Gandhi toured across the erstwhile South Canara from 24th to 27th February 1934 as part of his Harijan Tour. South Canara then comprised of the present day Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Districts of Karnataka. Here are a few excerpts from the research and documentation carried out by the Gandhian Study Centre of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College, Udupi, Karnataka.
Eighty-five Years of Gandhiji's Last Visit to South Canara or Dakshina Kannada District of Karnataka
65year old Gandhi had started his countrywide tour from Wardha on 7th November 1933. The tour was popularly known as Harijan Tour. The main objective of the tour was to work for the uplift of the downtrodden and enable eradication of untouchability. It had also hoped to create a constructive mass public opinion about the cause. As Bihar was hit by a massive earthquake on 15th January 1934, Gandhi started to raise funds towards the rehabilitation of Bihar quake victims. Such an appeal was made in advance to the people of this region. The people of South Canara generously donated towards both of the causes. The people here were aware of objectives of the Tour and were also aware of the efficacy of the Gandhian type of relief work during the times of floods in South Canara.
85 Years ago
Gandhi traveled from Madikeri to the erstwhile South Canara on 24th February 1934 by car. He was received at Sampaje on behalf of the people of South Canara. During this tour (24th to 27th ) he was offered donations for the Harijan Fund and for the Bihar Earthquake Relief fund by the people of Sampaje, Sullia, Puttur, Uppinangadi, Vittla-Kabaka, Kalladka, Panemanglur, Bantwal, Mangalore, Gurupura, Kinnigoli, Mulki, Padubidri, Kapu, Katapady, Udyavara, Udupi, Brahmavar and Kundapura.
Keynotes of Gandhi’s visit
After the examination of all the available records, newspapers, memoirs, oral history and reminiscences supplemented by interviews and field visits , the study was able to reconstruct the Harijan tour of Gandhi in South Canara as below –
- On 24th February, 1934 (Saturday) Gandhi left Madikeri by car at 7 a.m. and reached South Canara. About 200 people were present in Sampaje to welcome Gandhi. In Sullia 1000 people had gathered to have glimpse of Gandhi. Gandhi delivered messages in Sampaje and Sullia.
- He arrived in Puttur by 9 a.m. and visited the house of his host Dr. Sundar Rao. There, Kumari Gowridevi, the 14 year old daughter of Dr. Sundar Rao spontaneously donated her gold bangles soon after hearing about the objective of Gandhiji's Tour. It is remembered that thereafter Gowridevi came to be popularly known as Chinna Gowri signifying her donation in terms of chinna (that literally means gold in Kannada). Gandhi then visited a Dalit keri at Bottatharu and Ragikumeru. A public meeting was held near Travellers Bungalow where about 5000 people had assembled of which about 500 were women. Addresses on behalf of the people of Puttur, Panchayat Board, Students and Hindi Premi Mandal were presented to Gandhi. Gandhi spoke to some length in the meeting . Smt. Lakshmi Rai presented two gold bangles - One for the Harijan Fund and the other for Bihar Earthquake Relief Fund. Her son Kushalnath Rai presented two gold bangles. After having refreshments at Dr. Sundar Rao's residence Gandhiji left Puttur.
- By 2:30 p.m. Gandhi left to Mangalore and he was greeted by large gatherings of people on the way. Assemblies of 500 people in Kabaka, 200 people in Kalladka, 2000 people in Panemangalore, 3000 people in Bantwal, 500 people in Arkula, 200 people in Adyar were the major gatherings and the purses were presented in these places en route to Mangalore. Gandhi gave a small message at the Bantwal meeting.
- Gandhi reached Mangalore before 5 pm in the evening . The roads were well decorated for the occasion. The first programme was at Jnanodaya Samaj. He was presented with an address, a purse and Smt. Jogamma Tingalaya presented a Silver charaka. Gandhi gave a message on temperance to the gathering. About 1000 people were present in the meeting.
- Next meeting was at the Depressed Classes Mission. Sooryanarayana Rao escorted him to show the campus. Addressing the gathering, Gandhi hailed the contributions of Late Kudmul Rangarao, the founder of DC Mission.
- Gandhi next visited National Girls School. Around 1500 women had gathered there to listen to the Mahatma. After invocation and welcome song Smt. Anandibai readout the address. This was followed by the presentation of an address by the girls who were studying Hindi. Gandhi delivered a small speech on the occasion.
- From there Gandhi went straight to R. S. Nagarkar’s house in Pentlandpet for some rest and refreshment.
- The next was the public meeting at Maidan (Grounds). By 6:45 Gandhi reached the Maidan and by then about 10000 people had gathered to listen to the Mahatma and to have a glimpse of the Mahatma. The Welcome song was rendered by Poet Lakshminarayana Punichithaya. The Municipality, the Taluk Board, the District Board and the organisers on behalf of the people presented addresses to Gandhi. Gandhi spoke covering various issues of Harijan uplift and removal of untouchability in his half an hour long speech. After that Gandhi himself auctioned the gift items.
- That night he stayed at R. S. Nagarkar’s house in Pentlandpet, Mangalore.
- On 25th Feb. 1934, (Sunday) morning Gandhi visited a Dalit colony in Mangalore.
- He visited Kanara High School and laid the foundation stone to a common temple (Sarvajanik Shri Krishna Mandir) and delivered a speech.
- By 8 a.m. he went to meet Karnad Sadashiva Rao’s mother in her house.
- Gandhi reached Mulki via Gurupura, Bajape, Yekkar, Katil – Kinnigoli route .
- Gatherings of 100 people in Gurupur, 100 people in Yekkar and about 1000 people in Kinnigoli greeted Gandhi and presented him purses en route to Mulki.
- Gandhi reached Mulki by 9.30 a.m. more than 3000 people had gathered to listen to the Mahatma and have a glimpse of his. He addressed the public gathering. An address and a purse were presented in Mulki. Then he left to Udupi.
Our earlier studies on Gandhi’s visit were largely based on the detailed reports published in the issues of ‘Harijan’ (English Weekly) patronized by Gandhi, and from the contents of the CWMG volume that is based on the speeches as reported by ‘The Hindu’ (English Daily published from Madras). The Harijan weekly of March 9th reported the tour in detail. The activities of Gandhi on 24th Feb. 1934 were reported in 'The Hindu' dated 26-2-34 and the programmes of 25th were reported by the paper on 28-2-34. They are considered as the source materials for the study of the tour. The present study goes a step further by retrieving and documenting the editions of Rashtra Bandhu (Weekly) newspaper that covered Gandhi’s Harijan Tour in South Canara. The oral history also provide the most authentic source material to reconstruct those days by chronicling the events covering the preparations of the visit, events during the visit and its aftermath. This section of our study is also supplemented with some of the Government records that were available to us.
 All the newspapers of South Canara in 1934 were weeklies or fortnightlies.
Source: From the collections of Gandhian Study Centre, MGM College, Udupi.
This article was prepared to commemorate the 85 years of Mahatma Gandhi's last visit to the region. It also commemorates 150 Years of Gandhi. (The photographs shared here stand testimony to Gandhiji's activities in this region on 24-2-1934.)