Day 2 & 3: Ghandi and visiting the Raj Ghat and the Mahatma Ghandi Smitri. Oh and brown sugar…

Good morning all,

Raj Ghat Memorial toMahatma Gandhi

Just when I thought I had this time change thing down… I slept most of yesterday afternoon which means I’ve been awake since 1:30 a.m. or so.  So today will be about exhausting myself and not going to sleep until at least 10 p.m. tonight.

While touring Delhi, the Gandhi family will come up… a lot.  Referring to them as the Gandhi family is a bit erroneous but I’ll get to that in another post.  Today’s post will be about Mahatma Gandhi, the ‘freedom fighter’ who was assassinated a year after India achieved independence.

On Day 2, there was a visit to the Raj Ghat, which loosely translated means King’s Bath.  This is the spot along the River Yamuna where Mahatma Ghandi was cremated the day after his assassination.  It is considered a sacred site so one removes their shoes and walks along a stone and astro turf sort of walkway to the memorial, which holds a granite slab at the cremation site and an eternal flame.  The park surrounding the memorial is beautiful and very well maintained.  I am told that the Central Government sends volunteers to maintain the flowers you see on the slab each day.

Entry to the site is free but you pay a donation for the people outside taking care of the shoes and you can pay another at the memorial itself.  My guide was big on Gandhi – so many people here are obviously.  If he’s is a figure of adoration in the West, imagine how he is treated here.

Grounds at the Mahatma Gandhi Smitri

On Day 3, without the guide (thankfully), I wandered about the Mahatma Ghandi Smitri, where Ghandi spent the last 144 days of his life and where he was assassinated, apparently on his way to a prayer meeting.

Entry to the site is free and you are specifically asked to read rules that tell you not to pay or make donations to ‘guides’ and volunteers on the grounds.  There are several men selling knick knacks, bottled water and souvenirs outside of the site.  They were pretty easy to brush off with “no thanks.”

These potted flowers are everywhere atthe memorial site

When we arrived at the site, Delhi Police and the army had many of the roads controlled for a visit from some VIP or another, they said.  However, there were soldiers everywhere and police everywhere which tells me there was something more going on or expected that morning.

You take a self-guided tour inside the site.  It’s fairly straight forward, with a peace gong, the house with exhibits on Gandhi and the bedroom where he spent his last days, a series of information plaques along a long wall lining the route Gandhi is said to have taken from the house to the area where he was assassinated (complete with stone footprints), a stone laid at the spot Gandhi fell and a beautifully manicured set of gardens.

The building itself is one of the best maintained buildings I’ve seen so far in Delhi.  Many of the sites are a little disappointing in how they are cared for but this one is not.

Quote by Gandhi at the Mahatma Gandhi Smitri in Delhi
Informative plaques about other leaders in the struggle forindependence from the British Empire, including Babu

(‘father’) Kunwar Singh from Bihar

You all know who Gandhi was.  He led a peaceful, pacifist freedom movement against the British Empire for the Independence of India.  He played a large role in the politics of that independence as well, which was finally achieved in 1947, when India experienced Partition, separating India into two states East and West Pakistan and India.  Independence is celebrated in India, naturally, but Partition was a bloody, tragic time that saw millions along the new borders slaughtered.

Information plaque about Sikh participation in the earlystruggle for independence from the British Empire.  Many

in India claim that the Sikhs, all of them, aided the British

early in the struggle but this was not the case.

Though Gandhi is often quoted in the highly principles way as reflected in the quote above, he may have believed in and endorsed the caste system more than initially believed.  This is not something that people are willing to talk about here.  He also slept naked next to young female nieces as a ‘test’ of his own morality, and act he wrote about himself.  Like all immortalized heroes, Mohandas Gandhi was less than perfect.

Wall of informative plaques at theMahatma Gandhi Smitri.

While I was at the Smitri, I noted the number of students who are taken through this place every day.  While it’s great that they are learning the history of their country, they really weren’t.  At least these groups weren’t.  No-one was talking to them about history, or encouraging them to read the informative plaques.  They were taken straight from the side of the house to the stone marker where Gandhi is said to have fell and then allowed to play with one another in the garden and then out again.  I sort of wondered what the purpose of that might have been.

Gardens  at the Mahatma Gandhi Smitri

Mohandas Karamchand Gandi was assassinated in the garden at the Smriti on January 30, 1948, less that a year after Partition.  He was on his way to address a prayer meeting when Nathuram Godse fired three 9 mm bullets into his chest at point-blank range.  Godse was a Hindu nationalist with ties to Hindu Mahasabha, an extremist group.  The group believed Gandhi was guilty of favouring Pakistan and they also opposed his doctrine of nonviolence.  He was tried, along with a co-conspirator and executed the following year.

More garden views

In a secular country where religion is everything, communal violence escalated in the hours following Gandhi’s assassination.  The response to Gandhi assassination though, would be much different that the response to Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.  There were calls for retaliation and the Indian Army even invaded the newly formed Pakistan.  However, Nehru and Patel were pushed together by the assassination.  They agreed that the first objective must be to calm the hysteria the country was experiencing.  They called on all Indians to honour Gandhi’s memory and ideals and they made sure that everyone knew that the guilty party was not a Muslim – that the Muslim population should not be targeted for retaliation.  All religious political parties, including the Hindu RSS, were suppressed to enforce the control of the secular government and calm communal violence.

The stone marker marking the place whereGandhi fell after he was assassinated
The bedroom at the back of the house where Gandhi spenthis last days.
Statute of Gandhi with children near the rear entrance of the Smriti
Front entrance of the house
Tree lines promenade at the Smriti
Sculpture at the rear of the Smriti

Bonus:  Brown Sugar

I can’t believe you’ve read this far!  I use brown sugar at home in my coffee so I was glad that it was available here in India.  However, at home the ‘brown sugar’ found at cafes is actually processed white sugar which has had some of the molasses returned to it.  Brown sugar in India means just that – brown sugar.  It’s good but it really tastes of molasses… so not so good in the coffee really.

It’s the land of tea though, so thankfully there is plenty of that.  😀

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