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3 Sep, 2013

India Launches Gandhi Heritage Portal to Spread Message of Non-Violence


Ministry of Culture, 02-September, 2013 – Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh here today dedicated the Gandhi Heritage Portal to the nation. The Minister of Culture Mrs. Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Communications & IT Minister Mr Kapil Sibal, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations Dr. Sam Pitroda, Mr Narayan Desai, Mr Kartikeya Sarabhai and Secretary, Ministry of Culture Mr Ravindra Singh were also present on the occasion.

With this dedication, the Ministry of Culture has created a Portal to review the message of non-violence to the world at large as well as to the youth of our country, besides highlighting critical aspects of our freedom struggle and Gandhiji’s message and humanism.

The Gandhi Heritage Sites Panel had made two recommendations towards preservation, protection and dissemination of the tangible and the intangible heritage of Mahatma Gandhi. Specifically one of the 2 recommendations was setting up of the Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission and the other was the development of a Gandhi Heritage Portal to disseminate Gandhiji’s writings in an authentic and unabridged form. The Ministry of Culture has fulfilled both these recommendations.

The Ministry of Culture earlier gave the responsibility of the concept design, development and maintenance of the Gandhi Heritage Portal to the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, Ahmedabad and provided them a corpus grant of Rs 7.50 crore for this purpose. The Sabarmati Ashram is the largest repository of Gandhiji’s original writings and has a photo archive of over 6,000 images of Gandhiji and his associates. It also has a substantial library of over 45,000 books on and about Gandhiji and the Indian National Movement.

The Gandhi Heritage Portal is conceptualised around The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. It has placed the collected works in three languages: English 100 volumes, Hindi 97 volumes and Gujarati 82 volumes. These volumes are interlinked to provide easy movement from one text and language to the other. The key texts provide first editions of (when possible) of Key Texts of Gandhiji. These are: Hind Swaraj, Satyagraha in South Africa, An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth, From YervadaMandir, Ashram Observances in Action, Constructive Programmes: Their Meaning and Place, Key To Health and Gandhiji’s translation of the Gita as Anasakti Yoga.

The Journals provide electronic versions of Indian Opinion, Navajivan, Young India, etc. A sub-section provides some of the journals which make for a fuller archive of the Gandhian imagination and scholarship. At present the Portal has placed as representation Gandhi Marg (Hindi & English), Bhoomi Putra, Pyara Bapu and that unique handwritten journal of the Sataygraha Ashram Madhpudo, which carried Prabhudas Gandhi’s Jivan Nu Parodh and Kakasaheb Kalelkar’s SmaranYatra. The Portal hopes to include many more journals in future.

‘Other Works’ is a section that would take into account the vast and deep commentarial and memoire literature.

‘The Life and Times’ section is under development and would provide slivers of information that could lead one to broader and deeper explorations. The Gallery, likewise, provides audio, visual, film material as also caricatures, paintings and postage stamps. The Portal provides a sample of each of these.

‘The Gandhi Heritage Sites’, the data for which is under development and verification, would provide multiple layers of information regarding places that Gandhiji visited.

The Portal has 500,000 pages of authentic and verified information. This is expected to grow to over 1.5 million pages eventually.

With the dedication of the Portal the Ministry of Culture has supported the development of two on-line, web-based archives. Bichitra, the on-line Variorum of the writings of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and the Gandhi Heritage Portal are signs of the firm commitment of the Ministry of Culture to help create and sustain an open source archive movement, which democratises access to our intangible cultural and philosophical heritage. These initiatives would strengthen the climate of research and inquiry and would aid and facilitate both teaching and research.

Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address at the launch:

“I am delighted to join you for this dedication to the nation of the Gandhi Heritage Portal. I am very glad that the Ministry of Culture took the lead in making this portal possible. I should mention at the outset though that this achievement would not have come about without the hard work put in by our friends like Mr Narayan Desai and many of his Gandhian colleagues, technical experts, scholars and others at the historic Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. I compliment all of them for what is obviously a labour of love and respect for one of the greatest souls to ever walk this earth.

The Gandhi Heritage Portal is a technology-driven initiative aimed at making Gandhiji accessible all over the world on an electronic platform. It aspires to be one of the most authentic open source archives on the life and work and thought of Mahatma Gandhi. I am confident that it will be an invaluable resource for generations to come, especially for the youth worldwide.

I have been told that the Portal at present provides approximately half a million pages of material in electronic form and that it aspires eventually to place about one million pages of information in multiple languages. Well begun is usually half done, and the Sabarmati Ashram Trustees have demonstrated this amply in this regard.

This collection of documents provides great source material on our freedom struggle and captures the triumphs and tribulations, the thoughts and visions of an entire generation of freedom-fighters led by Bapu. But its true significance perhaps lies in its architecture. I recall the first edition of Gandhiji’s Hind Swaraj. On the title page, he printed “No Rights Reserved”. He in many ways was one of the pioneers of a movement that we can today proudly call the “open source movement” and this Portal is a befitting addition to that vision.

It is a self-evident truth that knowledge has to be an inclusive process, where barriers to learning are systematically dismantled. Only a society that is committed to the free flow of ideas can hope to lead in an age of knowledge. Our government has taken many significant steps in this direction. The National Manuscripts Mission, the Digital Library of India, the variorum on Tagore and the Gandhi Heritage Portal are all important milestones in this journey.

In addition to Mahatma Gandhi’s intangible heritage by way of his thought, which embraces all of humanity, we are also conscious of Bapu’s tangible heritage and its preservation and promotion. Towards this end, we have recently established the Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission. This Mission will go in for professional conservation and management of Buildings where Bapu stayed and bring together published and unpublished documents, photographs and audio visuals, among others. Similarly, we are keen that a world-class National Memorial should soon come up at Dandi, which will inspire the younger generation and expose them to the trials the freedom fighters went through.

Ultimately, it is the people of India who are the trustees of the heritage of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi is not only in our past; he is in our present and will also form a significant part of the future that we want for our country and our people. It is a future free of oppression, free of hunger, free of injustice and structural inequalities and violence. It is a future in which all of us are enabled to contribute without prejudice, and in which all share the idea of an inclusive and just India.

Hriday Kunj on the banks of the Sabarmati is a very special place of pilgrimage. Every time I have gone there to pay my homage to the man who lived in that humble dwelling, I have come back with renewed hope and faith. It is for this reason that I am particularly happy that the Gandhi Heritage Portal has been conceived and developed at the Sabarmati Ashram. The Ashram is living proof that a memorial that is alive to the expectations of the nation and is capable of assuming new roles will always retain its relevance in the imagination of our people.

Let me once again convey my good wishes to the trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram who have conceptualized and created this Portal. Their task has only just begun. Much more remains to be done. In this moment, perhaps they will remember a line – “one step enough for me” – from one of Gandhiji’s favourite hymns “Lead Kindly Light”. I am sure that Bapu’s spirit of perseverance will show them the light and lead them on to many greater steps in their noble task.

With these words, I thank all of you for joining me here this evening.