Friday, April 13, 2012

Gandhi Smriti

Yesterday was exceedingly dull, so rather than follow up with another day full of non-events I decided to be a tourist for a few hours and take myself on a visit of Gandhi Smriti aka Birla House or the place where Gandhi lived his last 144 days and was assassinated.

I had been to visit the National Gandhi Museum in Rajghat previously, which was fairly comprehensive, so visiting Gandhi Smriti was not high on my to do list. But seeing as it is listed in the top 10 things to do in Delhi I thought I would make the effort.

Before I left home I did a bit of research about opening hours, cost and the like. I found that the official website for Gandhi Smriti was about one of the worst and strangest websites I have come across. Frankly, there was not much information about the place anywhere on the web, not even tips on how to get there. So on an unseasonably cool day armed with very little information I made my visit.

Outside Gandhi Smriti there were the usual sellers of touristy trinkets whom were surprisingly un-pushy… refreshing. There was not an entrance fee but you are obliged to sign the guest book.
Upon entry I first took my time exploring the gardens. The grounds are quite extensive with various statues, sculptures, a huge Peace Gong and a ubiquitous broken fountain. From the side of the house you can trace the path of Gandhi's last steps up to the elevated lawn where he was assassinated. The spot is now marked with a Martyr's column.

Inside Birla House I was ushered upstairs to visit the Eternal Gandhi Multimedia Museum. I have to say I was impressed. I was not expecting such a professional set up. Each visitor is given a well dressed complementary guide so show them around the museum and to explain each of the installations. Each installation is a mix between art, history and multimedia display. Most displays are quite intriguing and creative. Well worth a visit.

Downstairs the hallways of Birla House are lined with boards depicting various times of Gandhi's life, his death and his philosophies. It would take all day to read every board of information and frankly I am not that much of a history buff.
At the end of one of the hallways is Gandhi's bedroom with its simple furnishings. The room also houses a display cabinet of his worldly possessions, comprising of his glasses, eating utensils, other bits and pieces and a fob watch. I doubt the watch was his actual watch, which stopped at the time of his death, as the face appeared to be a photocopy. These same earthly possessions are found in the National Gandhi Museum. I am guessing the ones here are a representation?

'Scuse the crappy iPhone pic

Other things to do at the museum include watching the twice daily screening of the Life of Gandhi movie as well as taking in the interesting display of dioramas of key events in Gandhi's life.

Meeting the King of England... loving the Queen's hair

The thing that struck me about this place was how quiet and peaceful it is compared to so many other Delhi tourist destinations. I would definitely add it to your to do list.


Getting There

I ended up driving. There is MCD parking on Tees January Lane next to the Claridges Hotel. If you are taking public transport the nearest station is Race Course and it is about a half kilometre walk.


Opening Hours

Tuesday to Sunday 9.30-5.30 (closed Monday)
The Eternal Gandhi Multimedia Museum is open 10am- 1.30pm and 2pm-5pm. Closed Mondays and the 2nd Saturday of the month.