In the early hours before dawn, even before the birds are up, one can see a few people gathering outside the Kalupur Swaminarayan Temple, they are there not for religious activity but for a prayer of another kind. They are there for an annual Prabhat Pheri (Morning Stroll) conducted from the Kalupur Swaminarayan temple to the Jama Masjid on the morning on 2nd October, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Prabhat Pheri meanders through the lanes of the old city of Ahmedabad, waking people from their slumber and spreading the message of Gandhi. It is a very soothing and peaceful activity. To walk through the lanes of the beautiful old city singing bhajans as dawn is breaking is an otherworldly experience. One loses oneself in it completely, imbibing the values of Gandhi as one goes along. During the course of the walk, ones passes the important landmarks of the old city and those associated with the life of Gandhi. The Pheri ends at Jama Masjid where all participants sit in silence for a few minutes. The whole thing is a truly mesmerising experience.
Since it’s is Gandhi Jayanti one has to visit Sabarmati Ashram, the place where he spends 12 years of his life and formulated and strengthened his quest for the freedom of India. The Ashram has a peaceful, calm environ that impacts anyone who comes in its vicinity.
The tree-filled campus was buzzing with activities since early in the morning. The ashram had organized a host of activities to commemorate the day. It started with an all-religion prayer followed by a lecture by the Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, he spoke on Gandhi’s ultimate dream of elimination of poverty.
It was a sublime prayer meet, held right in front of Hriday Kunj beneath lush green trees, where the birds, wide awake now competed with the sounds of the speakers. There were people of all ages, ranging from school children to senior citizens. The prayer meet started with prayers from different faiths like Sikhism, Islam, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, followed by some of Gandhi’s favourite prayers. One couldn’t help but feel blessed to be a part of this in Gandhi’s home. Wish such gatherings happen more than once at the Hriday Kunj.
The prayer was followed by an excellent lecture by Mr. Subramanian on poverty in India. He talked about how the topic of poverty elimination was close to Gandhi’s heart and how his understanding of poverty was way ahead of his time. He mentioned nation’s achievements in this regards and explained various economic policies that can hugely accelerate the poverty elimination efforts.
Kochrab Ashram, Gandhi’s first Ashram in the country also hosted some events to commemorate the day. It included a Prayer and Charkha spinning event organized with the collaboration of Avani Varia. The Gandhians talked about the evolution of Gandhi’s philosophy. It was also interesting to learn about the 4 different ashrams he had established in his lifetime.
The day concluded with a dhrupad performance by the magical Gundecha brothers at the Sabarmati Ashram. They mesmerized everyone with their enthralling performance. It was a beautiful setting by the Sabarmati river and under a giant Ashoka tree. They sang beautiful Kabir dohas like Jheeni Jheeni Beeni Chadariya. They sang some of Gandhi’s favorites in their inimitable style.
As dusk fell and birds started heading home they ended the evening with Sandhya Sanjivani in Raag Shivranjani.
It was pleasing to see so much happening to celebrate the birth anniversary of the father of our nation. Gandhi is much more than a national symbol, he is the epitome of conviction and commitment, and the truest way to celebrate Gandhi is to experience Gandhi. Ahmedabad offered a lot of such experiences that had the potential to go a long way.
Photographs : Ravi Panchal
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