Small town Jalgaon in Maharashtra doesnt have much claim to fame on the national map. For most,it is a nondescript place that made news only because it happened to be the home of former president Pratibha Patil. But nestling in the citys ordinariness is the Gandhi Teerth,an extraordinary centre built by the Gandhi Research Foundation (GRF),which is drawing people from across the world. Perched on top of Jain Hills and with the tailored lawns stretching ahead is the crown of the centre Khoj Gandhiji Ki Museum.
One of the first things the museum does is bust any stereotypes of what a centre dedicated to Gandhiji perceived to be anti-science,anti-technology and anti-modern ideas could look like. There is nothing rustic about it. If the red sandstone structure spread over 62,000 sq ft does not impress,the first step inside the experiential museum does. It is this generation that needs to imbibe Gandhijis thoughts,so we needed to communicate with them in a manner that is understood. Mere panels and old photographs were not going to spark interest, says Uday Mahajan,coordinator,GRF.
Visitors are greeted by guides,handed headphone sets and led through corridors lined with life-size art work inspired by Gandhiji. They then register their names at counters with interactive screens and embark on a journey back in time to when Mohandas was a boy. Then the story unfolds through evocative installations and murals,audio-visual clips,a short film shown in a bioscope and animated films projected through 3D mapping technology. Each of the more than 26 sections interwoven in a seamless stream of archived material has an element of surprise as it maps the events that set the course of Gandhijis life.
In the contemporary world ridden with violence,political dictatorship,materialism,immorality and a dearth of true spirituality,the relevance of Gandhiji and his message will increasingly acquire significance, writes Padmashri Bhavarlal Jain,an industrialist,Gandhian and founder of GRF,about why he built such a centre in a city that Gandhiji visited only once.
Though the museum was inaugurated in March 2012 by the then president Patil,the management steered away from publicising it. It is a place to be experienced; we would rather want the interest to grow by word of mouth, says Mahajan.
If the aim of the museum was primarily to inspire youths to see Gandhiji as their role model,24-year-old Durwas Gajanan Nalge and Devendra Dinesh Bagul are proof that it is doing just that.
A student of law,Nalge has been working as a guide in the museum for nine months. The story of Gandhiji is told with so many interesting twists that it intrigues visitors just as it intrigued Bagul and me, he says.
We want people to dig into little- known facts about Gandhiji and know him as more than the Father of the Nation, says Dr Yogendra Yadav,who works at the centre and has been exploring Gandhiji for almost 20 years.