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Dave in India at iRYLA

Day 10b - Gandhi's Ashram, Akshardam Temple
By David GoWell
Posted on 12/29/2014 4:29 PM

Saturday, Nov 28, 2014

In the afternoon we were taken to Gandhi's Ashram in Ahmedabad.
The fact that Gandhi HAD an Ashram was news to me, and opened up my awareness to the many facets of his very interesting life. Somehow I had missed seeing the movie 'Gandhi' with Ben Kingsley in 1982 (and every year since then) and I had never read any books about him. I just new he believed in non-violence, civic disobedience, and was instrumental in India gaining her independence from British rule. 
But at iRYLA we were given the movie 'Gandhi' and told we could show a short clip from it. I did that and was immediately hooked! What a courageous and enlightened man! He started at least three Ashrams in his life: one in South Africa, one in Mumbai and the one we visited in Ahmedabad.  
Three young people that work at Gandhi's Ashram had come to iRYLA to talk to us. They were fascinating and passionate and I could easily imagine that if I had come here and met them when I was 20 years old, that I would have stayed - like some of them did.
At the Ashram I met several other young people that had come for a visit and never left. I also met at least two young people who had been born and raised at the Ashram because their mothers had come and never left! The place has that kind of magnetism. 
One of the stranger aspects was the 'Toilet Garden' and the 'Toilet Cafe' - both composed of toilets of many, many different types. They are part of a sanitation awareness and education campaign that is run by the Ashram, to educate Indians about the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
We saw Gandhi Ji's Spinning Wheel. Apparently Gandhi was very fond of spinning cotton. Perhaps it was a meditative exercise for him, or perhaps it was just a way to be productive as he was thinking. A woman demonstrated how to spin cotton and I was amazed! After all those Fairy Tales about Spinning Wheels I had never actually seen a Spinning Wheel work and had no idea how they worked. It turns out (yeah, see how I did that?! ;-) the wheel turns the spindle, which makes the existing thread spin, and you hold that thread against a ball of loose cotton in your hand, and the spinning threads grab hold of the loose cotton fibers and attach to them, causing them to spin into more thread and you draw the cotton ball away as more and more thread is made and it winds itself onto the spindle. Or something like that. Anyway, it looks like magic!
From the Ashram we walked across the street where Gandhi's Handicraft Gift Shop is located. They sell all sorts of material, handicrafts, incense, honey and dozens of other things produced at the Ashram. Jitu bought some material to make me some Indian Kurtas and I bought some incense for my Pujas.
We next went to an old Temple that featured a huge dome that held paintings of Gods and Saints. I saw an old painting of the Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath! I don't know if it was Maharishi's Guru (Brahmananda Saraswati was Shankaracharya from 1941 to 1953) or an earlier one (the Chair was vacant from 1776 until 1941 because they couldn't find a Saint worthy of the post).
Then we went to a very nice hotel and had a delicious buffet dinner.
                Continue to Day 11