Mahatma comes home

Updated: May 13, 2020, 10:33 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Check out a new virtual tour to understand the Mahatma's connect with Mumbai

Mani Bhavan is located on a leafy road in Gamdevi
Mani Bhavan is located on a leafy road in Gamdevi

Haven't ever been inside Mani Bhavan? Now is your chance despite the lockdown. The authorities at the museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi — housed in a historic building on Laburnum Road in Gamdevi — have started a virtual tour of the premises that you can view online.

The project is still in its beta phase. Mani Bhavan secretary Yogesh Kamdar says that there are a couple of minor errors in terms of spellings and phone numbers, which will be sorted out in a jiffy when the lockdown is lifted. But even as it stands, the tour offers a 360-degree insight into the different rooms with rare photographs and memorabilia, aimed at building an image of Gandhi that goes beyond him just being an icon of the freedom struggle. As Kamdar explains, "Of course, he was an icon of India's Independence. But he was also much more than that in terms of his philosophy, world vision, and certain values he espoused, which might or might not have had any bearing on the freedom movement. His ideas about the equality of women, dignity of labour and the need for cleanliness are of perennial importance, for example, but [as a country] we have tried to put Gandhi in a narrower box."

The museum houses rare photographs of Gandhi
The museum houses rare photographs of Gandhi

He adds that when the Mani Bhavan team was building the virtual tour, there were people who said that since the Mahatma was opposed to technology, they were sullying his image with this modern-day endeavour. "But I said, no, he wasn't opposed to technology or machines at all. He was simply opposed to them being our masters," the museum secretary says.

But why a virtual tour and not a video to detail the interiors and its treasures? It's because the latter is a more passive art form, Kamdar answers, reasoning, "It would be less interactive, and more one-sided. Also, in a video, you zoom past everything. In a virtual tour, I can wait. I can reflect on an exhibit, and see different perspectives and close-ups."

The online walkthrough will be available on the main Mani Bhavan website once the minor errors are corrected. Right now, it's available on a separate URL, listed below. The viewing begins from outside the main gate, on a leafy road. And those curious about the historic building's interiors simply have to follow the arrows that guide a visitor inside.

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