IX. FOUNDING OF
The pilgrimage to the Kumbha fair was my second visit
The Satyagraha Ashram was founded on the 25th of May,
1915. Sharddhanandji wanted me to settle in Hardvar. Some
of my Calcutta friends recommended Vaidyanathadham.
Others strongly urged me to choose Rajkot. But when I
happened to pass through Ahmedabad, many friends pressed
me to settle down there, and they volunteered to find the
expenses of the Ashram, as well as a house for us to live
I had a predilection for Ahmedabad. Being a Gujarati I
thought I should be able to render the greatest service
to the country through the Gujarati language. And then,
as Ahmedabad was an ancient centre of handloom weaving,
it was likely to be the most favourable field for the
revival of the cottage industry of hand-spinning. There
was also the hope that, the city being the capital of
Gujarat, monetary help from its wealthy citizens would be
more available here than elsewhere.
The question of untouchability was naturally among the
subjects discussed with the Ahmedabad friends. I made it
clear to them that I should take the first opportunity of
admitting an untouchable candidate to the Ashram if he
was otherwise worthy.
'Where is the untouchable who satisfy your condition?'
said a vaishnava friend self-complacently.
I finally decided to found the Ashram at Ahmedabad.
So far as accommodation was concerned, Sjt. Jivanlal
Desai, a barrister in Ahmedabad, was the principal man to
help me. He offered to let, and we decided to hire, his
The first thing we had to settle was the name of the
Ashram. I consulted friends. Amongst the names suggested
were 'Sevashram' (the abode of service), 'Tapovan' (the
abode of austrities), etc. I liked the name 'Sevashram'
but for the absence of emphasis on the method of service.
'Tapovan' seemed to be a pretentious title, because
though tapas was dear to us we would not presume
to be tapasvins (men of austerity). Our creed
was devotion to truth, and our business was the search
for and insistence on truth. I wanted to acquaint India
with the method I had tried in South Africa, and I
desired to test in India the extent to which its
application might be possible. So my companions and I
selected the name 'Satyagraha Ashram,' as conveying both
goal and our method of service.
For the conduct of the Ashram a code of rules and
observances was necessary. A draft was therefore
prepared, and friends were invited to express their
opinions on it. Amongst the many opinions that were
received, that of Sir Gurudas Banerji is still in my
memory. He liked the rules, but suggested that humility
should be added as one of the observances, as he believed
that the younger generation sadly lacked humility. Though
I noticed this fault, I feared humility would cease to be
humility the moment it became a matter of vow. The true
connotation of humility is self-effacement.
Self-effacement is moksha (salvation), and
whilst it cannot, by itself, be an observance, there may
be other observances necessary for its attainment. If the
acts of an aspirant after moksha or a servant
have no humility or selflessness about them, there is no
longing for moksha or service. Service without
humility is selfishness and egotism.
There were at this time about thirteen Tamilians in
our party. Five Tamil youngsters had accompanied me from
South Africa, and the rest came from different parts of
the country. We were in all about twenty- five men and
This is how the Ashram started. All had their meals in
a common kitchen and strove to live as one family.