From Dwarka, we drove to Somnath. Earlier we had a plan to have a night halt at Porbandar- the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. But when we found that except for the ancestral house of Gandhiji, we drop the idea and decided to have the stop over in Somnath.
Mahatma’s great grandfather, Shri Harjeevanji Raidas Gandhi, had purchased the house, where Mahatma Gandhi was born from a local lady about 200 years ago. Kirti Mandir has been built as a memorial keeping the old house intact. While going through the small plain empty rooms in the house, one gets a nostalgic feeling. Nothing of those days is there, unlike you see in the houses of Western celebrities such as William Shakespeare at Stanford-on-Avon that I visited in 1982. But the very thought that the great Fakir spent his childhood in these rooms is exciting. It was the great effort of Shri Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta and his wife that Kirti Mandir could be built. The property was bought from the members of the Gandhi family who were living in that house at that time. And even Gandhiji sold and registered the property to Shri Nanjibhai. We moved in and out many times. I was trying to evaluate if this was the best that the nation could have done for the place that it is. In the lane outside, it is just the typical of a small town in the region.
The memorial is a national heritage. I wish Indian government had set up a monument suited to the stature of the greatest human being and leader that the country and the world has produced in the last few centuries.
While in Porbandar we also visited the temple named after Sudama, the famous friend of Krishna. Perhaps the temple appeared to me as the anti-climax of the golden palace of Sudama that was built by Viswakarma on the instruction of Lord Krishna overnight, while Sudama was enjoying the hospitality of his friend in his palace in Dwarka.
In Ahmedabad, on the last leg of the tour we went to Sabarmati Asharma, the place from where Mahatma Gandhi led his Dandi March for salt making. We would have returned after going through the exhibition hall that has been built without seeing the house where Gandhi and Baa lived, but for the timely appearance of the gentleman in Khadi in the photograph. His great grandfather, as he claimed, trained Mahatma in operating the spinning wheel for Khadi. Three of his family members accompanied Gandhi in Dandi March. He has participated in two of the marches to Dandi. It is nice to hear the stories and ponder over how the sacrifices of some could bring the independence of this country. It is more exciting when you are standing in the courtyard of the place where Gandhi lived for many years and led the national movement. And then you start thinking of all great men of the country and also of the world, who had visited this place during the time Gandhi lived here and thereafter too to pay homage to the great son that the mother earth produces very rarely.
Here again, I wonder why the nation can’t perform better in making this place worth Gandhi’s stature.