In the most peaceful surroundings of Sarvodaya, former home of Kasturba and Mahatma Gandhi, in the fresh morning air and amidst the chirping of the birds, humming of the bees, and flutterings of butterfly wings, several faith leaders gathered and offered prayers to mark the 75th death anniversary of Kasturba Gandhi. She passed away while detained for her political convictions in a prison in Pune, India on 22 February 1944.
The prayer began with the lighting of a lamp by a youth member of Sukiyo Mahikari, one of the prayer groups present. Roshan Kooblal from the Gandhi Development Trust said the lighting of the lamp symbolised the movement away from darkness (ignorance) to light (knowledge), untruth to truth and mortality to immortality.
The prayer was conducted at Sarvodhaya in the verandah which overlooks the Kasturba Gandhi Primary school and shares a common fence. “As the prayer ended the school interval started and the sounds of excited and happy school children, could be heard clearly and it was yet another fitting tribute to Kasturba Gandhi here, locally and internationally,”said Kooblal.
Mahatma Ghandi’s granddaughter, Ela Gandhi spoke about the significance of the day, and stressed among other things the importance of remembering and acknowledging the huge contributions made by Kasturba Gandhi through her participation in the struggle against colonialism not just in India but also in South Africa and the rest of the world.
She further stressed the need to remember and acknowledge the courageous “mothers of the nation” such as Kasturba Gandhi, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Mandela and many others. “Historians have been grossly unfair to such great female leaders. The special significance of this day is that Kasturba Gandhi chose to remain in prison with her husband and other freedom fighters despite her ailing health. Her death in detention has made her a most revered martyr and mother of the nation, whose memory we celebrate,” said Gandhi.
Dr Prakash Yogi of the Durban Indian Consulate explained how Kasturba Gandhi made sacrifices and was heralded as Mother of the nation and was addressed lovingly and respectfully as “Ba”. Satish Dhupelia referred to the joint efforts of Kasturba and Mahatma Gandhi in nursing people during the plague in South Africa.
One of Gandhiji’s favourite bhajans, Ragupathy Raghava, was led by
Asha Ramgobin and chorused by all present. The interfaith prayers were offered by World Council of Religions for Peace (Pandit Bharat), Nazareth Baptist Church, Shembe (Bongani Mthembu), Sukiyo Mahikari (Dojocho, T Moodley), Brahma Kumaris (K Singh), Phoenix Hindu Unity Forum (Pundit Suresh Singh), Sathya Sai Organisation of SA (S Naidoo), Isckon (Prabhu Krishna), Ananda Marga (didiji Ananadrasamarta), Christian and Islamic Prayers (Asha Ramgobin).