The Ashram assumes a special position in India's pre independence history. It has witnessed a number of historical events during its India's struggle for independence and has also been a significant symbol of Gandhiji's political ideologies and philosophies.
History of Sabarmati Ashram
In 1915 when Mahatma Gandhi returned to India after spending twenty long years in South Africa he first thought about the settlement of his associates and his family, who were a part of the South African struggle. Gandhi then decided to build his ashram in Ahmedabad. Gandhiji wished to settle here as he could establish a spinning mill i.e. the charkha as Ahmedabad, was then the hub of Indian handloom. He also wanted to indulge in farming, animal husbandry, cow breeding, khadi and related constructive activities.
The first ashram that Gandhi had set up in India was housed at the bungalow of Jivanlal Desai, who was a barrister and a friend of Gandhi. This ashram was built at Kochrab, near Paldi, a modest village near Ahmedabad, on 25th May, in 1915. However, as Kochrab became infested with plague after two years, Gandhi had to relocate his ashram. It was now that the Sabarmati Ashram on the bank of Sabarmati River was selected as the new site for the ashram. The ashram was set on a vast expanse of land, measuring thirty six acres. It was also in the vicinity of the temple of saint Dadheechi, who was a reputed saint and is considered as the epitome of self-sacrifice for the sake of higher ideals and universal well-being. In 1917, in the month of July, the Sabarmati Ashram was established.
While laying the foundation of Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi identified the aim of the ashram as; adequate training for and a constant effort to contribute towards national service. The moral and spiritual developments of the people living in the ashram were given immense importance. Gandhi sought to inculcate in the inmates the cardinal tenets of his philosophy of life which were celibacy, religious tolerance, eradication of untouchability, self help, non possession, education, adherence to truth and win over fear, abstinence from liquor and meat and avoidance of foreign made articles. The ashramites lovingly called him Bapu, which soon became a common way of addressing Gandhi in the entire nation.
During the thirteen long years of Gandhi's stay at Sabarmati Ashram, several momentous events unfolded at this site. It was from Sabarmati Ashram that Gandhi bestowed his leadership to a number of satyagraha struggles, movements and programs. In the year 1918, Gandhi gave leadership to the strike of the textile mill workers, which was the first struggle that he led from Sabarmati Ashram. Perhaps the crowing glory of Sabarmati Ashram is the fact that it formed the venue from which Gandhi launched the very significant Dandi March. The commencement of the Dandi Salt March indeed proved to be the last moments of Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram. While at the Ashram, Gandhi formed a tertiary school that focused on manual labour, agriculture, and literacy to advance his efforts for nation's self-sufficiency. On 12 March 1930 he vowed that he would not return to the Ashram until India won independence. Although this was won on 15 August 1947, when India was declared a free nation, Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948.
The ashram presently has a museum called Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalay. The museum building was erected in 1963. One of the important activities undertaken is the establishment of a Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya. It was originally started in 'Hriday Kunj,' which was later moved to a well-furnished building which was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, on 10 May 1963. The Ashram has many other places to visit like the old Ashram guest house known as Nandini which is located in the right hand side of 'Hridaya Kunj'. The place to visit is the Vinoba Kutir. It was named after Acharya Vinoba Bhave who stayed here, and also known as Mira Kutir after Miraben, Gandhiji's disciple, daughter of a British Admiral.