Why is it that the Kausani Gandhi ashram (Anashakti Ashram) has been reduced into a guest house for lower middle class Bengali tourists? Here is a story that looks at this sad state of affairs.
The New Leam Staff
Kausani–the beautiful Himalayan hamlet in Uttarakhand–is also known for Gandhi ashram: the place from where the Mahatma wrote his commentaries on ‘Anashakti Yoga‘
Yes, the landscape is remarkably revealing. One sees the humble cottage where Gandhi stayed in 1929; one looks at the range of mountain peaks; the glory of Trishul and Nanda Devi gives a call. No wonder, despite his busy schedule, Gandhi chose to stay there for about three weeks , and wrote about the nuanced art of living–the ethos of action as selfless offering, the rediscovery of the emancipatory principles of the Bhagavadgita.
The ashram invites the visitors to a room filled with pictures of different stages of life of Gandhi; its walls contain some sayings of the Mahatma; there is a statue; and there are three model monkeys reminding the visitors of Gandhi’s three messages-don’t utter bad words, don’t hear bad words, don’t see bad things.
As I visit the ashram, I feel extremely sad for two reasons.
First, there seems to be no positive vibrations in the site. Everything looks dull, highly routinized–people taking selfie, consuming tea and samosa in the nearby tea shop, and routine prayers in the fixed time.It is dead, a piece of museum. Moving around the place does not give the impression that here lived the most charismatic leader of the country whose remarkable life energy and creativity shattered the mighty British Empire.Instead, Gandhi in this ashram looked like a helplesss/naive/old man who could only be laughed at or ridiculed.
No activity takes place; there is no living discussion; there is no library; and the tiny book shop contains nothing relating to the latest research on Gandhi. In a way, this sort of museumization is enough to kill the spirit of Gandhi.
Gandhian studies, a place that can conduct all sorts of meaningful workshops for school/college children to introduce them to the issues that Gandhi raised relating to ecology, austerity and peaceful living.
Second, it is really sad to see the way this historic place has been reduced into a cheap guest house for the lower middle class Bengali tourists. Barring exceptions, these tourists are by no means engaged with anything related to Gandhi, be it his life-practices, his modes of political resistance, or his spiritual experiments. It is all about the utilitarian use of the place: food and lodging in a cheaper rate. One often notices these tourists moving around, making noise and cracking all sorts of jokes on Gandhi.
We believe that one must rethink the way this ashram has been functioning. Transform it into a spiritually, educationally, intellectually vibrant place– say a centre of studies in Gandhian studies, a place that can conduct all sorts of meaningful workshops for school/college children to introduce them to the issues that Gandhi raised relating to ecology, austerity and peaceful living. This place, we believe, needs life-energy: the presence of active/vibrant minds, for whom, Gandhi, far from being God or a mere historical memory, is a continual possibility to be explored according to the needs of the contemporary times.
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