Negotiating the traffic in the busy lanes of old Porbandar is not easy. The car just misses the walls of old houses by a few centimetres as you reach Manek Chowk. A statue of Gandhiji in pristine white is placed bang in the centre of the crossroads—one of which leads to the ancient house where Gandhiji was born. Just beside it on the same premises is the ‘Kirti Mandir’, a memorial dedicated to the Mahatma.
Inside is a museum and library dedicated to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his wife Kasturba. There is an exhibit of old photographs, his possessions, and a library that has books written by him and those by other authors relating to the Father of the Nation’s philosophy.
The memorial is adjacent to the three-storied heritage haveli where Gandhiji was born. The walls all around the courtyard are covered with photographs of Gandhiji right from his childhood till his demise. The images also depict important events in the history of India’s freedom.
There is the innocence of childhood, or the young Gandhi elegantly dressed in a suit as an attorney, or the satyagrahi clad in white kurta and dhoti, and then finally the Mahatma clad in a simple white dhoti with bare torso. Several vintage photographs of important landmark in the history of India’s independence are displayed. One of the picture shows the momentous event of Gandhiji ceremoniously breaking the salt law on the coast of Dandi. This historic picture depicts the beginning of civil disobedience.
The courtyard is abuzz with chatter of children, young and old. A school has brought its students and they are agog with excitement. Some elderly people are reminiscing the freedom struggle when they were mere schoolchildren. A visit here proves that despite everything, Gandhi and his thoughts are still relevant today.
Kirti Mandir combines architectural elements across all religions showcasing Gandhiji’s respect towards all. At a height of 79 feet, the building represents 79 years of Gandhiji’s life span. Built by local architect Prushottam Mistry, the memorial was inaugurated by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and opened to public on May 27, 1950.
There is a museum that houses the famous ‘Gandhi Charkha’, photographs and a library. Eager to see the exact place of his birth, we go inside the haveli. The place is marked by a red Swastika on the floor and from the wall hangs a large picture of Gandhi spinning on his charkha. As you enter the old house, you get to see vintage heritage architecture of centuries ago.
It was in this house that Gandhiji’s father Karamchand lived in a joint family with his brother Tulsidas and father Uttamchand.
Life-sized oil paintings of Kasturba and Gandhiji evoke respect among the visitors. Prophetic were the words of great scientist Albert Einstein on Gandhiji’s demise on January 30, 1948: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”