Vijayawada: The visits of Mahatma Gandhi to Bezawada, now the modern Vijayawada, ignited the freedom spirit among Telugu people and strengthened Azadi Sangram. Mahatma Gandhi visited Bezawada six times between 1919 and 1946. Gandhi first came to Vijayawada on March 31, 1919 and spoke on Satyagraha at a public meeting held at Rammohan Roy Library.
Vijayawada is the only place in the country where a hill has been named after the Father of the Nation to commemorate his visits to the city. A 52-foot-tall stupa with Gandhi quotations, a library, a planetarium and a children’s train were set up on Gandhi Hill.
The All India Congress Working Committee meeting was held in 1921 on March 31 and April 1 in the historical Victoria Museum. Freedom fighter Pingali Venkayya, a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi designed the tricolour and presented it to Gandhi during the Congress working committee meeting which was approved as national flag.
Former Assembly deputy speaker Mandali Buddha Prasad recalled numerous leaders including Andhra Bank founder Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitharamaiah, Desoddarakudu Kasinadhuni Nageswara Rao, Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao, Mutnuri Krishna Rao, Goparaju Ramachandra Rao and other nationalist movement leaders were inspired by Gandhi.
He said that a big public meeting was held in the open area near Vijayawada railway station in which Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Sarojini Naidu, Nehru and others addressed the public which later grew to be the busiest commercial centre, Gandhinagar.
He said Babu Rajendra Prasad, in his autobiography, said he went to Vijayawada with Gandhiji and got a mammoth response from a large number of gatherings when they stepped down from the train at 3 am. He said that Vijayawada was crucial in the Indian freedom movement as it ignited the spirit among the masses.
Andhra Arts Academy chairman Golla Narayana Rao, belonging to a freedom fighter’s family, said that Gandhi, during his visit in 1921, stayed in their house. Their family is still preserving the almirah and the room which was used by Mahatma as homage, he added. He said their family offered food in gold plates to Gandhi and other leaders but Mahatma ate food in his own silver plate and took their gold plate as donation to Swarajya Nidhi.
Further, Gandhi vigorously toured coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema many times as part of his varied agitations against the British, be it the Non-Cooperation Movement, the Civil Disobedience Movement or the Khaddar (khadi) Yatra.