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In 1917, having vacated lawyer Jeevanlal Desai’s chalet-style residence, Mahatma Gandhi decided to set up his ashram near the serene banks of the Sabarmati River. The idea of adopting this geography as his ‘Karma Bhumi’ came about not only because large open areas were available here for farming and animal husbandry, but also because Rishi Dadhichi was believed to have lived near this vicinity. The Rishi was a pious soul who, folklore suggests, donated his bones to create a spear that could kill demons. The Ashram land has had this long history of being considered a place of optimistic vigour. The authorities of the Sabarmati Ashram and its current secretary, Mr Amrut Mody, have thought of grounding this energy further by creating an Activity Centre where Gandhian exhibitions, gatherings, lectures, children’s programmes and meetings can take place.
Estimated to come into existence next year, the 2000 sq ft Activity Centre can accommodate more than 100 people at a time. Its foundation was laid when Prime Minister Narendra Modi planted a sapling alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe during his visit in September 2017. The design of this area is sketched by the studio of architect Neelkanth Chhaya, former dean of the Faculty of Architecture at CEPT University, and the blueprints of the structure are still awaiting approval from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
As per current estimates, the Gandhi Ashram has a footfall of more than 1500 people a day, which increases significantly during the holidays by upto 9000 people. The current museum ‘Sangrahalay’ permanently hosts artifacts that belonged to Bapu. With this Activity Centre now, there will be an added, dedicated 500-600 feet of gallery space for enthusiastic Gandhian exhibitors. Chhaya’s design aims to respond to the naturally luminous architectural legacy of the Ashram’s architecture, to the same simplicity which inspired architect Charles Correa in 1964 when he designed the Gandhi Ashram Museum.
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