NEW DELHI: The 87-year-old Harijan Sewak Sangh established by Mahatma Gandhi in Delhi has planned a grand celebration on Wednesday to mark his 150th birth anniversary and former president Pranab Mukherjee will attend it as the chief guest, officials said.
This would be Mukherjee's "first-ever visit" to the HSS campus that was set up to promote freedom struggle and fight the social practice of untouchability, according to Harijan Sewak Sangh president Sankar Kumar Sanyal.
"He is expected to arrive at 12:30 pm and spend around an hour in the campus of HSS. He will attend a Ram Katha and later also visit the Kasturba Museum in the campus," Sanyal told PTI.
According to Shri Bhagwan Sharma, the Delhi chief of the HSS, the institution was established in 1932 at Kingsway Camp here and registered in 1934.
"Our campus is a sprawling one spreading over 20 acres and dotted with several historical landmarks associated with Gandhiji. Sadly, not many are aware of this institution," he said.
Gandhi and Kasturba had spent 180 days in total over a period of several years during their multiple visits to the Sangh campus.
So, that 'Ba Kutir' where they had stayed was turned into a museum, Sharma said.
"On 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi, the museum has been spruced up with a fresh paint job on its exterior. President Mukherjee will also unveil a bust of Kasturba on the museum premises," he said.
The museum has rare pictures of Gandhi and Kasturba, from their marital life to days in South Africa and freedom struggle in India.
"It also houses the 'charkha' (spinning wheel) used by them during their stay and a European-styled bathing tub. It is a pilgrimage site for many Gandhi admirers," he told PTI.
Sharma said Mukherjee will also visit the library and the Mahatma Gandhi Interpretation Centre on the campus.
While the library, which has some of the rare books on Gandhi, was revived three months ago after being closed for a long time, the interpretation centre was inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 24 this year, the foundation day of the HSS.
"The interpretation centre has a statue of Gandhi in its foyer and digital multimedia enhances the experience of visitors. The library also has been refurbished and many books are being conserved," Sharma said.
Among the rare collections are titles like 'Bapu ke Ashirwad' published by Gandhi Series on October 2, 1948, and 'Bharat Mein Gai' published by Khadi Pratishthan.
Sharma said a number of activities have been organised in the last few days in the run-up to the sesquicentenary of Gandhi, which include seminars on women empowerment, traditional medicine system and youths.
The daily recitation of Ram Katha started on the campus from September 24 and will end on Wednesday.
"It is a matter of great pride that former president Mukherjee will be the chief guest on this historic occasion when the world joins in paying tribute to the Mahatma," he said.
"He established a Sarva Dharm Sambhav Mandir on the campus and there is a 'Dharma Stambh' nearby which bears the message of social harmony and brotherhood. Both were constructed under the supervision of Gandhi," Sharma added.
The values of Mahatma -- peace, equality, non-violence -- are still relevant today and Harijan Sewak Sangh had proudly carried that legacy for nearly 90 years now, he said.
"The campus was donated to Gandhiji by G D Birla, who was also the first president of HSS," Sharma said.
It also has a zone depicting models of various kinds of latrines to promote Gandhi's idea of sanitation.
Harijan Sewak Sangh, born out of the historic Poona Pact between Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar in 1932, was founded by the Father of the Nation the same year, to lend a conducive environment for the upliftment of the oppressed classes or 'Harijans' as he called them.
"Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose have stayed in its campus," he said.