We were driving back from Banganga we saw a board announcing Mani Chowk. I asked my cousin if this is where Mani Bhavan is – he said yes and parked the car right there. Very sweetly allowing me to go and explore the museum even without asking. So I entered this street that looks pretty much like an upper-middle-class residential street from a smaller town of the 1980s. This is Mumbai of early 20th CE. Mani Bhavan today is the most famous building in the street used to hosting dignitaries.
Mani Bhavan – Gandhi Sangrahalaya.
I stand in front of a century old Bungalow, impeccably preserved in subtle colors and dedicated to the father of the nation. A plaque outside the museum has the full name of the place – Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya with Gandhi’s trademark Charkha on top of it. A small counter at the entrance gives information about the place. To my surprise, they say yes to photography and came my camera. The walls all around are full of big and small information about Mahatma Gandhi like a panel had all the postage stamps dedicated to Gandhi.
Library & book conservation.
Stepped inside and was delighted to see a library. A particular bookcase carried a label – Books read by Gandhi Ji. So I assumed the rest must be the books gifted to him either in his lifetime or later. After soaking in the library I entered the room on the opposite side and was delighted to see a lab to conserve the books. Old stained pages of the books were pasted on a cloth and hung for drying. Various books lay there as scattered pages. It felt like a surgical operation in progress where the parts are recognizable only to the doctor. This was the first time I was looking at a book conservation space.
I had so many questions. It was a Sunday, so the staff had an off. And I could not have my answers. So, if this part of the museum interests you, do not go on a weekend.
On the narrow wooden stairs leading to the first & second floor, I found Gandhi all around. The artwork made with his images, portraits, and paintings. On the first floor is a simple auditorium where you can see films related to Gandhi and even hear his speeches. On the second floor, there is series of small dioramas depicting the life of Gandhi, highlighting the milestone events in his life. Incidentally, Gandhi ji lived in this house off and on at the same time when he established Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. The bungalow belonged to Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri. It was converted into museum post independence. Gandhi initiated many movements from here like his agitation against Rowlett Act.
Corner room of Mahatma Gandhi.
Simplest and the most impressive part of this Mumbai museum is the corner room of Mahatma Gandhi. That exuberates his simplicity with just a small bed, a writing table, few books and his favorite Charkha with open windows and doors. You are not allowed into this room, but you can see it through the glass panel. It was the visit of Obamas to the museum that brought some focus to Mani Bhavan.
Every city / town / village remembers Gandhi in its own way. Mumbai city is fortunate to have a place where he lived quite often. Add it to your list of Mumbai places to visit.
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