HT This Day: Feb 14, 1948 -- Gandhiji’s asthi committed to India’s holy waters
The ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were Immersed today at 1-55 p.m. in the waters of India’s holiest rivers, the Ganga, the Jumna and the Saraswati at their confluence at Prayag.
“This is the end of the mortal remains of Bapu. But Gandhi the immortal will live forever. We have to follow his teachings truly. It is only then that we will be entitled to say Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai.” With these words Pandit Nehru addressed over two million people after the immersion ceremony.
The aspect of the ceremony which must have pleased Gandhiji’s soul most was that from the time the Asthi Special left New Delhi until the immersion of the sacred ashes the entire programme was observed punctually to the minute and in a most orderly way befitting the solemn occasion.
When the procession, headed by the Duwk carrying Gandhiji’s sacred Asthi reached the Sangam, special prayers were said. These were the same as were read when he commenced the last fast and included scriptural texts from the sacred books of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. While the service was being held the engine of the motorboat was stopped and the boat drifted downstream for about a mile. Then followed ‘Vedic’ hymns chanted by Shri Viyogi Hari, Pt. Ram Dhan Shastri and a Pandit of Allahabad who claimed hereditary connections with Gandhiji’s family and got his book signed by Gandhiji’s sons.
The boat then sailed back upstream to the confluence. When the exact spot where the three rivers meet was reached. Shri Ramdas Gandhi poured the urn over it was a strong flowing current and the participants in the ceremony remembered Bapu’s words that ashes should always be thrown in flowing waters - While the ashes were being thrown those in the boat chanted Hari Om Tut Sat. Pandit Nehru and the others then strewed flowers on the spot and a jar of milk was poured in the river according to rituals.
Just then Inmates of a boat carrying huge jars of milk poured them in the river converting the spot into a veritable river of milk it was learnt that the milkmen of Allahabad had planned this special tribute of their own to the memory of Gandhiji.
A small party consisting of Gandhiji’s sons and ashramites then transferred themselves into a small boat which took them to the part of the confluence where the water was shallow. They stood in the water and chanted the twelfth chapter of the Gita before bathing.
Before the Immersion ceremony, the white boat, followed by nine other duwks made a journey down the river up to a distance of more than a mile, thus enabling the large gathering of people on both sides of the river bank to have the last darshan of the sacred Asthi. The boat did the journey more than once. Among those on the special boat were Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Mr Jairamdas Daulatram, Mrs Sarojini Naidu, Pandit Pant, Mr Ramdas Gandhi. Mr Devadas Gandhi and Gen Nathu Singh.
It is gathered that one of the reasons why the Trivent was selected for immersion was that the ashes of Ba (Mrs Kasturba Gandhi) were immersed there and that it is the most central sacred spot in India. It was five o’clock in the morning but almost all Allahabad was awake. For it was the great day for which this ancient town had been waiting with impatience for the last few days. Tension and excitement had reached an unprecedented height and from an early hour men, women and children had begun to line up the rate along which the procession was scheduled to pass.
As the first rays of the dawn lighted up the top of the Catholic Cathedral near the Railway Station from which the procession started, one could see an unending panorama of heads all along the procession rout.e To control the vast multitudes the police had cordoned off the whole mute with wooden poles arid ropes. But such was the enthusiasm prevailing that it was with the greatest difficulty that they were able to do so People climbed up trees and roofs f house-- all along the route and tried to jump over the cordon but were prevented from doing so by the police and military
Entry to the Allahabad Railway Station was regulated by a stringent system of passes and only the highest civil and military officials and representatives of the Press were allowed there.
The immersion ceremony took place some distance up-stream, beyond the view of the vast concourse hat had gathered on the river bank As the amphibious vehicle bearing the sacred ashes glided into the water thousand swam across and hundreds of others swarmed into boats to pay their homage.
Flowers From The Air
For hours vast crowds and waited patiently and m silence to watch the procession pass, the silence being broken in places only by the chanting of Ram Dhun and the drone of the aeroplanes as they flew low and lipped repeatedly to shower flowers in the sacred urn
The procession bearing the sacred n to Prayag started from Allahabad railway Station a little before 10 a.m. The Asthi special train with the urn containing Gandhiji’s ashes came in punctually at 9am. Before the time appointed for its arrival India’s leaders, members of the Central Government and the U.P. Government, high-ranking military, naval and air force officers and Congress leaders took their positions in a clearing on the platform which had been decorated with flowers.
The first to arrive was Pandit Nehru, to be followed, a few minutes later, by Sardar Patel. Then came the Governor of the U.P., Mrs Naidu, Pandit Pant. Premier of the U.P., and other members of tho Provincial Government, Maulana Azad, Mr Rafl Ahmed Kidwai, Mr Jakamdas Daulatram, the Chief Justice and Judges of the High Court and others. Men of the Kumaon Regiment provided a guard of honour.
Asthi Special Arrives
The chanting of Ram Dhun signalled the approach of the special train. The saloon containing the sacred urn, decorated with masses of flowers, drew up at the place where the Prime Minister and other leaders were waiting to receive it. As the doors of the saloon opened voices were hushed and a silence fell on the gathering. Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel stepped forward towards the train and the urn was brought out. These leaders assisted by Pandit Pant, Maulana Azad and others lifted up the urn and Urn continued the same colour scheme.
In front of the procession went a prayer car, from which the hymns chant followed by mounted police. Men of the Kumnon and Garhwal Regiments, and the Gurkhas those deep on either side led the long Armed Forces’ formations which spread out among the entire length of the procession. Mr Ramdas Gandhi, Pandit Nehru. Sardar Patel, Pandit Pant, Maulana Azad, Mr Kidwal and other leaders took their places on the ceremonial carriage and Lt.-Gen. Rajendar Singhti, Maj.-Gen Nathu Singh and two other officers took up positions at the corners of the carriage. Mr Devadas Gandhi barefooted headed the procession on foot ahead of the trailor. He was joined half way on the route by Pandit Nehru.
The crowds which lined the streets and overflowed into every vantage point along the entire five-mile route to Prayag maintained throughout a reverent silence, only occasionally the women took up the refrain of Ram Dhun or stepped forward to shower flowers on the urn.
As the procession reached the place where the Kumbh Mela is being held the crowd swelled. The destination was reached shortly before midday when the urn was transferred to an amphibious vehicle. The urn was , gently lowered -into the vehicle by Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Mr Kidwai, Pandit Pant and others. Mrs Naidu, who had arrived at the river bank a little earlier, also boarded the vehicle. The vehicle cruised towards the sacred confluence, while planes overhead showered, bouquets and garlands on the urn every few minutes. The last rites were performed by Mr Ramdas Ganihi. As the party returned “last post” was sounded by buglers.
A Day Of History
It was one of the greatest days in India’s history. The procession with the urn started from the Allahabad Railway Station at 9-45 a.m. The palanquin containing the sacred urn was placed on a military trailer by Shri Ramdas Gandhi and Shri Devadas Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s two sons, Pandit Nehru, Pandit Pant and other distinguished people.
There was a huge dais at the Triveni where Mrs Sarojini Naidu, U.P Governor, Maulana Azad and Babu Purshottamdas Tandon were sitting. Millions of people waited quietly; aeroplanes zoomed above. National flags were flying half-mast from various points. There was little colour because it was a solemn occasion, except for the saffron-coloured robes of Sadhus mingling with the crowd.
When the procession reached the banks of the Triveni the only things visible were the jeeps, armoured cars and mounted police on white horses. The rest was just a mass of milling millions. The aeroplanes swooped down and showered petals and rose, marigold and other flowers The procession passed the two white pillars specially erected for the immersion ceremony It came near the white amphibious Duwk. A Viking was overhead. Two motor cyclists, two jeeps with guards standing on them, followed by an armoured car and a police lorry, came in view Behind this were the principal mourners singing Gandhiji’s favourite hymn. Behind them was another military truck, and then there was a larger crowd with another military truck crammed with people behind it. At a distance of about a mile was the chariot carrying the bones and ashes of Gandhiji. Beyond that was just a sea of heads moving. Troops with rifles marched quietly. On the left another detachment was moving down from the banks of the Sangam Aeroplanes showered garlands of marigold. The procession passing right and left was held up at the gateway.y
Sardar Patel was in the very centre of the chariot with a white shawl. The urn was placed on the top of the white palanquin. Shri Ramdas Gandhi and Shri Devadas Gandhi taking a hand.
Knee-Deep In Water
Standing on the edge of the Sangam down to the riverside one could see a mass of khaki. The retreat was heard as the Duwk containing the urn touched the water. Planes circled very low over the water and the Duwk. Thousands of people stood in knee-deep water. They had spilled over the embankment.
Nine Duwks followed the sacred one carrying the remains of Mahatma Gandhi. The blue water of the Jumna and yellowish gold of the Ganga were clearly distinguishable. Two miles beyond that one could see green fields and peaceful little roads.
The Duwks went towards the Saraswati Ghat where people waited for darshan. On the right was a huge overhead budge and below it thousands of small boats with their small flags inscribed with sacred sayings. On the left was a gigantic fortress.