The journey from Mohandas to Mahatma started within the confines of a modest home in this Gujarat town.
Today, visitors can begin to unravel Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s story and life at the museum, situated at his house named after his father Karamchand Gandhi (who was fondly known as Kaba Gandhi).
Before he became Mahatma Gandhi, a young Mohandas had done things that were considered outrageous for an orthodox Hindu family of the early 19th century.
‘He made mistakes and felt guilty’
The house in a narrow bylane of old Rajkot is a mute witness to events that laid the foundation of the beliefs that shaped the character of the Mahatma.
In his autobiography, “My Experiements with Truth”, he wrote that he was born in Porbandar on October 2, 1869, but did not have any distinct memory of the city as his family shifted to Rajkot when he was seven-years old. He stayed here till he was 22-years-old.
His schooling and higher education were mostly in Rajkot, where his father was a divan (minister) in the princely state.
Jolly Pravasi, a Gandhian, can recount the minutest details of Gandhi’s life in Rajkot.
His father’s reaction to his confession that he had stolen gold made him understand the profound impact of non-violence, Jolly said.
Gandhi admitted he had stolen a part of his brother’s gold bracelet to repay a Rs 25 debt in a handwritten note to his father. But his father just tore up the note with tears rolling down his cheeks.
Gandhi said in his autobiography that he expected a severe scolding and even thrashing for his act, but his father’s action made him learn the impact of winning hearts by non-violence.
“Porbandar is the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi and Ahmedabad his karmabhoomi (where he worked), but Rajkot is definitely his sanskarbhoomi (where he got values). Here he started his journey from Mohan to Mahatma,” said Heliben Trivedi, managing trustee of the ‘Kaba Gandhi no Delo’, the museum at this house of Gandhi.
His belief that everything can be achieved by non-violence and truth gained roots in Rajkot, she said.
“He made mistakes and felt guilty about it and had the courage to accept them in front of his father. You name it and he had done that. Like stealing gold of the family to pay debts, eating meat without informing his vegetarian family, stealing copper coins of servants to smoke and even visiting brothels,” Trivedi said.
“He feared the dark and could not sleep without keeping the lights on in his younger days. His maid taught him to chant the name of Lord Rama to keep off his fear and he used to do that. In the latter part of his life, he was not afraid of taking on the might of the British Empire,” said Pravasi.
A proponent of equal rights for women
His love for the truth made him forgo meat as he could not tell lies to his mother any more. He became a proponent of equal rights for women in Hindu society.
The foundation of Gandhi’s strong character was laid in his Rajkot home, Jolly added.
The “stages” where Mahatma Gandhi’s life was enacted, be it his birthplace Kirti Mandir in Porbandar or his Rajkot home ‘Kaba Gandhi no delo’ or the Alfred high school where he studied, have been preserved to inspire future generations, Jolly said.
One century and 50 years later, Gandhi still lives.