In black and white, Allahabad pays tribute to Gandhi

February 15th, 2008 - 12:13 pm ICT by admin  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
Allahabad, Feb 15 (IANS) One hundred and fifty rare black and white photographs on display at the 77-year-old Allahabad Museum chronicle the life story of Mahatma Gandhi, covering all stages of his life.

The tribute to the father of the nation comes on the occasion on his 60th death anniversary. The Mahatma fell to assassin Nathuram Godse’s bullet on Jan 30, 1948, a year after the country freed itself from British rule.

The exhibition is significant because the museum and the town in general are closely associated with the Indian struggle for independence and also happens to be the birthplace of both Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira, two of India’s most illustrious prime ministers. Mahatma Gandhi also visited Allahabad several times in the course of his non-violence campaign.

The photographs sourced from archives all over the country are blow-ups. The series begins with the Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as a smiling seven-year-old and ends with Nehru announcing his death atop a public vehicle and the leaders carrying his ashes to the Sangam.

Each photograph is striking because of its clarity and content. There are some rare shots of the Gandhi family - Bapu (as Mahatma Gandhi was known), his sons, grandsons, granddaughters - strolling on the Juhu beach and the father of the nation chasing his little grandson with a stick.

A wedding photograph of the Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi is stately with the couple looking almost regal, and an old blurred shot of the house where the Mahatma was born is nostalgic.

“The collection will replace the existing photographs of the father of the nation in the museum’s Gandhi Hall,” Sharma said.

As a mark of respect, the Allahabad Museum Tuesday also brought out the Gandhi Smriti Vahan, a mini truck that had carried the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi from the Allahabad railway station for immersion at the Sangam, and kept it parked at the gate for people to see.

The truck, done up in colours of the national flag, is a permanent exhibit in the museum and is kept in a special glass chamber, adjacent to the main building.

“Every year we organise a special programme Feb 12 to commemorate the immersion of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes. On Tuesday, we brought out the Vahan, decorated it with flowers and kept it at the gate,” said museum director S.K. Sharma.

“Unlike other years, we did not retrace the journey known as the Gandhi Smriti Vahan Yatra because of a security threat. The recent spate of bomb explosions across the state compelled us to exercise caution.”

The museum has also acquired a collection of stamps pertaining to the Mahatma and the events in his life from 152 countries. It will be displayed as permanent exhibits at the Gandhi Bithika, a hall in the museum devoted to Mahatma Gandhi.

“The postages are very small and some of them are very old, but each stamp tells a story. They are rare,” Sharma said.

Besides, the museum has one of the biggest caches of memorabilia belonging to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, ranking next only to New Delhi’s Teen Murti Bhavan, the official residence of Jawaharlal Nehru when he was prime minister, and Anand Bhavan in Allahabad.

All the gifts that Nehru collected during his state visits and even his Eton schoolbooks of poems by John Milton and Lord Alfred Tennyson have been donated to the museum. The Nehru Hall in the museum also has one of the wedding invites issued by Motilal Nehru “requesting the pleasure of the guests at their son Jawaharlal’s wedding to Kamala”.

The high point of the collection, however, is the handwritten manuscript of Jawaharlal Nehru’s autobiography “In And Out Of Prison” preserved in 10 hand-bound volumes. The sepia and the dog-eared pages, mostly standard prison sheets, are full of footnotes, corrections and changes in Panditji’s neat little pencil jottings, characterised by a wide margin of space to the left.

The foundation stone of the museum was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1931.

Nehru was born in the Meer Ganj area of the town in a residence numbered 88, while daughter Indira was born in Anand Bhavan, the family mansion, in the heart of the city. Meer Ganj, however, has long disappeared.

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