See Mahatma Gandhiís birthplace through our lens

The 22-room, three-storey quaint house is flocked by Indian and foreign tourists alike

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Ridhima Kumar | April 29, 2016


#Mahatma Gandhi   #Gandhi birthplace   #Gandhi Gujarat   #porbandar   #Kirti mandir  

Photos: Ridhima Kumar

Porbandar is a small city with narrow and congested lanes, bustling with people, shops, cows, and children. Amid this hustle and bustle is a beautiful big white building, Kirti Mandir – where Mahatma Gandhi was born. In sharp contrast to the chaos and noise outside, there is a sense of peace and calm inside the gates of Kirti Mandir.

The place houses a museum that is 79 feet high, commemorating 79 years of Gandhi’s life. As you enter the marble-finished structure, two life-size oil paintings of Gandhi and Kasturba greet you. Floral garlands are not used on both paintings, keeping in mind Gandhi’s wish of not equating him with god.

 


The museum is adorned with pictures of Gandhi, some showcasing his younger years and some depicting his days during the freedom struggle. The mandir also houses a library, a prayer hall and a nursery. With Gandhian bhajans playing softly in the background, the place exudes an ambience more holy and tranquil than that of any place of worship.


Adjacent to the memorial is a three-storey, 22-room quaint house where Mohandas was born in 1869 (a swastika on the floor marks the very spot). The moment you cross the wooden gates of this limestone-and-brick structure, you are transported to a different era. Retaining much of its old architecture, the green jharokhas leave an enchanting effect.

 
In 1951 Gandhi’s birthplace was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Area up to 300 metres from the monument is prohibited and regulated for the purpose of mining and construction.

 
The rooms inside are airy and well ventilated. The peeling wall paint, fading wall paintings, and the uneven stone flooring bear testimony to the hundreds of years gone by. To explore the upper levels of the house you will have to struggle your way up holding a rope hanging alongside the tapered green wooden staircase.

 

The third storey of the building houses Gandhi’s reading room overlooking the terrace – a place where he must have learnt his first lessons of freedom. From the terrace one can even have a good view of Kasturba’s parental home. Though some modern touches – electric switches and repair patches – were visible, the house on the whole has retained its old world charm.

 


Naranbhai Modi, who has served as an attendant at the monument for 22 years, told me that they had to extend the visiting hours due to heavy footfall of people. “Around 500 people visit the monument daily. During holidays it goes up to 2,000.” He said the third storey of the house was damaged in the 2001 earthquake but it has been repaired now.

The 300-year-old structure is strong enough to withstand the heavy footfall it witnesses daily. Since the place lies between Somnath and Dwarka, it becomes a favorite tourist attraction for Indians as well as foreigners.

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