Thursday, 15 August 2019

''Salt Satyagraha Memorial'', Dandi, Gujarat - legacy of Indian freedom struggle in the British Raj

Gandhiji collecting a handful of salt Dandi, April 1930google.com/
The Salt Satyagraha Memorial has come  up in the  coastal place at Dandi, Gujarat  where  Mahatma Gandhi concluded the historical salt march in April 1930  in protest against the British Raj which vehemently introduced tax on  cooking salt as if they were not content with centuries of exploitation of Indians and their natural resources.  No doubt this memorial, on a land of 15 acres and built at a cost of over ₹70 crore, is commendable and an ambitious one; but one is at a loss to understand why it was   inaugurated in haste? The memorial work is still going on, not yet completed. The salt-making unit is not working.
Dandi, Salt Satyagraha Memorial www.google.com
 The inauguration of the memorial took place in January 2019 by the PM Narendra Modi  when the work was on. Consequent of its hasty inauguration,  countless people including those involved in the project were  saddened as the the civil work was shoddy. The good news is since its inception the number of visitors is on the increase, sometimes reaching 30,000 on weekends.  Surprisingly, a regular visitor to this memorial is one  Ramesh Asmar,  grandson of  a Gandhian who participated in the salt march. He still keeps the China clay jar in which his grandfather brought back salt.

New York Times 6 April, 1930. google.com
There are many features that attract the attention of the visitors. 

01. There are  24 narrative murals depicting  the important interactions that Gandhi had at the 24 halts in the march. Made of clay and cast in silicon-bronze, the murals were the creation of  a team of talented sculptors from Hyderabad’s Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University. To make the terrain etc look real, the sculptors travelled  the original route taken by the patriots.

02. Among the murals one mural gets the attention of the visitors. It tells us how the laborers were hired to carry lights so that the marchers could  find the path ahead.  In another mural we learn how teenage students  were sent ahead on bicycles to get valid  information for the marchers. They were called ‘arun tukdi’.
Salt march March- Apr. 1930. Sathyagrahis who accompanied gandhiji. google.com/
03. At the end in a big area stand  tall life-size statues of the 80 marchers who accompanied Gandhiji and who were subject to lathi- charge, etc.  They were sculpted by 40 artists from India, Austria, Bulgaria, Burma, Japan, Sri Lanka, Tibet, U.K. and the U.S. “Some statues were created by master sculptors to give a broad idea of how the marchers should look,

04. The main attraction is Gandhiji's statue. His statue was made by well-known sculptor Sadashiv Sathe. The statue is 5 -meter tall , overlooking a lake. It is  between two 40-meter tall giant pillars that hold up a heavy 2-ton illuminated glass cube., symbolic of  a single salt crystal.  
Dandi. two tall pillars carrying salt crystal with lancer light..google.com
05. As for the the V-shaped pillars, they  symbolize Gandhi’s hands. After sundown, the salt crystal comes alive with laser lights.
   
salt march memorial, dandi tree shaped solar panels..google.com.
06. The pathway is uniquely decorated with  40 solar trees  with 12 panels, reflecting the ethos of self-sufficiency in power generation. Here, the solar panels are shaped like tress, giving an inspiring ambiance.
 

07. IIT- Powai, Bombay’s electrical engineering staff and students were involved in this unique and thought-provoking solar project.
 The solar panels sustain the entire memorial and even generate 25% surplus electricity. 
  
08. Kirti Trivedi, former professor from IIT’s Industrial Design Centre made a sizable contributions to the design. The job was given to the team in 2011. The light pyramid, the salt cube, the lake, the main Gandhi statue, the sculptures of the 80 marchers, and the 24 murals - all these  were designed by him to give a modern touch to an historic event that took place in 1930.

Any visitor to this salt memorial, having  some knowledge of Indian independence movement, will go nostalgic - to  relive colonial history.  The salt padayatra/March was an arduous one, it happened in the hot summer time - a long  stretch of  241 mile journey  through semi- arid terrain to the coastal town of Dandi.  On March 12, 1930, Gandhi set out  along with 80 satyagrahis, unmindful of button-wielding police force who wanted to stop them. Being defiant as he was, Gandhiji  concluded the 24-day march in Dandi village, and on April 6, picked up a handful of salt, thus breaking the salt law. The simple act became a sensational news across the world and the foundation of the empire had developed more cracks, by then. The British realized that India's freedom was not far off. 

In Southern India C. Rajagoplachari (Rajaji; later he became the  first Gov. General of India and CM of Madras state) repeated the same act and undertook padayatra  toward the end of April 1930 from Tiruchirapalli city to coastal village of Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu. He collected a handful of salts along with great leaders like Kamaraj Nadar, Kakkan, Sardar Vedaratnam pillai and others. The British collector of Tanjore (Thanjavur) announced severe punishment to those who would provide the marchers with food, etc. The salt march was a great success because the natives refused to cooperate with the British. Janitor refused to clean the toilet and laundrymen refused to wash the white men's clothing, etc. The Englishmen were in the soup.
https://www.thehindu.com/society/nearly-90-years-after-the-dandi-march-a-new-memorial-attracts-thousands/article26675661.ece