A MAHATMA MANDIR IN GANDHINAGAR

May 2, 2010

The Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad is a huge stadium. In fact, with a capacity of 54000 seats, it is the largest stadium in Gujarat. I had last visited this place for the oath taking ceremony of Shri Narendra Modi and his Cabinet in December 2007 after the BJP’s spectacular victory in the State Assembly elections.

So, on May 1 this year, the Golden Jubilee anniversary of the formation of Gujarat in 1960, I was astounded to hear when I reached this stadium, the venue fixed for Swarnim Gujarat Celebrations, that the stadium was not only jam packed but that there were as many people outside the gates wanting entry as there were inside.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad, in its main story on page one reported:

“For a generation that has grown up knowing their home-state of Gujarat only as a business-driven dry state on the west coast of the country, Saturday’s Swarnim show was an eye-opener. In brilliantly synchronized multimedia show that began with fireworks, the story of Gujarat from pre-historic era, through the era of Siddhraj Jaisingh, Sultan Ahmed Shah, the landing of Parsis at Sanjan and the separation of Bombay state to become a separate entity in 1960, was narrated before a jam- packed crowd at Sardar Patel stadium here.

Outside a huge crowd, including bureaucrats, politicians and other VVIPs, struggled to be part of the celebration and got turned away by the security guards, because the stadium was packed far beyond its capacity.”

Something followed that may have never happened anywhere before. After profusely apologizing to the gathering Chief Minister Narendra Modi announced that the one and –a- half hour music dance cum laser show would be repeated on May 2 evening for those who had not been able to attend that day !

In the last sixty years I have seen many government leaders celebrating silver jubilees, or golden jubilees of various events or institutions. But what Narendra Bhai Modi has done in Gujarat is something unique. Swarnim Gujarat Samaroh has been not just a government function. By his imaginative approach, and his innovativeness, and his charismatic appeal and hard work, he has actually made it a massive people’s samaroh.

The Jaya Nad, for example which the Governor, the C.M., and I participated in at the University function of NRIs (from outside India) and NRGs (from other states of India) was organised at 7.30 PM on 30th April not only there, but at nearly 50000 places in all the cities, towns and 18000 villages of Gujarat at exactly the same time !

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I spent the last weekend (April 30, May 1 and 2) in my constituency, Gandhinagar. These days the entire state is in a festive mood, because it is the Golden Jubilee year of the formation of the State.

As a representative of this constituency I feel happy that the State Government has on this occasion declared Gandhinagar a Corporation. Chief Minister, Narendra Bhai called it a swarnim gift. This gift would automatically entitle it to get funds from the Union Government’s Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission Funds. This time’s visit, however, made me even happier about the launching of a new project in Gandhinagar – the Mahatma Mandir.

Estimated to cost Rs. 135 crores, the Mahatma Mandir would be spread over 34 acres. The Mandir is to be developed as a monument to the life and philosophy of the Mahatma, apart from providing a first class Convention Centre. The next Global Summit of Vibrant Gujarat is proposed to be held at this newly constructed Convention Centre.

To remind visitors of Gandhiji’s Dandi March, a dome shaped like a salt mound is to provide a museum and meditation centre. The entire planning of this project would be as per green construction technology.

At the inaugural function of the Mandir, prominently displayed on a specially decorated stage near the main dais were numerous kalashs, containing soil and water brought from more than fifty countries of the world wherefrom NRIs had come for the celebrations, and Gujaratis who had come from all the states of the Indian Union. This idea of using the soil and water from different parts of the world for the construction of this Mandir reminded me that in 1951 Dr. K.M. Munshi had had a similar approach in case of the Somnath Mandir, and that Prime Minister Nehru had chastised him for that.

Dr. Munshi reacted sharply to the reproach administrated to him at a Cabinet meeting. He wrote a long letter to the P.M. in which he stressed that reconstruction of Somnath Temple was decided by the Cabinet. Sardar Patel had played a leading role at that time, and Gandhiji had blessed the decision.

Dr. Munshi wrote: “Yesterday you referred to Hindu revivalism. You pointedly referred to me in the Cabinet as connected with Somnath. I am glad you did so; for I don’t want to keep back any part of my views and activities… I can assure you that the ‘Collective Subconscious’ of India today is happier with the scheme of reconstruction of Somnath sponsored by the Government of India than with many other things that we have done and are doing.”

He added: “It is my faith in our past which has given me the strength to work in the present and to look forward to our future. I cannot value India’s freedom if it deprives us of the Bhagwad Gita or uproots our millions from the faith with which they look upon our temples, and destroys the texture of our lives. I have been given the privilege of seeing my incessant dream of Somnath reconstruction come true. That makes me feel – makes me almost sure-that this shrine once restored to a place of importance in our life will give to our people a purer conception of religion and more vivid consciousness of our strength, so vital in these days of freedom and its trials.”

On reading this letter, V.P Menon, the legendary civil servant who assisted Sardar Patel in the gigantic task of the integration of the princely states, wrote a missive to Munshi. “I have seen your masterpiece. I for one would be prepared to live and, if necessary, die by the views you have expressed in your letter.”

L.K. Advani
New Delhi

2nd May, 2010

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