Gandhi Peace Museum at Aga Khan Palace in Pune, India By Dr. Delia Maria Knaebel, Convenor, Friends of the Gandhi Museum Pune, India
The Aga Khan Palace in Pune, India, was built by Sultan Mohammed Shah Aga Khan III in 1892. It is said that it was built to provide employment for the people of nearby areas who were hit by a devastating famine. Its claim to fame, apart from its magnificence and beautiful gardens, is its association with Mahatma Gandhi who was imprisoned here from 9th August 1942 to 6th May 1944 during the nation’s struggle against British rule. In 1969 the Aga Khan IV, Prince Karim Shah, donated the palace to independent India. Having played a role in India’s freedom movement, the palace was declared a national monument. During the launch of his Quit India Movement in 1942, Gandhi, along with his wife Kasturba, his secretary Mahadev Desai, freedom fighters Sarojini Naidu, Mira Ben, Dr. Gilder and Dr. Sushila Nayar were all interned in the palace. During this time, both his wife and spiritual companion Kasturba as well as his close associate Mahadev Desai passed away, personal tragedies which resulted in his attachment to the building. Aga Khan Palace During his detention, Gandhi developed his strategies to wage his final struggle for freedom from foreign rule. Today, the Gandhi museum inside the palace showcases this history. Each of four rooms is dedicated to various individuals, including Naidu, Desai, and Gandhi. The hall dedicated to him contains, e.g., his writing desk and spinning wheel, as well as a painting of his wife, resting her head on Gandhi’s lap. A fifth room is an auditorium equipped with facilities for visitors who can see short documentary films. There is also the Sarojini Naidu library with over one thousand books and journals on Gandhian philosophy and practice. Gandhi Memorial, containing his ashes 6 In the courtyard is Gandhi’s Samadhi (Memorial) with his ashes. The Samadhis of his wife, and Mahadev Desai are also here. The palace is also the seat of the Gandhi National Memorial Society; every 30th January (Gandhi’s death) and 2nd October (his birthday) people flock here for social programmes and interfaith prayers. In the 1980s, when Sir Richard Attenborough made his Oscar-winning film on Gandhi, he spent ten days filming at the palace.
International Network of Museums of Peace Newsletter December 2017