The Eternal Gandhi museum in New Delhi, a project of the Aditya Birla Group, recreates the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi through interactive multimedia displays, showing how his messages of truth and ahimsa ring true even today
That are the first things that come to mind when we think about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi? Freedom fighter... Martyr... Father of the Nation... Ahimsa... Satyagraha... Non-cooperation... Nationalism... But even as we realise the historical significance of these words, how true do they ring in our lives? Do we really understand the ideals that Gandhi lived by or are they just part of a history lesson we had in school tosymsecure the required grades? Has he become just a face in the textbook or a photo on a currency bill? How relevant are these principles in the modern day and age? These are just some of the questions the Eternal Gandhi Multimedia Museum in New Delhi tries to find answers to.
The project, a joint initiative of Grasim and Hindalco of the Aditya Birla Group, is one of the world’s first digital multimedia museums, located at Gandhi Smriti, formerly known as Birla House, where Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was assassinated. Designed and executed by Ranjit Makkuni, the museum was set up in 2005 as an effort to recreate the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi and revive the values by which India obtained freedom,
redefined in a modern setting. It presents the events of Gandhiji’s life and a spectrum of information technology visions inspired by Gandhian thought.
Bharat Parekh, a veteran with the House of Birlas and President of Eternal Gandhi and Special Projects, believes that even half a century after his death, Gandhi’s message of truthand non-violence remains as relevant as it was at the height of India’s freedom struggle.
Recently, in the US Senate, on July 12, a Hindu prayer was offered for the first time, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, said of Mahatma Gandhi: “Here is a man who changed the world, a man who believed in peace. If there was ever a time, with this international war on terror that we are fighting now, where people have to understand how important peace is, think of Gandhi, who
dedicated his life to it.
” It is ironic, however, that even as those halfway across the globe exhort the world to remember Gandhi in these days of sectarian violence and strife, the younger generation, the future of a progressive India, remains sadly oblivious to the ideals that drove the man in his quest for truth and non-violence. It is unfortunate, Parekh feels, that so many of us in Gandhi’s own country remain largely unaware of his life, work and message. It was keeping this in mind that Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, decided on a museum that would properly educate Indians in general, and the youth in particular, about Gandhiji’s values that he lived and died for. But the best way to do this, he felt, was to speak to them in a language they understood, not through pious sermons and well-intentioned books. He chose the language of the multimedia to reach out to them, making it fun and interactive through a creative and modern design.
Spearheaded by Rajashree Birla and inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the museum includes displays derived from classical Indian symbols such as the spinning wheel, prayer wheels, touching symsecure bolic pillars, the act of hands touching sacred objects and collaboratively constructed quilts, sacred chanting in a group and the satsanga. It seeks to present the life of Gandhi in photographs, paintings, film footage and video clips, with a collection of more than 40 exhibits showing the intersection of modern tactile computing and new green art with Gandhi’s vision.
The response at the inauguration was stupendous. Earlier, Birla House Gandhi Smriti used to get about 1,000 visitors every month, but now it sees more than 40,000, forty times the number, every month from all across
the world. “This was an eye-opening experience,” said a visitor from Pennsylvania who was holidaying in India. “I will take this message back home. There were some great interactive features and messages for children.”
“The amount of information was amazing,” said a mother of two who had brought her children to the museum. “Thanks to the Birlas, Gandhiji’s life will continue to lead people towards truth, generosity and ahimsa.
The multimedia presentations were very apt for the new generation. I think a visit to the museum should be made compulsory for schoolchildren. Even I,as an adult, felt connected to Gandhiji for the first time in my life.”
The Aditya Birla Group even arranged for a mobile version of the museum to travel the world, spreading Gandhi’s message of peace. Besides the museum, the group is authorised by the Indian government to sell custom-
created Gandhi souvenirs. These are sold at cost price by them and are available at select outlets, such as airport shops and Gandhi memorials across the country, including Mani Bhavan in Mumbai, Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and Birla House Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi.
A new shop dedicated to showcasing and selling collectibles inspired by Mahatma Gandhi was launched by the governor of Maharashtra, Shri Kateekal Sankaranarayanan, and Rajashree Birla at Raj Bhavan. Other outlets in Jaipur and Hyderabad are being planned, in addition to the ones at Mumbai International Airport and the SVPI Airport in Ahmedabad. These stock about 150 custom-designed items, which include statues of the iconic three monkeys, khadi shirts, puzzle cubes, crystal cubes, and a plethora of Gandhi-inspired items such as wristwatches, mugs, book- In memory of a marks, magnets, notepads, calendars, ceramic statues, paper weights, key chains and pen stands. A website www.gandhisouvenirs.com has also been launched on October 2 to give people from all over the world the opportunity to buy souvenirs right from the comfort of their homes.
On US Vice-President Joe Biden’s recent visit to India, he paid homage to the Father of the Nation at the Eternal Gandhi museum and was impressed by the state-of-the-art multimedia displays.
With the unceasing efforts of the Aditya Birla Group to reach out to not only fellow citizens but people across the world, Bapu’s songs of justice and truth will soon be resonating from all corners of the world