He alone deserves to be called an inmate of the Ashram who has ceased to have any worldly relation - a relation involving monetary interests-- with his parents or other relatives, who has no other needs save those of food and clothing and who is ever watchful in the observance of the eleven cardinal vows. Therefore he who needs to make savings, should never be regarded as an Ashram inmate.
- M. K. Gandhi
Mira Bahen (Miss Slade) had first built this cottage for herself and taught spinning and cording to the villagers. Latter Gandhiji came to live in this cottage as the Adi Niwas' (the first hut where Gandhiji lived) was over crowded. The cottage has been preserved exactly as it was in Gandhiji's life time. At the entrance gate of this cottage the seven social sins have been engraved for the guidance of the visitors, taken from 'Young India' 1924 :
Bapu (Gandhiji) met guests and visitors from India and abroad in this cottage. The well known Indian Socialist Party leader, Acharya Narendradev lived with Gandhiji for several months to undergo nature cure treatment under his direct supervision. He was allowed to use Gandhiji's massage room as a special favour.
Gandhiji's hut was originally small one. The verandah on the northern side, the bath room, the small room for guests and the porch in front of the entrance were later additions. The small room was the centre of activity of Gandhiji. It was here that the numerous letters he received were opened. His secretaries used to open letters and the important ones were shown to Gandhiji. When his Secretary Mahadev Desai was no more, Gandhiji always remembered his services. Every evening he was going to the building where Mahadev Desai stayed, and hold community spinning as a memorial to him. Gandhiji was sitting on a mat and even as he was speaking to visitors, he was spining on 'Dhanush Takli' which was invented by Shri Bharatananda, a Polish Engineer who came under the magic spell of Gandhiji.
At Sevagram Gandhiji was sleeping in the open. If it rained, the fellow inmates were helping to remove his bed and took it inside and cover the varandah with bamboo mats. Sometimes this transfer of beds was repeated three or four times during the night, Gandhiji said that even two to three hours' sleep in the open was equivalent to a full night's sleep under the roof. Besides, there was no harm even if a number of people slept in a small area in the open, whereas, under a roof, the air became stale and polluted. When Lord Lothian visited the Ashram, Gandhiji advised him to sleep out of doors assuring him that he would not catch cold. After a good deal of hesitation, Lord Lothian agreed to this proposal and he did not caught cold. Every visitor well realised that Gandhiji was the admirer of simple and open life.
Those who were going to meet Gandhiji were to sit on the floor. Low stools were, however, provided for those who were not accustomed to sit on the mat. The letter "Om", the palm trees and the Charkha moulded on the wall of the hut by Mira Behn are of great inspiration. The two questions which Gandhiji was hanging before him on the walls of the cottage are worth mentioning here, which are still prominantly displayed in Bapu Kuti. The first one was from John Ruskin whose book 'Unto this Last' had influenced Gandhiji deeply. It reads as follows :
"The essence of lying is in deception, and not in words. A lie may be told by silence, by equivocation, by the accent on a syllable, by the glance of the eye attaching particular significance to a sentence and all these kinds of lies are worse and baser by many degrees than a lie plainly worded."
This indicates how Gandhiji was keen on avoiding untruth even of the subtlest kind. His whole life was a story of 'experiments with truth' and the chief ambition of his life was to follow truth in the strictest sense of the term. The second quotation was from G. C. Larimer :
"When you are in the right, you can afford to keep your temper, and when you are in the wrong, you can't afford to loose it."
The bath room in the Cottage is on the southern side. The septic tank latrine was kept spotlessly clean by Gandhiji with his own hands. He was making it a private reading room too. In the adjoining room, his wooden bed and massage table are still kept in proper order. This room was occassionally used for accomodating his sick friends and fellow workers so that Gandhiji could attend them. Gandhiji was observing silence on Mondays, not for rest but for doing his writing work which piled up during the week.
His small hut was a drawing room, a dining room, a committee room, a bed room and office - all rolled into one. For several years; Gandhiji had no bath room attached to the hut, he was having his bath in a tiny room attached to the first cottage - Adi Niwas. It was much later that a separate bath room-cum-massage room was constructed for him.
Gandhiji's articles of daily use are still displayed in Bapu Kuti. There is a small rack in which there is not a single iron nail. It was made by Shri Bharatananda. The small tea-poy near Gandhiji's seat with another smaller table under it, was probably brought by Shrimati Rajmukari Amrit Kaur. Towards the end of Bapu's seat is a small stool on which he was keeping a lantern. A wooden bar has been fixed to the door to keep it away from falling. There are two earthen boxes in which Gandhiji kept his small personal belongings. Every thing in his hut was so simple that would be found in a poor man's house, which includes- wooden paper weights, Japanese Holy cloth, ink stand, spitoon, bottle for boiled drinking water, wooden pen and pencil stand, pins and tags container, small rosary, wooden bowl, sandal wood first aid box, folding spinning wheel, Red stone paper weight, foot cleaning earthen piece, marble paper weight etc. Gandhiji always keeping before him the model of the three monkeys of fable and legend. He conducted serious deliberations with top leaders in this very hut. He solved the most intricate problems from this same hut and finally, the historic slogan "Quit India" emerged from the depth of his heart from the same hut. Even today, people obtain peace of mind by spending a few minutes here.
In this simple cottage, dipicting the simplest and commonest village life, Shri Mahadev Desai, Kishorilal Mashruwala, Pyarelal and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur served as Gandhiji's Secretaries.