Mani Bhavan, which means The House of Jewels in English, was the centre in Bombay for Gandhiji’s activities and was like home for him, where he stayed between 1917-1934.
Built in 1912, Mani Bhavan was owned by a gentleman, and a devotee of Gandhi Ji named Shri Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri. This two-storied building on Laburnum Road in Gamdevi was the place that played a significant role in the freedom struggle of India, especially between 1917 to 1934, and it was from here that the first phase of the non-violent freedom struggle was launched.
“Gandhiji took his first lessons in carding from a person who used to pass by Mani Bhavan. In fact, Gandhiji was arrested from his tent on the terrace of Mani Bhavan on the morning of January 4, 1932”, said Meghashyam Ajgaonkar, executive secretary at Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sanghralalay and someone who’s been working here for the last 55 years.
Founding Satyagraha, falling sick and moulding the freedom movements
Mani Bhavan has indeed been a witness to many significant freedom activities and also saw Gandhi Ji’s transition. Be it the message of Satya, prem, and ahinsa (truth, love, and non-violence) that he gave to the nation or urged people to be more self-sufficient by boycotting foreign goods, or starting Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act, these significant movements happened from Mani Bhavan.
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“In 1931, Gandhiji went as the only representative of the Congress to the Round Table Conference in London. He returned unhappy to Mani Bhavan and discussed the situation with the working committee of the Congress here. He then decided to launch civil disobedience and due to which he was arrested from his tent on the terrace of the building on the morning of January 4, 1932”, told Mr.Ajgaonkar to Local Samosa.
Not just this, Gandhi Ji even started his historic fast at Mani Bhavan after the disturbance when people boycotted the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1921. The city got back to normal when he broke the fast after five days. It was also Mani Bhavan when Gandhi Ji fell sick and started consuming goat’s milk when he was very critical in 1919.
“He also began spinning the charkha from this place and regulated all those movements. He initially used to wear a Kashmiri cap, shirt, and pants. But he started wearing his signature white Gandhi cap during his stay here and would always wear a dhoti. Mani Bhavan has seen this transition. Winston Churchill used to call him ‘half–naked fakir’ and Gandhi Ji regarded that as a compliment”, he added.
Converting Mani Bhavan into a Gandhi Memorial
After 1937, Gandhi Ji built an Ashram in Gujarat and used to live there. In 1955 Mani Bhavan was purchased by a trust and was converted into a museum. It has a library, a photo gallery, and an auditorium where films on Gandhiji are shown, and recordings of his speeches are played on request. The ground floor has the library, while on the first floor you will find the photo gallery and the auditorium. The second floor features the room where he lived and is preserved in its original setting. Adjoining the room is the exhibition depicting his life through miniature figures.
“There are over 40,000 books on Gandhi Ji in the library in different languages. The doll museum was made by a member named Sushila Ben Gokhale Patel in 1969”, stated Mr. Ajgaonkar. Mani Bhavan sees 4 to 5 lakhs visitors every month, including foreigners and school kids. It was even visited by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Barack Obama, Sonia Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and celebrities like Apache Indian.
“Sonia Gandhi came here four times while Barack Obama especially came to Mumbai to visit Mani Bhavan. He had left us all astonished with his knowledge of Gandhi Ji. Apache Indian, too, came twice and paid his respect to Gandhi Ji and played his guitar and danced”, he concluded.
Mani Bhavan, indeed is a must-visit if you are in Mumbai and will definitely leave you with a sense of patriotism and more respect for Gandhi Ji. The establishment is well-organized, and there’s a lot to explore, see, and learn. So, do plan a visit to this iconic place as it remains open all 7 days.
Where: 19, Laburnum Rd, near Police Station, Babulnath, Gamdevi, Mumbai.