Following the Mahatma

Walk into the serene premises of Aga Khan Palace at 8.30 in the morning and what greets you is the lush greenery around and peaceful ambiance that pervades the air. Add to that the sounds of prayer that fill the atmosphere and there is no mistaking the feeling of the Mahatma's presence in the place where he spent so many years during the freedom struggle.

The morning prayer sessions at the samadhi at Aga Khan Palace is a daily event that has been on since decades. The collective chant of Prem mudit man se kaho Ram Ram Ram reverberates in the surroundings and joining in the chorus are voices of the young and the old, all bound together with a common devotion to the Father of the Nation and his principals.

While Hindi Cinema resorted to new age 'Gandhigiri' to bring back the values of Gandhi wrapped in a more modern context, there are a few who still preach and practice the way the legend propounded them.

"We have morning prayer at the samadhi of Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai, which is attended by our members, trainees and also outsiders, who believe in Gandhi and his principles," says Sobha Supekar, assistant secretary, Gandhi National Memorial Society (GNMS). She adds that without any advertisement or compulsion, the prayer session registers a huge crowd from within the organisation and outside and the number goes up threefold on October 2, when people come to pay their tribute to the great leader.

Incidentally, the lot also comprises young students, who religiously come to the palace to attend the prayer. Sunita Tirkee from Andaman, a trainee at GNMS, says, "Never ever in my life I have felt that prayer is so important for our being. Sitting here and singing hymns, while praying for harmony actually makes you feel good as you know that you have overcome the realms of self and are praying for all now. There is no compulsion for us to attend the prayer, yet if I miss it, I feel that my day is incomplete."

A resident of Yerwada, Deepak Goel has been attending the prayer since last year, when he first learnt about the activity. "I am from Gujarat that is the land of Bapu. Be it in terms of food or behaviour -- I completely go by what Gandhiji said and did. However, I lacked a place where I could find like-minded people. One of my colleague solved my problem and helped me by telling me about this activity that I now attend without fail. A walk till Aga Khan Palace and then prayer in company of nature and some like-minded people is a wonderful start to each day," smiles Goel.

Dilip Patil, a trainee at GNMA, agrees that while back home he rarely prays, but here at the Aga Khan Palace he never had to make an effort to do so. "Its my wife who does all the praying and puja. I believe in Lord Shanker and Goddess Bhawani, but I never sat and prayed. However, after coming here, I initially attended the prayer session out of curiosity and since then I have been doing it regularly. I never thought, prayers could also cleanse the thoughts and give a peace of mind ," says he.

Among others, there are housewives, who attend the prayer session. Uma Khandayjit says that after attending the prayer session, she actually learnt what a prayer should be. "Prayer is not about lighting a lamp and asking God to straighten things in life for oneself. It is beyond that. When you pray for others, you cannot hate them. This defines the strength of the prayer session, which not only gives a blissful feeling to the person who prays, but also helps in bringing harmony in the society," adds Khandayjit.

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