The Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust has launched a “Sabarmati Fellowship” under which students from across the world can take up one to six-month long fellowships and live on the ashram campus during the fellowship. The fellowship was announced by ashram trustee Kartikeya Sarabhai at the inauguration event of the Archives and Research Centre on Tuesday. A vault with a nearly one-metre thick concrete wall stores the archival material which can only be electronically accessed. The vault is temperature controlled and can resist fire and earthquake.
Director of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, Tridip Suhrud, told The Indian Express that the fellowship would be opened in March 2016 and formally announced in academic journals and websites, then. “It will provide free accommodation and the research fellows could use the spaces of the newly inaugurated research centre”, said Suhrud.
The ashram has one of the largest collections of Gandhiji’s original manuscripts and other papers related to his principal associates, official correspondence and personal artefacts which cover nearly 35,000 catalogued items. “Congratulations on Mahatmaji’s release,” reads a letter written by Kamala Nehru to Kasturba Gandhi purportedly during per-Independence era, wishing her on Bapu’s release from jail. This letter — that carries advertisements of Lipton Tea and Imperial Specials Cigarettes — is part of several letters, books, manuscripts and audio-video recordings that have been kept at his new archive and research centre.
The items that were kept on display on Tuesday include an account book with minute details of financial transactions by Gandhi, during his stay at the Ashram. A specimen of a khadi kurta and a saree spun by Gandhi is also part of this archive, which was on display for a few hours after the inauguration. Besides, there is a felicitation to the Mahatma, written on Khadi and dating back to August 12, 1927, copies of letters written by Gandhi to children at the ashram, social and political workers, rulers and to world luminaries also forms a part of this collection.
The letters on display include those written by Rabindranath Tagore, Miraben, Motilal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and others. The ashram is also creating a digital database of all its holdings. This digital archive will eventually be placed in the public domain through the Gandhi Heritage Portal, curated, designed, developed and maintained by the Ashram.
The research centre has a consultation area and facilities for 20 researchers and the archive is linked to the Ashram’s library which has over 47,000 titles in its collection, including many rare books, first editions and books written by Gandhiji’s principle associates.