Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Tolstoy Farm near Lenasia in Gauteng, once the home of Mahatma Gandhi, is being brought back to life after lying derelict for many years.

The decision to resuscitate Tolstoy Farm is the result of a process which began about six years ago.

"Various organisations started coming together with a view to restoring Tolstoy Farm," says Kirti Menon, Gandhi’s great-granddaughter. "No one person can be credited with it. It is a great community effort."

Restoration of the farm has also received attention in India, says Gourish Chakravorty, CEO of the SA unit of Indian water purification solutions group ION Exchange.

It is not surprising. In India Gandhi bears the unofficial title of "father of the nation."

A number of Indian companies have stepped forward to assist, says Chakravorty. They include his own group (which will ensure the supply of drinking water), Kirloskar Group (which will supply a 10KV generator) and CRI Pumps (which will provide a borehole pump). The State Bank of India will fund the purchase of implements.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, pledged R2m in cash.

Menon says SA company Corobrik has also played a vital role by donating a key section of land on which Tolstoy Farm stood. It includes the stone foundation of Gandhi’s house.

"Our intention is that it becomes a peace garden which will keep history alive. We have already done a lot of planting."

The original large Tolstoy Farm was given to Gandhi by a close friend, Hermann Kallenbach, in 1910, and he named it in honour of Russian author Leo Tolstoy, who was a big influence on Gandhi. The two had exchanged letters.

The farm served as a self-sufficient community where Gandhi named "the training of the young" as one of his most important tasks.

Tolstoy Farm was also where Gandhi honed his policy of peaceful resistance, which he called satyagraha. It was to be the cornerstone of India’s struggle to obtain independence from Britain, which it achieved in August 1947.

Tolstoy Farm came in the final years of Gandhi’s 21-year stay in SA. It was sold in 1914, says Menon.

Gandhi then returned to India, where he joined the Indian National Congress, becoming its leader in 1920. He died at the hands of an assassin in 1948.

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