The Mahatma in Madiba’s land

Aug 13 2014, 17:06 IST
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Madiba Madiba
SummaryTwo nations. Two men. One goal: Freedom for their countrymen

Two nations. Two men. One goal: Freedom for their countrymen. As India celebrates the 68th anniversary of her Independence, Steena Joy recounts how in Inanda, a few miles from Durban, stands witness to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s profound influence on Nelson Mandela – fondly known to his countrymen as Madiba

A few miles out of Durban, winding its way through the Inanda Valley, the Inanda Heritage Route provides a snapshot of critical South African history as well as, surprisingly, a connection to India's freedom struggle. Inanda (meaning ‘beautiful’ in Zulu) has historical roots that run deep, a place that experienced the injustices of apartheid first-hand, became the home of passive resistance and an icon of South Africa’s freedom struggle.

Birth of Satyagraha

Inanda's history dates back to the early 1800s, when KwaZulu-Natal was a Boer Republic. It was a farm then, passing hands several times as the Boers left and the British arrived, and then African and Indian farmers came here to farm sugarcane. But it was the events that unfolded at the turn of the century that shaped Inanda’s future and cemented an ideological bond with India. Mahatma Gandhi, then a lawyer, arrived in the region to represent an Indian client. After the infamous incident when he was thrown off a train for sitting in a ‘whites only’ section, Gandhi stayed on in Inanda.

It's this wealth of history that you can explore on the Inanda Heritage Route. The trail starts in Phoenix Settlement, established in 1904 by Gandhi. Here you can see Gandhi's house and his International Printing Press and Museum. Gandhi’s residence named ‘Sarvodaya’ house was built in 1907 by his close friend, German architect Hermann Kallenbach. The original house was razed to the ground by apartheid violence in August 1985. It was reconstructed and opened to visitors in 2000, putting back an important page in the history of both South Africa and India. The Satyagraha House is now a registered part of South Africa’s historical heritage. Within these walls, the Mahatma created and developed his philosophy of passive resistance or Satyagraha in Sanskrit which he employed in India to lead the country to independence. Satyagraha was born and evolved in South Africa before coming to India and, eventually, the world.

The house also has a museum retracing Gandhi’s experiences in South Africa and those that he shared here with his friend Kallenbach. In the complex, stands the International Printing Press

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