There is little question that Mahatma Gandhi is the father of modern India. We’ve previously looked at the home — the old Birla house — in which Gandhi lived the last months of his life; it was on the grounds of this home that he was assassinated. Today we visit another important site in Gandhi’s life, Raj Ghat. This post takes the story a step further, discussing what happened to Mahatma Gandhi’s remains after he was killed.
Gandhi’s body was washed and wrapped in fresh white cloth. He lay at the old Birla House for a less than a day, surrounded and covered by flower petals in the Hindi manner. From here, a massive procession moved Gandhi’s body to the site where he would be cremated, on the banks of the Yamuna River at a historic ghat. It is said that over a million people gathered for the procession, and hundreds of thousands were at the historic ghat. Gandhi was cremated and his ashes were gathered and scattered in the sacred rivers of India, including the Ganges, ending for him the cycle of reincarnation. He is with God.
Today the cremation site is known as Raj Ghat and a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi has been constructed here. A black marble platform marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation on 31 January 1948, the day after his assassination. The marble slab has the epitaph Hē Ram, (literally ‘O’ Ram’, but also translated to ‘O God’), believed to be the last words uttered by Gandhi. At one end of the platform, an eternal flame burns perpetually.
A stone path flanked by a park-like setting leads to the walled enclosure that houses the memorial. You can walk around the periphery of the upper wall, but if you wish to go directly inside the walls of Raj Ghat to visit the memorial, you must remove their footwear before entering. A commemorative ceremony is held every Friday, to mark the day Gandhi died. Prayer sessions are held at the Raj Ghat on Gandhi’s birth and death anniversaries.
Several other cremation spots of other famous leaders are found in the vicinity of Raj Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna, close to Mahatma Gandhi’s, including that of his compatriot Jawaharlal Nehru. It has become customary for foreign dignitaries visiting India to pay their respects to Gandhi at the Raj Ghat by laying flowers or wreaths on the platform, or planting trees.
It doesn’t take long to visit the site, pay your respects, and move on. Or linger in the park if you want. There is no admission fee.
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