Gandhi Smriti is situated in the old Birla House, a neoclassical mansion with spacious grounds located in an upscale neighborhood of New Delhi. It was one of my favorite stops in Delhi.
Gandhi Smriti is a sacred place. It is here that the father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated in 1948. Gandhi had wanted to live in the Delhi slums with his people, but was talked into staying at this home as many foreign dignitaries would be visiting him and it seemed a more appropriate environment for entertaining VIPs than the slums. Despite living in a lavish home, Gandhi maintained his simple lifestyle in a small corner of one room. He lived here from 9 September 1947 until three point blank shots to the chest took his life on 30 January 1948. He was killed by a Hindu zealot who was unhappy with compromises Gandhi was working on with Pakistan.
The house treasures the memories of these final 144 days of his life. The building and the landscape have been preserved as they were in the days when Gandhi lived here.
The Old Birla House was acquired by the Government of India in 1971 and was converted into a National Memorial of the Father of the Nation, opening to the public in 1973. It is run by the government’s Ministry of Culture with the aim to promote the life, mission and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi.
The highlight of any visit to Gandhi Smriti is the room where Mahatma Gandhi lived. His living quarters were, unlike the mind of the man who lived here, simple indeed. A small desk and table, a mattress and pillow… spittoon. You can’t help but be humbled and moved by the simplicity of this great man’s life. You will see such items as his spinning wheel (he made his own cloth, a sign of rebellion against English textiles)…
Perhaps most amazing are Gandhi’s worldly remains, framed and on display in this room, including his pocket-watch (stopped at the time he was killed)….
A separate part of the room included two bed-like sitting areas where Gandhi meet with dignitaries.
A series of cement footsteps takes you to a garden on the home’s grounds where Gandhi met with his followers and prayed with them every evening. The grounds of Birla House are well worth exploring. A highlight is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, with a boy and a girl holding a dove in their hands standing on either side. The legend at the base of the sculpture says, “My Life is My Message”…. Located at the far end of the property is Gandhi’s Prayer spot….
I would rank this highly among attractions in Delhi. The ancient sites, like Humayun’s Tomb and Qutab Minar are more spectacular, but if you have any interest in the life of a man who is revered in India — whose image is on every paper rupee printed in the country, this is a place you can spend a half day and emerge with a better understanding of this unique man. There is no admission fee. Highly recommended.
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