Tourists invited to live like Gandhi in his ashram

Published October 31, 2013
Ashram co-ordinator Rameshbhai Trivedi walks near the kitchen and dining hall at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Ashram co-ordinator Rameshbhai Trivedi walks near the kitchen and dining hall at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Ashram co-ordinator Rameshbhai Trivedi (C) walks into the guest living quarters at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Ashram co-ordinator Rameshbhai Trivedi (C) walks into the guest living quarters at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Bhim Bahdur (L) spreads a carpet in the Prayer Hall  at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Bhim Bahdur (L) spreads a carpet in the Prayer Hall at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Kochrab Ashram, Mahatma Gandhi's most famous ashram and site of the “Live Gandhi for a While” programme is pictured in Ahmedabad. — Photo by AFP
Kochrab Ashram, Mahatma Gandhi's most famous ashram and site of the “Live Gandhi for a While” programme is pictured in Ahmedabad. — Photo by AFP
Ashram co-ordinator Rameshbhai Trivedi prepares cotton thread on a manual 'charkha' or a weaving tool inside his office at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Ashram co-ordinator Rameshbhai Trivedi prepares cotton thread on a manual 'charkha' or a weaving tool inside his office at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Ashram co-ordinator Rameshbhai Trivedi walks through the kitchen and dining area at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP
Ashram co-ordinator Rameshbhai Trivedi walks through the kitchen and dining area at Kochrab Ashram. — Photo by AFP

AHMEDABAD: Tourists searching for peace and simplicity can for the first time check in to Mahatma Gandhi's most famous ashram in India. But don't expect modern comforts. And chastity is required.

For 1,000 rupees ($16) a night, tourists can sample the lifestyle of India's famously ascetic independence leader by staying at the first ashram he established, set up in 1915 in the western state of Gujarat.

Guests at the ashram, which opened to holidaymakers earlier this month, can try their hand at spinning, visit local communities, pray and meditate, all while wearing khadi — hand-woven cloth — during their stay. But they must adhere to Gandhi's 11 vows that he promoted including non-violence, no possessions, use of local goods, working for daily food, self restraint, including chastity, and control of diet.

And they are also encouraged to follow Gandhi's austere daily routine, such as waking at 5 am and undertaking domestic chores.

“The objective of this programme is to allow people to experience a sustainable lifestyle, to enjoy the simplicity of Gandhi, experience the virtue of Mahatma,” said Nischalavalamb Barot, a travel agent who helped develop the programme called “Live Gandhi for a While”.

“This might change perceptions of tourists towards life, society and our natural resources. This might also help tourists find peace and satisfaction within,” Barot told AFP.

Gandhi went to stay at the bungalow, now called Kochrab Ashram and then owned by a lawyer friend, after he returned to India from South Africa in 1915.

From this base, in a village on the outskirts of the city of Ahmedabad, he rejected material wealth and developed some of the ideas for which he became famous.

In one incident, he upset neighbours by inviting a low-caste man, a so-called “untouchable”, to come and live at the ashram as part of his campaign against India's rigid and deeply ingrained caste system.

The ashram is managed by a nearby university called Gujarat Vidyapith, which Gandhi himself founded in 1920 to “liberate the Indian youths from the shackles of British colonial rule”.

The “Live with Gandhi” programme was launched on October 2 to coincide with the 144th anniversary of the birth of Gandhi. Tourists have not yet made bookings, but Barot stressed there were lots of inquiries.

India has plenty of museums and monuments to honour the country's independence icon, whose personal philosophy and ideas are considered outdated by many in rapidly modernising India.

Known as Mahatma or Great Soul, Gandhi spearheaded a non-violent campaign against the British Raj that finally saw India gain its freedom from colonial rule in 1947. He was shot dead by a Hindu hardliner in New Delhi just months later in 1948.

Despite the many commemorations for Gandhi, Barot, who developed the programme with the university, said he hoped the ashram offered something different.

“This is the first time that we are attempting to understand the value and principles of a sustainable life, which Gandhi believed in and practised,” said Barot, who operates a sustainable tourism agency. However he stressed a stay at the ashram would not be an easy one.

“They will have to follow the vows that Gandhi himself followed in the ashram.... They will also wear the khadi throughout the programme.” Gandhi spun his own cloth and encouraged others to follow suit. He considered this an important part of his anti-colonial philosophy of self-reliance, known as “swadeshi”.

Khadi also became a symbol of how then India should base its economy — on village-based craft instead of industrially-produced cotton often imported from mills in Britain.

The idea is a far cry from modern-day India, which dismantled government control over its economy in the 1990s, and opened up India, a member of the G20, to foreign investment.

Sudarshan Iyengar, vice-chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapith university that manages the ashram, said he was confident that opening it to tourists would help promote Gandhi's ideals.

“This is a unique programme, which will actually bring change in society gradually at an individual level and hopefully we will witness a sustainable future.”

Opinion

Civil liberties
23 Oct 2021

Civil liberties

The late I.A. Rehman is esteemed on both sides of the border.
The Hamza factor
Updated 23 Oct 2021

The Hamza factor

A new story is quietly unfolding inside the PML-N and there may yet be a surprise twist.
What should Imran Khan do?
Updated 23 Oct 2021

What should Imran Khan do?

Making a mishmash of religion and politics won’t turn Pakistan into a welfare state. Here’s what can.
Afghan health crises
Updated 22 Oct 2021

Afghan health crises

The condition and prospects of Afghanistan’s health sector are complex and grave.

Editorial

A final push
Updated 23 Oct 2021

A final push

PAKISTAN’S hopes of exiting the so-called FATF grey list have been shattered once again. The global money...
23 Oct 2021

Kabul visit

FOREIGN MINISTER Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s flying visit to Kabul on Thursday is the first official high-level...
23 Oct 2021

Baqir’s blooper

THE remarks made by State Bank governor Reza Baqir at a London press conference have hit a raw nerve in Pakistan. In...
Spate of attacks
Updated 22 Oct 2021

Spate of attacks

Following a near-constant decline since 2016, the year 2021 has witnessed a precipitous rise in violence-related fatalities in KP.
22 Oct 2021

Libel suits

THE outcome of two libel cases recently decided by courts in England should be edifying for the government — if it...
22 Oct 2021

Education losses

A NEW report on the education losses suffered by Pakistani children due to pandemic-induced school closures sheds...