Himalayas Day – Gandhiji In Himalayas
Gandhiji during his freedom struggle visited almost all parts of India leaving a memory everywhere. The great Himalayas could not in any case be left out. He visited all the Himalayan regions which were decaled states and union territories much later after Independence.
But, Anashakti Ashram of Bapu at Kausani deeper in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand is something different. Located 52 km north of Almora, Kausani is a picturesque hill station known for its scenic beauty and its spectacular 300-km wide panoramic view of the Himalayan peaks — Trisul, Nanda Devi and Panchchuli. It lies atop a ridge at an altitude of about 6,200 feet amidst dense pine trees overlooking valleys.
Mahatma Gandhi came here for a few days in 1929, but mesmerised by its beauty, he stayed here in a cottage for about two weeks. He called it the ‘Switzerland of India’ due to similarity in landscapes. Kausani is a part of the Lesser Himalayas, a region watered by rivers like Kosi, Gomti and Ramganga.
Over here, he completed his celebrated commentary on the Geeta, the Anasakti Yoga. The ashram sits on the summit of a peak, overlooking the Himalayan ranges in the North and the East. Once a guest house of a tea planter, the cottage is now turned into a prayer hall to commemorate Gandhi’s association with it. Its simple architecture has an impressive presence, and Bapu’s statue in the front reminds one of its history.
Even today, the evening prayer at the ashram is a solemn affair. The assembly ends with a short discourse on Gandhi and a slogan — ‘Jai Jagat’ (hail the universe). Subsequently, the guests are served a simple vegetarian meal at 8.30 pm, squatting on the floor in the community dining hall. The silence of the surrounding life is relaxed, and the simplicity of Gandhi is writ large everywhere even today. This spot is known for its sunrise and sunset.
May be because of still relevant ideals of Gandhiji, average sex ratio of Kausani is 1015 which is higher than Uttarakhand state average of 963. The area also has a higher literacy rate compared to the state.
Sharala Ashram is one kilometre away from the Kausani, and is a center run by Kumauni women and dedicated to social service and the upliftment of women. Gandhiji’s disciple, Sarla Behn (Kaitherine Heileman) established the ashram in 1946, and spent the rest of her life here doing social service and also established Anashakti Ashram. The ashram is located in a solitary area among dense pine forest. In this Ashram she groomed through her work a new generation of social workers, like Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Radha Bhatt and Sunderlal Bahuguna.
Near the Ashram there is a school with about 90 girls in residence, along with many volunteers from India and abroad. There is a weaving unit and another dairy. The kitchen is run by students. The girls have chosen to live here against all odds and temptations following Nai Talim of Gandhiji. They produce their food and clothes; they live a frugal, spartan life to let others live. They toil, they share, they love carry forward Bapu’s mission even in this remote Himalayas.
Rajendra Mishra, an astute Gandhian himself is in charge of the Ashram. Limited Staff strive to ensure a comfortable stay for about a hundred guests every day. Service and self-help are the spirit of the ashram. One can see a bit of Gandhi everywhere in the Ashram.