Porbandar is a small coastal town in western Gujarat, complete with a crowded port, narrow alleys and an ever-present smell of fish and salty waters – and famous for two things. In recent times, it came to been known as a shady place, in the hands of criminal groups, one of which was lead by the notorious Godmother, a lady mob leader who passed away last year.
Porbandar’s more eternal claim-to-fame however, is that India’s foremost hero, Mahatma Gandhi, was born there in 1869. The small house where his mother gave birth still stands in the centre of town, although now overshadowed by the Kirti Mandir, a memorial temple that was built after Gandhi’s assassination.
The little stone house is empty, with only a few simple decorative paintings on the grey walls. Just the way Gandhi would’ve wanted it. It’s nice to visit the place, if only to see the place where baby Gandhi once was born. It is marked with a swastika on the floor.
Gandhi’s family moved from Porbandar when he was a kid – to Rajkot, another city in Gujarat – but a sign on the third floor marks the room where young Gandhi used to read. And, on display downstairs are a pair of his trademark glasses!
A perhaps more interesting place to visit is Sabarmati Ashram, the ashram Gandhi established in Ahmedabad. Together with his wife Kasturba, Gandhi spent some 12 years of his life there, until he set out on his famous Salt March in 1930 (promising to not return to the ashram until India was independent).
At the ashram, many of Gandhi’s writings and speeches are displayed. One of the most powerful, I found, is a quote on the similarity and inseparable bond between all human beings, everywhere. Love!
“The world is inhibited by all kinds of people. They are isolated by land and water, religion, customs, habits. The minds and hearts of these people are much alike. Under sudden or stressed conditions, they blossom forth or explode in riots, fights, dance, songs or prayers. At such times, they become one mind, one heart, and the world vibrates with the intensity of their feelings, emotions, angers and laughter.”