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Mahatama Gandhi's first tryst with Bihar enters 100th year

PTI 11 Apr 2016, 9:00:50 IST

Patna: Two years after his return from South Africa, an England-trained barrister on April 10, 1917, alighted from a third-class compartment at Patna railway station to set foot in Bihar for the first time that will change the course of history of the entire country.

The barrister was 48-year-old Mohandas K Gandhi and the turn of events over the next few years including the Champaran farmers' movement led by him would earn him the exalted moniker of 'Mahatma'.

Starting this month, the Nitish Kumar government has planned year-long celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of his first visit to Bihar and the Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi eventually united the whole nation in its fight for freedom.

The Tourism Department is also exploring ways to promote Gandhi circuit in conjunction with the Satyagraha centenary.

A whole host of activities, from seminars to workshops and exhibitions, have been planed from Patna to Motihari (district headquarters of East Champaran) during this period.

Gandhi came to Bihar at the invitation of indigo cultivator Raj Kumar Shukla who wanted him to take up the cause of the farmers who were forced to grow indigo by the British.

He arrived at Bankipore station (old name of Patna railway station) on April 10, and a framed painting showing him alighting from a third-class compartment, put up at the Patna Junction commemorates his first visit to Bihar's capital.

An interesting incident took place that day when Shukla took him to the residence of Rajendra Prasad, a Congress leader and a lawyer who had just started practising at the Patna High Court and went on to become the first President of the country.

"Shukla took Gandhi to the house of Rajendra Prasad, a lawyer, he and other indigo-growers had engaged. However,the lawyer was out of town, and judging Gandhi to be of low caste, did not allow him to draw water from the well or use the lavatory in the house," reminisces his grandson Rajmohan Gandhi in his book "Gandhi: The Man, His People and the Empire".

Patna-based noted historian Surendra Gopal says Gandhi travelled in a third-class compartment in humble clothing, and in India he had not arrived on the scene yet until the Satyagraha happened, so not many people saw him with such aura as he would enjoy soon for the rest of his life.

"Gandhi had known fellow barrister Mazhar-ul Haq from England days and sent a note to him about his arrival in Patna. Haq, then came immediately and took him to his palatial house on Fraser Road. The house known as 'Sikander Manzil' is still existing albeit obscured by construction of new buildings in its front portion, and I have requested the Bihar government several times to put up a plaque to commemorate his stay in Patna but of no avail," he said.