In Pune, a freedom leader gets a museum
As India gets ready to celebrate the 70th year of Independence, in Pune, the house where Gopal Krishna Gokhale, one of the prominent leaders of the freedom movement, lived, is being converted into a museum. What is the project?The century-old red-tiled house stands on the campus of the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (GIPE). Gokhale lived in Deccan House, which is now under renovation, between 1907 and 1915. The idea to convert Gokhale’s graceful single-storey house into a museum gained traction in 2015-16, the former year marking his death centenary while the latter marking his sesquicentennial birth anniversary. The Heritage Cell of the Pune Municipal Corporation began restoration and renovation work on the residence a few months ago, after the civic body furnished a grant of ₹25 lakh last year. The house will also be included in Pune’s heritage tour circuit. The project is being conceived on the lines of Mahatma Phule’s house in the city, which too has been converted into a museum, showcasing the great reformer’s life and times.What will it showcase?The museum will exhibit extensive memorabilia, including mementos and utility objects used by Gokhale, like his famous turban, his awards and his personal belongings, including his books. The home currently houses hundreds of photographs from the era, showcasing Gokhale’s life and milieu. Significant portions of his voluminous correspondence, through which the public and tourists can glean insights into his literary and political associations, are expected to be archived soon. In addition, there is a plan to digitise his papers and documents for public access, with the objective of delineating Gokhale’s political thought. His speeches and writings on economics will also be showcased.What is the significance?His descendants say the essence of the project is a bid to keep Gokhale’s ideas relevant. Among the great nationalists, Gokhale believed in the reforming power of Western institutions. The project also includes seminars and talks on Gokhale in Pakistan and Bangladesh.What are the other museums?Pune has had a tradition of transforming the homes of great historical figures into museums. The last days of the great Maratha military leader Mahadji Scindia, who died in Wanowrie, is immortalised in the magnificent ‘Shinde Chhatri’ — a three-storied samadhi in the Rajput architectural style, which is among Pune’s most recognisable landmarks. Social reformer Mahatma Phule’s 19th century house in the city’s teeming Ganj Peth area was transformed into a museum, where the great liberator of untouchables and backward communities lived since 1852 along with his equally renowned wife, Savitribai. The wada languished in a dilapidated state until 1993 when it was restored and renovated by an initiative taken by the civic body in a bid to capture the socio-political milieu of reform in the State in the mid-nineteenth century.Where is the Gandhi museum?Similarly, the halls of Aga Khan palace are renowned for the Gandhi museum today and as the place where Mahatma Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, along with Gandhi’s secretary Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu were imprisoned during the ‘Quit India’ movement in 1942. Declared as a monument of national importance by the ASI, the palace houses the memorials of the Mahatma and his wife while containing the samadhis of Kasturba Gandhi and Desai, who died in captivity.