nation caught in a complex labyrinth of social evils, economic disparities and vested political interests that have succeeded in pushing the ideals of the Mahatma on the backseat. Not only Gujarat but the whole country suddenly finds itself in a situation of strange unrest with rise in social and economic inequalities, caste hierarchy, all kinds of violence instilling insecurity in the minds of people and increasing religious divide disrupting the very social fabric of India. Suddenly India looks like it is on a path of baffling and unstoppable social chaos.
The Ashram sees the development around it but fails to feel the growth. Fails to understand why the inequality in India still persists and more so than ever, why there are violent incidents and restrictions on human beings. However, it still preserves the dream that India will eventually live up to and is waiting to see the country free of all kinds of senseless and insensitive oppressions on its own people.
The Ashram tells us about one man’s dedication, determination and ideals but also reminds us of the road we still need to traverse in order to realise Gandhiji’s dream of an India free from injustice.
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