There are a number of important Indian personalities who have earned the respect of people around the world. None, however, is as popular as Mahatma Gandhi. Mani Bhawan or Mani Bhavan is an important house in Mumbai since most of Gandhi’s political gatherings and activities were held in this mansion. The ideological leader of India conducted meetings and made his famous non-violent sermons here from 1917 to 1934. Members of the Mani family, original owners of the house, were Gandhi’s close friends. Officially considered as Gandhi’s headquarters during those times, several non-violent political initiatives such as the Satyagraha, Khadi and Swadeshi movements began in Mani Bhawan.
In 1955, the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, or the National Gandhi Memorial Trust that is controlled by India’s central government, decided to take control and maintain the house as a life-long memorial to the Father of India and his amazing non-violent political initiatives. He was truly ahead of his time, since it is only today that governments are seriously finding ways to settle international disputes without the use of force or intimidation. His efforts did not only lead to the national independence of India but also inspired other nations to aspire for freedom and civil rights.
Indians love and admire Mahatma Gandhi or Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and refer to him as Bapu (‘Father’) and as a man with ‘Great Soul’. And now that their Bapu is away, they consider his former headquarters as the city’s pride. The two-storey structure is not just a house but a symbol of what the Indian people believe in. Gandhi’s famous spinning wheels began here in 1917, as he advocated the use of local cotton and fabrics as a way to protest against the commercial control of the British. It was also in Mani Bhawan where he resolved to abstain from drinking cow’s milk as a way to protest against the cruel treatment given to cattle during those times.
Located at Laburnum Road in the precinct of Gamdevi, the house is now owned by Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri. It is about 40 minutes away from the famous Taj Mahal hotel. Inside the house are a library and a statue of the Mahatma where visitors lay their tributes. On the second floor, visitors get a glimpse at the actual room where Gandhi stayed. Well preserved for everyone to see are the Mahatma’s spinning wheels, floor bed and a book. They are encased in a thin glass for protection. Leading to this highly respected room is a photo gallery showing pictures of Mahatma from his childhood all the way to his assassination, along with well preserved press clippings. More pictures and paintings of his lifetime are on display in a hall near Gandhi’s room. Visitors can also step on the terrace where he was arrested on January 4, 1932.
While locals respect Mani Bhavan for what it represents, it has not been receiving the international attention it deserves, until President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited Gandhi’s room in November 2010. Prior to the President and First Lady of the United States, the last famous international personality that came to visit was freedom-fighter, Martin Luther King.