A NEW YEAR - AND AN OLD STORY OF BAPU IN BENGALURU | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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A NEW YEAR - AND AN OLD STORY OF BAPU IN BENGALURU

Apr 09, 2024 08:58 AM IST

In April, Bengaluru marks the return of Yugaadi and the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's visit for R&R, enjoying the city's legendary weather and mutual respect with the Maharaja.

“Yuga yugaadi kaledaroo yugaadi marali baruthide,” wrote the beloved Jnanpith Award-winning Kannada lyrical poet, Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre, in the sixties, assuring us of the exuberant, periodic, and inevitable return of springtime, not just in Nature but also in human fortunes. In the 1963 film, Kulavadhu, prolific playback singer S Janaki sang the words straight into Kannadiga hearts, where they have remained as the signature song of the season. Each year around the beginning of April, on the morning that follows the new moon night of Phalguna, when the moon of Chaitra enters its waxing phase against the backdrop of honge and neem blossoms and mangoes heavy on the bough, Yugaadi returns, just as the poet promised, bringing joy and hope, infusing the bitterness of our overburdened lives with a hint of sweetness.

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But April also marks another, much less acknowledged, anniversary on the Bengaluru history timeline – it was in April 1927, almost a century ago now, that Mahatma Gandhi came to the city, on his doctor’s express orders, for some much-needed R&R. Earlier that year, he had collapsed from a mild apoplexy, a minor stroke, brought on, as the struggle for Swaraj gained momentum, by overwork, exposure, incessant travel and severe hypertension. Contravening medical advice, 57-year-old Gandhi was back on the road no sooner than he was back on his feet, addressing rallies across the country about, variously, khadi, non-cooperation, self-rule and self-reliance.

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In April, however, when temperatures across the country began to soar, Dr Jivaraj Mehta put his foot down. Reluctantly, Gandhiji agreed to move – to ‘Bangalore or some such place’ – for a couple of months. He ended up staying here until early August, making that stint his longest one ever outside the Sabarmati Ashram.

Why Bangalore? Then as now, the city’s pleasant weather was legendary. Plus, Bengaluru wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to Gandhiji – he had already visited on two occasions – in 1915, very soon after he had returned to India from South Africa, to inaugurate the Mysore Social Service League, an organization set up by Kannada writer, thinker and reformer DV Gundappa, and again in 1920. Even more importantly, Gandhiji and the then Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, shared a great mutual respect. Alighting on April 19 at the Yeshwantpur Railway Station as the Maharaja’s honoured guest, a frail Gandhiji conducted a prayer meeting on the railway platform for the crowds gathered to welcome him, before he was whisked away to the seclusion of Nandi Hills.

At Nandi Hills, Gandhiji chose Oaklands, the smaller, more isolated bungalow of Francis Cunningham (yes, the same Cunningham after whom the road is named – he had been private secretary to Sir Mark Cubbon in the 19th century) for his recuperation, over other grander ones. 45 days later, on June 5, much improved in health but still awaiting a clean chit from his doctor, he moved to Bengaluru, into the Kumara Krupa Guest House, itching to get back into the whirl of things.

Gandhiji visited many institutions in the city in the two months that followed, but the one he visited most often, thanks to a serendipitous meeting with William Smith, was the Imperial Institute of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (today, the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI)), of which Smith was director. Signing into its visitors’ book as ‘a farmer from Sabarmati,’ he spent several happy hours there, learning about the latest innovations in dairy technology. He even posed with the Institute’s star turn, an Ayrshire-Haryana crossbreed cow called Jill, who had birthed 16 calves and was reputed to yield over 5,000 litres of milk a year. That picture still hangs at the Institute, to commemorate both Jill and her famous visitor.

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