Did You Know About Gandhi Circuit Trains

Mahatma Gandhi - Sakshi Post

Ravi Valluri

Do we recall the iconic blockbuster film ‘Gandhi’ that scorched the silver screen? The movie was a biopic on the Mahatma and went on to win several Oscars. Ben Kingsley enacted the role of Gandhiji, while Rohini Hattangadi essayed Kasturba’s character. The movie was dexterously canned by the eminent film maker Sir Richard Attenborough.

There is a sequence in the movie, perhaps etched forever in the alcoves of cinegoers’ minds--the ejection of Gandhiji from a train in South Africa. The year was May 1893, when Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi was travelling to Pretoria, high-priced first class coach ticket in hand. An enraged white man objected to the presence of a dark skinned coolie in the first-class carriage. As a result Gandhiji was directed to move to the van compartment at the rear end of the train. Mohan Das Gandhi who was in possession of a valid first-class ticket absolutely ignored the commandment. He did not budge and refused to detrain from the estimable first class coach. Gandhi was recompensed for this act of defiance and was evicted from the train at Pietermaritzburg.

The frail man, blessed with a resolute and robust mind shivered through the winter night in the waiting room of the station. Ruminating over the insult heaped upon him, he made the momentous decision to stay on in South Africa to combat racial discrimination against Indians. The Indian community and indentured labour were treated as second class citizens by the suzerains.

This epoch-making incident became the bedrock of his unique version of resistance through non-violence, what came to be known as Satyagraha. To commemorate his contribution there stands a bronze statue of Gandhiji in Church Street, right in the heart of the city. Mahatma Gandhi inspired Nelson Mandela to take up cudgels against apartheid in his homeland and eventually secured freedom for the coloured community.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale realised the inherent potential of Gandhiji and was of the opinion that this short-statured man had the requisite fire in his belly to liberate the country from the clutches of colonialism. He advised him to ‘discover the authentic India’ by traversing the length and breadth of the country travelling third class by train, rather than pursuing a career in the legal arena. Gokhale further advised Gandhiji to attend Congress conclaves which was then dominated by city-bred, estimable figures who were far removed from reality. Such patriots could never espouse the cause of Harijans, peasants, women and other people in distress under foreign yoke.

As a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign against the British, Indian Railways planned a series of consequential and unfading train journeys.

A train was flagged off from Chandigarh on April 9, 2015 called the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Circuit Train,’ which took tourists on board to see various places associated with the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi. The landscape of this indelible journey marked the places that are singular with the Mahatma’s struggle against the foreign yoke.

The train traversed through important junction points such as Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Porbander, Bhavnagar and Surat in his home state of Gujarat.

These places were the bedrock of Ahimsa and Satyagraha. The 8 day and 9 night journey originated from Chandigarh on April 9, 2015 attracted widespread coverage among historians, Gandhians and those nostalgic about India’s freedom struggle. It is quite commendable that Indian Railways rose to the occasion to think of and execute this novel idea.

To fuel further interest in the life and times of Gandhiji, Indian Railways authorised the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to operate tourist packages from Jabalpur and Madurai along the Gandhi circuit, in 2015. The grand design of this portentous wanderlust was to mark 100 years of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa.

Sabarmati was chosen as the starting point for the Gandhi Special Tourist train. The train was flagged off on 17 June, 2017 to commemorate the centenary day of the Sabarmati Ashram. The train touched many important destinations including Wardha, Motihari, Bettiah, Gaya, Varanasi and Allahabad. This special train chugged on the wheels for a period of 10 days between 17 June, 2017 and 26 June, 2017.

The Indian Railways is the lifeline of the nation and the engine of growth on nation’s march towards balanced development. Simultaneously, it plays a pivotal role in promoting tourism in the country, recalling several iconic figures. Special trains have been run periodically to spread the message of Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and Saint Teresa. Any interested persons can easily obtain information and keep up to date by checking out the website of the Indian Railways and IRCTC.

Not only would visitors to these websites be surprised by the range of activities, interested persons could also tie up for new and fruitful ventures in the future.

As noted American author Marianne Wiggins says, ‘What thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection with unseen places.’

Read More:

Back to Top