Foreigners visiting Madurai, Tamilnadu, India, are most interested in Gandhi Museum, the standing memoir of the great Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, they had read and heard about. Madurai Gandhi Museum is one of the 5 main Museums, run by the All India Gandhi Memorial Fund. The other ones are at – Sabarmati (the Ashram Gandhiji lived); Patna; Barrackpore and Mumbai.
Madurai Gandhi Museum is something special, as it was in Madurai (which he has visited 14 times during his life-time) that the South-Africa returned wealthy Barrister – Mohandass Kharamchand Gandhi, engaged in the Freedom Struggle against the mighty British Empire (they boasted that the “Sun never sets” to describe the extent of British ruled lands) took a vital decision.
Gandhiji stayed during his visit to Madurai in 1921 at the residence of Sri Ramji Kalyanji. On the night of 21-9-1921, he was restless with the thought of what he saw during the day. The farmers and poor people gathered to see him wearing only a piece of cloth – a dhoti, the size of a towel. They were shivering in the cold, while Gandhiji was wearing Kurta, long turban and dhoti. This troubled him mentally and he took that life-changing decision of wearing only a cloth in his loins from then on.
Gandhiji was clad barely with this dress, even when he went to London, to take part in the Round Table Conference with the British Prime Minster. It earned him the name from the Colonial British Press “The Half-naked Fakir of India”.
Gandhi Museum of Madurai has another rare exhibit. The blood-stained cloth Mahatma (he was respectfully called by the Indian mass – meaning above the ordinary human being) was wearing, when assassinated on the evening of 30th January 1948. While he was coming with a slow walk to the dais for mass evening prayer, one Hindu fanatic by name Nathuram Vinayakram Ghoste bowed before him with folded hands and fired at close-range, many rounds with a pistal he was hiding.
You will be moved to see the exhibits like this and the simple personal belongings of a man, whose leadership guided the 30 billon people of the Indian nation (110 billions now). For his self-less service and attaining Freedom, Gandhiji still lives in the minds of Indian people as the “Father of the Nation”.
You will see the Exhibition titled “India Fights for Freedom” in the first place, inside the Museum with 265 illustrations that put before you, as to how Gandhiji led the nation in the path of “Ahimsa” – non-violence and “Sathyagraha” (stanch opposition of the British Rule in peaceful way).
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru – another great leader and first Prime Minister of India, inaugurated the Museum on 15th April 1959. The US Black Leader Martin Luther King (Jr.) soon after his visit to this Museum said that he got inspired by the ways of Gandhiji. The same words are now being repeated by the new President of America, Barrack Obama that he has great reverence to Mahatma Gandhi and will adopt the Gandhian principles in his political life.
The Gandhi Museum is situated at the Thamukkam Palace of Rani Mangammal of Nayak Dynasty, the rulers of Madurai. It is engaged in propagating the ideals of Gandhiji, by educational programs for students; conducting meetings; discourses etc. at the theatre (8000 seating capacity) annexed. Entrance is free. Timings 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. 2 KMs from Madurai Railway Station (Auto Rs.40).
Madurai is a prominent pilgrimage center, situated 498 Kms (308 miles) south-west of Chennai (formerly Madras), the capital of Tamilnadu State.
This southern Indian state is the cradle of the Dravidian culture, a civilization as old as the better known Indus valley civilization.