India is home to many Ashrams, monastic communities (of sorts) which function as centers of religious and academic learning as well aspious retreat. Ashrams throughout India covering centuries of history can be found everywhere, but few, if any, have achieved the prominence of the Sevagram Ashram outside of the town of Wardha. It was here, from 1936 to 1948, that Mohandas Gandhi lived out the busiest years of his life, and where much of what is now the modern nation of India was planned. It is now considered one of India’s most important spiritual and modern historical sites.
Sevagram began its existence as the tiny and humble village of Segaon. It was perhaps for this reason, as well as its central location, that Mohandas Gandhi chose it as his place of residence during the latter years of his life. In the early 1930s, following the salt march to the sea, Gandhi spent his time alternately wandering throughout India and not infrequently serving time in prison.
In 1934 he traveled to Wardha, where a wealthy friend put him up at a country home. Vowing not to return to his former home at Sabarmati until India achieved independence, he made Wardha the new defacto headquarters of his political activities. In 1936 he moved outside of Wardha, establishing a small ashram at the village of Segaon.
Although he intended it to be a small residence for himself and close family and friends, it (not surprisingly) soon grew into a thriving community. It drew followers, students and political activists. The village was later renamed Sevagram, which means “a village for service”, and it soon became one of the most important political centers in India.
Gandhi lived here until his death in 1948. By this time Sevagram had achieved a political, religious and cultural status as great as any small village on the Indian Supcontinent. Now home to several colleges, students from everywhere come here to stude science, medicine and engineering. It is also one of the nation’s most important shrines to its beloved founder who is considered by many to be the father of modern India.
The once minute village of Segaon is long gone, and in its place is a living community that reveres its founder and which strives to live up to the ideals that he set forth for his nation. Despite its larger size, the rural character of the area is preserved in its small homes and businesses, and it can still be experienced somewhat along the lines of the way Gandhi left it at the time of his death.
There are two places of particular interest to those pilgrims visiting the village in search of the area’s history. The first is the home called Adi Nivas, where Gandhi resided during much of his time here. The other is the local museum dedicated to India’s freedom movement, and where artifacts of that era are kept on display.
The Sevagram Ashram is located about four miles east of the town of Wardha, approximately 500 miles south of New Delhi close to the geographic dead center of India. As a village, the ashram is an open site. As of this writing specific details of the Gandhi home and the museum were not available. Web: www.gandhiashramevagram.org (official website).
The sanctity of Sevagram aside, the area around Wardha is roughly devoid of major temples or other religious sites of note.