Mahatma Gandhi came Wardha in the year 1934. On the request by Jamnalalji Bajaj, he selected the Segaon village for his Ashram or Kuti. Later this village renamed as Sewagram. Mahatma Gandhi continued his freedom movement from this ashram. Various articles, needy things used by Gandhi are kept here as it is. The premises of the Ashram having the Adi Niwas, Ba Kuti (Shelter of Kasturba Gandhi), Akhri Niwas, Mahadeo Kuti, Kishor Kuti and other historical places maintaining as its original status by the trusty of the Ashram. Permanent Photo exhibition of the Gandhi is there near the Ashram. Tourism and Development Department of Government of India have started the guest house beside the ashram for staying the visiters. In memory of Gandhi, Kasturba Hospital is established here in year 1944. Beside this, on 12thAugust 1969, Dr. Sushila Nayar had started the Mahatma Gandhi Medical College in Sewagram
Shegaon is a small village near Wardha town (8 km). Mahatma Gandhi reached the village on the 30th April,1936 early in the morning at about 5 a.m. He remained here for about five to six days. He called the villagers and the purpose of his visit and sought their permission to settle down here. He had no intention to keep anybody with him except his wife Kasturba. However slowly pressure of work necessitated permission to more colleagues till Sevagram Ashram also became a full-fledged institution.
He was 67 years when he came to Sevagram. In those days the village was surrounded by forest on all sides. Snakes and scorpions were a common feature. There was only one footpath or cart track to Wardha. No post-office or telegraph office existed. There letters used to be brought from Wardha. There is another village in this region named Shegaon, made famous by the residence of Saint Gajanan Maharaj. Hence Gandhiji’s letters used to get misdirected. Therefore, it was decided in 1940 to name this village as SEVAGRAM or the village of service.
Meera Ben (Miss Madelene Slade) was already settled in Sevagram before Gandhiji. At that time there was not even an approach road for the village. One make-shift road was soon constructed. A metalled road was constructed by the Government, when a Congress ministry was formed in the Central Provinces in 1937 under the scheme of provincial autonomy.
Gandhiji had put one condition for the construction of his hut (now known as Adi Niwas). Not more than Rs.500/ be spent on the hut and it be built with material available to serve food to inmates and then used to take his meals. He lived in one corner of the hut.
Some sixteen from Adi Nivas hut, Gandhiji’s disciple Miss Meera Ben had constructed a hut for herself and she used to teach spinning and carding to villagers in that hut. When the number of residents in the Adi Nivas increased, Gandhiji and Kasturba shifted to live in Meeraben’s hut. Meeraben constructed one more hut on the eastern side for herself. However, later on she left this hut also for Gandhiji’s office and shifted to a nearby village. These huts are known today as ‘BAPU KUTI’ and ‘BAPU’S OFFICE’.
Kasturba had to live in Bapu Kuti in the midst of so many men. Looking to her difficulty, a new hut was constructed for her. Kasturba lived in this new hut with a few inmates and sometimes with occasional women guests. This hut is known as ‘BA KUTI’.
When we look at this hut, we notice the true living art of Gandhiji’s liking. The roof of this hut is covered with bamboos, mats and country mud-tiles. The walls are neatly plastered with white earth. Meeraben had decorated the walls with folk art symbols like Oum, palm tree, peacock and the Charkha symbolising God, nature, living beings and human activity.
The windows and doors are also made of bamboos and decorated with local designs. The village craftsmen prepare the palm tree mats, which are spread on the floor. The bamboo almirah hanging by the wall is a specialty. There is one shelf made of bamboo for keeping articles.
He used to sit on simple palm leaf mats. His office was also nearby. Next to him, his secretary Mahadev Desai or Pyarelal or someone else who would assist him used to sit. The visitors also had to sit on the ground. In Gandhiji’s office hut a telephone installed at behest of the then Viceroy of is also displayed.
Gandhiji’s correspondence went on increasing. Naturally, one Secretariat committee was formed to help him. Mahadev Desai was it’s chief. Others were Pyarelalji and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. More people used to help whenever needed. Replies to all the letters were invariably sent, sometimes in detail and sometimes in very brief, according to the importance and of the time.
Gandhiji used simple and clean but beautiful stones as his paperweights. But the monkeys of china clay were the best. These monkeys are like toys. They are sitting side by side. One has put its hands over its eyes; the second one over its mouth the third over its ears. Gandhiji used to keep these monkeys with him as if they were telling not to here untruth and to speak untruth.
Morning and evening prayers are a part of life here. The place for community prayer should not be expensive. Such a should be freely accessible to all. Gandhiji created one such place here. It is the open space under the sky surrounded by bamboo lining. To keep the place dry and free of mud during the rainy season, it is paved with stones and spread over thick sand. Even today evening prayers are held here daily. After the prayer Gandhiji used to speak his thoughts on the Ashram problems or on some burning problem facing the country, or answer questions.
On the eastern side of Bapu Kuti and his office hut, lies Parchure Kuti. Parchure was asocial worker & Sanskrit Pandit, but was somehow afflicted with leprosy disease. In those days people used to shun leprosy patients. Therefore, Parchure was thinking of committing suicide. He came to Gandhiji. Gandhiji himself started nursing and cleaning his wounds. It is in this hut where Gandhiji served the leprosy affected Parchure.
Under Gandhiji’s instructions Shri Manoharji Diwan devoted his whole life to this cause. He started an institution to serve leprosy patients near Sevagram viz. Dattapur village. Parchure then shifted to Dattapur and lived their till his death.
Mahadevbhai Desai was Secretary & very close to Gandhiji. He lived with family near Bapu Kuti in a hut called ‘Mahadev Kuti’. Mahadevbhai had good command on English and Gujrati languages. He had a pious character. He died on 15th August,1942 while in prison with Gandhiji at the Agakhan Palace in Pune. His absence was deeply felt by Gandhiji.
On the northeastern side of Bapu Kuti one hut was prepared for Kishorebhai Mashruwala. He was scholar and studied Gandhian thought. He acted as a Secretary to Gandhiji for sometime. He was suffering from asthma. Therefore, the hut built for him is more comfortable and free from wetness during rainy season. This hut is called ‘Kishore Kuti’.
Gandhiji invited Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan popularly known as the Frontier Gandhi, to come and live with him for sometime. Gaffar Khan lived in the Adi Nivas. The Frontier Gandhi lead a simple life of an Ashramite. He used to serve the sick also besides attending to other duties. Though looking to his habits Gandhiji had permitted him to eat meat yet, he never ate any meat and followed the Ashram discipline. He lived like a villager and called himself ‘A Servant of God’.
In the early days, Saint Tukadoji Maharaj lived in the Ashram for one month. He also lived in the Adi Nivas with Bapu. After returning to his own Ashram he started constructive activities in tune with Gandhiji’s teachings. He used to pray daily in the mornings and evenings. When in Sevagram he used to sing spiritual hymns after the prayers. Many villagers used to come to listen.
The people who are in the mad rush today, increasing their wants senselessly suppose that they are enhancing their importance and real knowledge. A day will come when they will exclaim, “What have we been doing?”
One after another, many civilizations have risen, flourished, declined and disappeared and in spite of their big boast of human progress, I am inclined to ask; To what end all this? What’s the purpose? Darwin’s contemporary Wallace has said that despite the various discoveries and inventions during the past fifty years, the moral height of man hasn’t increased even an inch. Tolstoy has said the same thing. Jesus, Buddha, Prophet Mohammed all have said the same things.
(He used to complete his pending work on Mondays by keeping silence.)
In Wardha, Seagram – 2,588 days