Connection with Gandhiji
Gandhiji stayed at Valmiki Temple in Delhi several times during 1946-1947 when crucial negotiations for the transfer of power and independence were going on. Top Congress leaders including Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Sarojini Naidu, and many dignitaries visited Valmiki Temple to meet, consult or seek blessings from Gandhiji.
‘Within earshot of Birla Temple…on the Reading Road in New Delhi, but away from the pomp and circumstance of the capital city, is Valmiki Temple…Only a low wall separated it from the New Delhi municipal sweepers’ slums.’ wrote Gandhiji’s secretary Pyarelal.
Before reaching Delhi with Gandhiji, Pyarelal wrote G.D. Birla about Gandhiji’s instructions regarding arrangements at the Colony. “As regards telephone and electricity, Bapu says he does not mind if they can be installed without much difficulty; but their absence won’t make any difference in regards to his plans. In case electricity is installed for lighting, he expects that the arrangements will be permanent. If the wires are removed the moment he goes out of the Bhangi Nivas, the whole thing will become a farce. There should be some permanent improvement in the Bhangi Nivas as a result of his stay there…”
Details of Gandhiji’s stay
- Gandhiji reached Delhi on April 1, 1946, in response to Viceroy’s invitation. He stayed at Valmiki Temple. He started holding evening prayer meetings on the ground of what was then known as Bhangi Colony. This stay lasted till May 1, 1946, during which some of the members of Cabinet Mission and Gandhiji met several times.
- His second stay was from May 15 to May 28, 1946. Along with his routine of evening prayer meetings, Gandhiji attended Congress Working Committee meetings.
- He reached Delhi on June 9, 1946, and stayed till June 28. He met the Viceroy, members of Cabinet Missions, and attended Congress Working Committee meetings.
- Gandhiji arrived in Delhi on August 26, 1946, and stayed at Valmiki Mandir till October 28, 1946. Interim Government took office on September 2. Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, and Jagjivan Ram went to Valmik Mandir to seek the blessings of Gandhiji before taking the oath. It was Gandhiji’s day of silence. Hence he wrote a note for the ministers: Abolish salt tax, remember Dandi March, bring together Hindus and Muslims, remove untouchability, adopt khadi.
- Gandhiji's next stay at Delhi was from March 31, 1947, to April 12, 1947. He met the Viceroy, Congress leaders, attended Inter-Asian Relations Conference. Delegates from Tibet, Japan, Burma, Egypt, Malaya, Indonesia, Vietnam visited him during this period.
- He was in Delhi on May 1, 1947, for a week and left on May 7. Returned to Delhi on May 25 and stayed till July 30, 1947. Congress Working Committee accepted the partition of the country during this period. Gandhiji was personally against the idea of partition. This was Gandhiji’s last stay at Valmiki Temple. He came to Delhi on September 9, 1947. But due to communal violence and refugee camps at the Colony ground, it was not possible to stay there. Hence, he stayed at Birla House.
As Pyarelal noted, almost overnight, the obscure little place and the adjoining Colony became ‘the rival of the Viceroy’s House in New Delhi as the venue of the intense drama of the British Cabinet Mission’s negotiations with Indian leaders which resulted in the ending of one hundred and fifty years of British rule and the birth of the free Indian union.’