Mapping Mahatma: An Exhibition Of Photographs Documents A Decade In The Life Of Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was recently in the news when it was found that the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) had swapped a picture of him working a charkha with that of Narendra Modi spinning khadi. Naturally there was all-round outrage until the Prime Minister’s Office declared the picture had been used by KVIC with its permission. Gandhi is also being remembered at the moment, uncontroversially, in an exhibition at the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation gallery curated by Delhi-based photographers Prashant Panjiar and Sanjeev Saith. Kanu’s Gandhi is a series of photographs taken between 1938 and 1948, the final decade of Gandhi’s life, by his grand-nephew Kanu Gandhi.

The photographer was born to Gandhi’s nephew Narandas Gandhi. The images are of Gandhi at various places across the country: taking a boat in Midnapur in 1945; on a train journey to Bengal, Assam and the south to collect money for the Harijan Fund in 1945-1946; Noakhali in Bengal during the 1946 riots; holding meetings at the Khadi Pratishthan in Kolkata in 1946; and getting weighed during the several fasts he undertook in that decade. There are also photographs of his associates, Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and family members such as his wife Kasturba and various nieces. As is the case with pictures of the freedom movement, these images remind one afresh of the history of Independence and the extraordinariness of Gandhi, whose reputation the right has often sought to tarnish. Here are five photographs from the show.


Sevagram Ashram, 1940. Mahatma Gandhi spinning on Dhanush Takli. Photograph by Kanu Gandhi / © The Estate of Kanu Gandhi.


North West Frontier Provinces, 1938. Dr. Sushila Nayar, Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Amtus Salam and others walking in the countryside. Photograph by Kanu Gandhi / © The Estate of Kanu Gandhi.


Sevagram Ashram, 1938. Mahatma Gandhi telephoning from the office hut. Photograph by Kanu Gandhi / © The Estate of Kanu Gandhi.


Bardoli, 1939. Kasturba washing Mahatma Gandhi’s feet. Sardar Patel is seen behind. Photograph by Kanu Gandhi / © The Estate of Kanu Gandhi.


Shantiniketan, 1940. Mahatma Gandhi with Rabindranath Tagore. Photograph by Kanu Gandhi / © The Estate of Kanu Gandhi.

Kanu’s Gandhi will run until Sunday, February 26 at the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Second Floor, East Wing, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2202 9613. Open daily, from 10.15am to 6pm. Get directions here.

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