On Mahatma Gandhi's 67th death anniversary, we pay tribute by visiting Mani Bhavan. He stayed here between 1919 and 1934 during his Mumbai visits.
Tucked away as it is in a quiet lane, it’s easy to forget that Mani Bhavan is part of Gamdevi, a bustling locality of shops and residences in South Mumbai. Even when visitors troop in, about 500 are said to visit daily, the two storied building exudes a calm that's rarely found in Mumbai's landscape. This memorial to Mahatma Gandhi is one of the rare historic sites that has survived Mumbai's indifference and ignorance.
The house that was owned by Revashankar Jhaveri, a jeweler, is where Mahatma Gandhi found refuge on his many visits to Mumbai between 1917 and 1934. In 1955 it was donated to the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi to be converted into a memorial to the Mahatma.
The heritage building has witnessed many historic meetings and moments. Several key movements in the long struggle for independence from the British rule were discussed and even initiated here. He learned spinning and carding cotton here and the charkha or spinning wheel he used is still here. Library records show that the mass satyagraha movement against the Rowlatt Act was launched in 1919 while he was here. Many letters written to British administrators are datelined here including one in 1920 to the then Viceroy of India, Lord Chelmsford to show solidarity with the Khilafat movement.
The rooms of Mani Bhavan have also hosted many iconic political leaders from M. A. Jinnah to Jawaharlal Nehru, all of who would come here to confer with Gandhi. The library on the ground floor contains around 50,000 books and periodicals. On the first floor, besides the auditorium where films and speeches are screened, there's a gallery that has rare photographs and copies of letters, and documents.
On occasions like January 30th, prayer services and bhajans are conducted in the first half of the day. For anybody looking to get a sense of the man whose words and deeds shaped the idea of a nation, this would be a good place to start.