“Be the change you want to see in the world.” This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. It comes courtesy of the simple spiritual man in the loincloth who brought the British Empire to its knees: Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi.
The National Gandhi Museum in Delhi, inaugurated in 1959, is the place to visit in India for anyone with an interest in Gandhi. For someone who’s admired the “Father of India” for years, this was, along with a stop at the Salaam Balaak Trust NGO and orphanage, a highlight of my trip to Delhi.
What a fascinating, serene visit this was after another harrowing ride through hectic Delhi traffic. A young child greeted me with a broad smile at the door, perhaps intrigued by the rare sight of a Westerner. A group of students took turns shaking my hand and greeting me with a friendly “hello.”
A collection of memorabilia that includes photocopies of 25,000 letters, notes and other pertinent documents is on hand, as well as many photos chronicling Gandhi’s life. The Charkha gallery includes several hand-cranked spinning devices that Gandhi used to make thread and yarn. His personal items, including mattress, pocket watch, spectacles, walking stick, bowl, hand fan, spinning wheel, lantern and a few books, are exhibited. These and his meager clothing were about the extent of his material possessions.
Also displayed is the bloodstained dhoti Gandhi wore when he was assassinated. The dhoti is a Hindu loincloth Gandhi wore as a means of identifying with the poorest Indians. Viewing Gandhi’s simple collection of possessions can’t help but encourage one to reflect upon the role of material concerns in one’s life.
One of the most striking aspects of the museum to me, along with the personal articles, was the collection of artwork: sculptures, paintings, sketches, etc. expressing the nation’s love and reverence for their great leader. His “Satyagraha” philosophy of nonviolent resistance has influenced movements, thinkers and leaders around the world, including Nelson Mandela (to help end apartheid) and Martin Luther King Jr. (to oppose segregation).
Directly opposite the museum is the Raj Ghat, a memorial to Gandhi. The spot marks the site of his cremation on Jan. 31, 1948. His ashes lie in a square black marble tomb. You’re requested to remove your shoes as you walk around the inner area of the memorial. Indira and Rajiv Gandhi (no relation to Mohandas) were two more recent rulers of India who were also assassinated. They were cremated here and have shrines honoring them as well. An eternal flame burns in a copper urn.