Wednesday 10 April 2013

Prayer on a platform

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most famous and fascinating personalities that the world has ever seen. A simple man with simple habits and simple ideas, his simplicity put people into all sorts of complex problems.
A man known for his punctuality, Gandhi completely defied the standard or average Indian stereotype who even today is known for his erratic sense of timing and his complete disregard for punctuality. He was never a man who went by the now legendary Indian standard time, which in local dialect means no sense of time.
Wherever Gandhi went, he made it a point to ensure that cleaniness, punctuality, simple living and simple thinking was always the norm.
Gandhi carried no self baggage of ego, false pretensions, style and comfort as our modern day netas do or even we do. Gandhi visited Bangalore five times and each visit is marked by his famous principle of simple living and high thinking.
Gandhi visited Bangalore five times but his third visit to the garden city was his longest. His third visit saw him stay in Bangalore from April 20, 1927 to August 30, 1927. This 87 days period was to follow his second visit when he spent 45 days at Nandi Hills to recuperate.
When Gandhi arrived in Bangalore from Bombay by train and as usual in third class or Gandhi class which it came to be known later, the train terminated at Yeshwanthpur Railway Station.
When the train steamed in at Yeshwanthpur, there was a fairly large crowd and senior Congressmen from the south who had gathered to greet the Mahatma.
As soon as Gandhi alighted, he consulted his pocket watch which told him that the time for his prayer meeting was almost upon him.
Never known to be fussy or ostentatious, Gandhi quickly seized the situation and squatted down on the platform of the Yeshwanthpur railway station where he commenced his prayer meeting.
The Congress leaders who had gathered at the station as well as several other people had to sit down on the platform and join Gandhi in his prayer meeting. This was the only time when Gandhi held a prayer meting on a Railway platform in Bangalore.
As soon as the meeting ended, he was whisked away to the city where he stayed for some time at Kumara Krupa guest house where the evenings saw a large turnout for his prayer meetings.
Some of the prayer meetings were held a little away from Kumara Krupa on the sprawling grounds of  what is today Hotel Lalit Ashok. There is a sign board near a tree saying that Gandhi held his prayer meeting here.
When he stayed at Kumara Krupa, the building always saw a lot of people and this put the British at unease. National leaders, local leaders, politicians, social workers and most of all the common man tried to meet Gandhi, speak with him, feel and touch him.
It was here that C. Rajagopalachari played an important role. He acted as the man who controlled access to Gandhi and ensure dthat Gandhi remained well and fit.
Since Rajagopalachari and other Congress leaders of Mysore State were fond of coffee, the then Maharaja of Mysore through the offices of the Dewan arranged for a steady supply of hot and streaming cups of coffee and medical services as the Mahatma was not well and he was ill.
Gandhi, however, could not be converted into a fan of coffee and he always preferred tea to coffee. His breakfast and lunch were very simple and Rajaji, short for Rajagopalachari, ensured that Gandhi did not strain himself.        
Gandhi also held his prayer meetings at Nandi Hills where he recuperated. He also visited Kengeri where he held prayer meetings and it was here that he made people aware about the ills of untouchability.
Today, some of the hymns that Gandhi insisted be sung at his prayer meetings such as “Vaishnava Jan to taynay kahyeeye, Jay peer paraayee janney ray and Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, Patita Pavana Sita Ram” have gone out of fashion and our politicians no longer sing it except during Gandhi Jayanti.

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