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Sites of Saytagrah, India’s non-violent freedom movement

Date of Submission: 15/04/2014
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
Ref.: 5899

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The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


S. No.

Names of the component parts:

State, Province or Region:

Latitude and Longitude, or UTM coordinates:


Kochrab Ashram

Kochrab, Gujarat

23° 1' 19.15'' N, 72° 34' 10.16'' E


Sabarmati Ashram

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

23° 3' 38.45'' N, 72° 34' 51.41'' E


Sevagram Ashram

Wardha, Maharashtra

20° 44' 43.15'' N, 78° 36' 7.90'' E


Khadi Pratishthan and Ashram at Sodepur

Kolkata, West Bengal

22° 41' 38.044'' N, 88° 23' 48.09'' E


Mani Bhawan

Mumbai, Maharashtra

18° 57' 27.32'' N, 72° 48' 41.08'' E


Dandi March route (from Sevagram Ashram to Dandi village)


20° 44' 43.15'' N - 21° 20' 6.295'' N, 78° 36' 7.90'' E - 72° 37' 21.0324'' E


Vedaranyam March route (from Tiruchirappalli to Vedaranyam)

Tamil Nadu

10° 47' 25.74'' N - 10° 22' 19.46'' N

78° 42' 16.82'' E - 79° 51' 1.35'' E


Champaran Satyagrah sites (Sadaqat/Bapuji Ashram in Patna; Champaran Ashram; Courtroom in Motihari)


25° 36' 37.66'' N, 85° 8' 30.00'' E;

26° 59' 2.09'' N, 84° 51' 16.62'' E;

26° 38' 60.00'' N, 84° 55' 0.12'' E


Sites of Kheda Satyagrah (Kheda; Nandiad; Indore; Bombay Town Hall)

Central-western India (states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh)

22° 45′ 0″ N, 72° 40′ 48″ E;

22° 41' 60.00'' N, 72° 52' 0.12'' E;

22° 43' 10.45'' N, 75° 51' 27.81'' E;

18° 55' 54.15'' N, 72° 50' 10.18'' E


Sites of Dharasana Satyagrah (Dharasana Salt Works factory)


20° 41' 17.93'' N, 72° 55' 52.65'' E


Sites of Bardoli Satyagrah

Bardoli, Gujarat

21° 7' 1.29'' N, 73° 6' 27.63'' E


Sites of Flag Satyagrah (Nagpur; Jabalpur; Mysore; Gowalia Tank Maidan in Mumbai,)


21° 8' 44.88'' N, 79° 5' 17.36'' E;

23° 10' 0.12'' N, 79° 57' 0.00'' E;

12° 17' 44.92'' N, 76° 38' 21.77'' E;

19° 4' 33.54'' N, 72° 52' 39.56'' E


Sites of Guruvayur Satyagrah (Guruvayur Temple)

Thrissur, Kerala

10° 35' 41.82'' N, 76° 2' 20.46'' E


Sites of Non-cooperation movement

Chauri-Chaura, Uttar Pradesh

26° 38' 57.37'' N, 83° 35' 3.397'' E


Sites of Quit India Movement (Gowalia Tank Maidan; Bajajwadi, Navbharat Vidyalaya and other sites at Wardha)


19° 4' 33.54'' N, 72° 52' 39.56'' E;

20° 44' 43.15'' N, 78° 36' 7.90'' E



West Bengal

23° 40' 48.00'' N, 87° 40' 48.00'' E


Sites of Vaikom Satyagraha (Sri Mahadevar Temple at Vaikom, Sivagiri Mutt, Vellore Mutt)


9° 44' 47.36'' N, 76° 23' 33.53'' E;

8° 44' 20.25'' N, 76° 43' 53.57'' E;

13° 13' 39.53'' N, 79° 42' 50.19'' E


Gandhi Bhawan, Beliaghata

Kolkata, West Bengal

22° 34' 0.26'' N, 88° 23' 34.76'' E


Tilak Ghat, Chennai

Tamil Nadu

13° 3' 8.69'' N, 80° 15' 2.97'' E


Gujarat Vidyapith

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

23° 2' 37.25'' N, 72° 34' 9.04'' E


Banaras Hindu University

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

25° 16' 6.71'' N, 82° 59' 25.71'' E


Jamia Millia Islamia

New Delhi

28° 33' 40.84'' N, 77° 16' 53.26'' E

The series contains sites associated with India’s non-violent[1] freedom movement, a rare and notable example of political emancipation achieved during the first half of 20th Century CE that became the role model for civil resistances worldwide. The movement demonstrated effective implementation of the instrument of Satyagrah[2], a political strategy promulgated by Mahatma Gandhi[3] based on non-violent means of civil resistance through tools such as protests, marches, demonstrations and boycotts. The success of Indian Satyagrah lay in it being a mass movement of civic resistance that saw participation of almost all sections of society rising above the divisions of caste, creed, religion and gender, unified against the oppressive colonial rule in the country. And the impact of this movement can be gauged from the fact that since 1966, over sixty political transitions have been effected through nonviolent civic resistances worldwide.

When using Satyagrah in a large-scale political conflict involving civil disobedience, Gandhi-ji believed that the Satyagrahis (follower of the Satyagrah philosophy) must undergo spiritual and physical training to ensure discipline and to develop their nonviolent reflexes. For this, he founded Ashrams (the Kochrab Ashram near Ahmedabad, Gujarat; the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; and the Sevagram Ashram near Wardha, Maharshtra) to teach Satyagrah. The Ashrams set out to remedy what it thought were defects in our national life from the religious, economic and political standpoints.[4] This development contributed at the first level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. personal transformation.

The Ashrams also acted as grounds for the next level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. construction programme for social upliftment and projects for welfare of oppressed sections of society. The principles of social equality and non-discrimination were the basis of life in the Ashrams and activities such as khadi weaving aimed at empowering the poorest of the poor and the highly oppressed providing them with opportunities of self-reliance against social discrimination prevalent in Indian society and politico-economic constraints imposed by the British.

The third level of indoctrination in non-violence was Political Action against the evil of Colonialism through collective civil action. This was done through the tools of demonstrations, protests, marches and boycotts that formed the core of the political Satyagrah movement for freedom in India.

In consonance with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, two types of sites have been identified to be associated with the Satyagrah movement. First are the Ashrams established by Mahatma Gandhi that acted as Training centres for indoctrination of the principles and instincts of non-violence, or Satyagrah.The second include sites most representative of the historical significance and non-violent means of mass scale civil agitation against the oppressive British rule where the political movement of Satyagrah was waged, which made the Indian example a success and a role model for other countries to follow. Together, these sites express the OUV of the Saytagrahmovement.

The Ashram sites include:

1. Kochrab Ashram, near Ahmedabad, Gujarat: The first Ashram established by Gandhi-ji in India in 1915 CE, it was a pioneering centre for students of Gandhian ideas to practise Satyagraha, self-sufficiency, Swadeshi, work for the upliftment of the poor, women and untouchables, and public education and sanitation.

2. Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad, Gujarat: The Sabarmati Ashram was the residence of Mahatma Gandhi for over twelve years (1917-1930 CE) and laboratory for his social experiments. Spread over an area of thirty-six acres (0.15 sq. kms.) on the banks of River Sabarmati, the Ashram had a tertiary school that focused on manual labour, agriculture and literacy, to advance Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts for the nation's self-sufficiency. It was also from here that on 12 March 1930, Mahatma Gandhi started his Dandi March, part of Salt Satyagrah in protest at the British Salt Law, which increased the taxes on Indian salt in an effort to promote sales of British salt in India. After Mahatma Gandhi shifted to the Sevagram Ashram, the locals are understood to have preserved the Ashram and post-Independence, a large section has been converted into a museum, known as Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalay. The Ashram comprised of small homes built in simple, austere manner following the vernacular architectural vocabulary.

3. Sevagram Ashram near Wardha, Maharashtra: The Sevagram Ashram became the residence of Mahatma Gandhi in 1936 CE. Spread over an area of over 300 acres (1.214 sq. kms.), it was the laboratory of Indian politics and head quarter of Indian freedom movement. Important decisions on Satyagrah movements were taken here and it became the central place for a number of institutions for the nation building activities devised by Gandhi-ji to suit the inherent strength of this country. This Ashram was also built in a simple manner comprising small homes akin to huts found in villages.

4. Khadi Pratishthan and Ashram at Sodepur, Kolkata: Second home and base in Eastern India for Gandhi-ji to promulgate the virtues of Satyagrah.

The political sites most representative of Indian independence movement that demonstrate the application of Satyagrah for the purpose of civil resistance include:

1. Mani Bhawan, Mumbai: The focal point of Mahatma Gandhi’s political activities between 1917-1934 CE from where several Satyagrah movements, such as the Non-Cooperation, Swadeshi, Khadi and Khilafat, were initiated. It is now converted into a memorial and looked after by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.

2. The Salt Satyagrah and the Dandi March: Route of the 24 days and 390 kms. long protest march (from Sevagram Ashram to Dandi village with 40 in-between halts at Aslali, Bareja, Navagam, Wasna, Matar, Dabhan, Nadiad, Boriavi, Anand, Napa, Borsad, Ras, Kankapura, Kareli, Gajera, Ankhi, Jambusar, Amod, Buva, Samni, Tralsa, Derol, Broach, Ankleshwar, Sajod, Mangrol, Rayma, Umrachi, Ertham, Bhatgam, Sandhier, Delad, Chhaprabhatha, Surat, Dindoli, Vanz, Dhaman, Navsari, Vijalpur and Matwad) held from 12 March 1930 CE in protest against the British Salt Act and broke the law by collecting salt directly from the sea.

3. Sites of Vedaranyam March: Known as the southern epicentre of the Salt Satyagrah, a protest march from Tiruchirappalli to Vedaranyam, a small coastal town in Tanjore district (now Nagapattinam district) of Tamil Nadu.

4. Sites of Champaran Satyagrah: Satyagrah against compulsory indigo farming and levy of high taxes in Bihar (Sadaqat/Bapuji Ashram in Patna, Champaran Ashram, Courtroom in Motihari)

5. Sites of Kheda Satyagrah: Satyagrah against increased taxed levied upon poor farmers despite large parts of Gujarat being hit by famines. (Sites at Kheda, Nandiad and Indore; Bombay Town Hall)

6. Sites of Dharasana Satyagrah: In succession to the Salt Satyagrah and in protest against the British Salt Act (Dharasana Salt Works factory)

7. Sites of Bardoli Satyagrah: Another Satyagrah against increased tax levied upon poor farmers despite the region being hit by floods and famines. (Sites in Bardoli taluka)

8. Sites of Flag Satyagrah: Focused on exercising the right and freedom to hoist the nationalist flag. (Sites at Nagpur, Jabalpur and Mysore; Gowalia Tank Maidan in Mumbai,)

9. Sites of Guruvayur Satyagrah: Satyagrah as an effort to allow for the entry of Untouchables to the Guruvayur Temple at Thrissur, Kerala (Guruvayur Temple)

10. Sites of Non-cooperation movement: Satyagrah held in response to the oppressive atrocities such as Rowlett’s Act and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre through refusal to buy British goods, withdrawal from British run educational and civic institutions, adoption of local handicrafts and picketing of liquor shops. (Sites in Chauri-Chaura)

11. Sites of Quit India Movement: Cry for total British withdrawal and complete self rule (Gowalia Tank Maidan; Bajajwadi, Navbharat Vidyalaya and other sites at Wardha)

12. Sites of Vaikom Satyagraha: Satyagrah in Kerala against untouchability in Hindu society (Roads leading to Sri Mahadevar Temple and other sites at Vaikom, Sivagiri Mutt, Vellore Mutt)

13. ‘Natun Bari’, ‘Shyamoli’ and ‘Santiniketan Griho’ in Santiniketan, West Bengal

14. Gandhi Bhawan, Beliaghata, Kolkata: Site where Gandhi-ji fasted against the violence that erupted after the Partition of India in 1947 CE.

15. Tilak Ghat, Chennai: Site for public gatherings and discourse during various Satyagrah movements

16. Gujarat Vidyapith at Ahmedabad, Gujarat; Banaras Hindu University at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and Jamia Millia Islamia at New Delhi: Institutes of Higher Learning that saw education as a tool for social awakening and were important centres of the Nationalist movement for freedom in the country. The Banaras Hindu University was established in 1916 CE by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, another prominent leader in the Indian independence movement. The Gujarat Vidyapith was founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 CE to promote educational institutions run by Indians for Indians. Jamia Millia Islamia came up in response to his call in 1920 CE.

[1] The principle of non-violence or ahimsa is a much older tenet of Indian culture and spirituality deep rooted in the beliefs of Ancient Indian religions such as Jainism and Buddhism. Another role model for Mahatma Gandhi was the Kuka Movement led by Bhai Ram Singh Namdhari, originator of the nonviolent and civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1872 CE.

[2] Satyagrah is an amalgam of two Sanskrit words, Satya (meaning Truth) and Agrah (meaning Request or Insistence); loosely the word translates to mean ‘Insistence on Truth’ or pursuit of truth. It is a specific strategy under the wider umbrella of civil resistance and the term was coined by Mahatma Gandhi in 1906 CE during his fight for civil rights of resident Indians in South Africa. He defined it as the Force which is born of Universal Truth and Love, equating it with Non-Violent means for all actions including protests. This theory stems from the belief that means and ends are inseparable, i.e. in order to seek justice it would be contradictory to use unjust means, or the use of violence to obtain peace. Thus, in essence, Satyagrah seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists in any manner[2], as opposed to violent resistance or armed conflicts, which are meant to cause harm to the antagonist. Mahatma Gandhi asserted that Satyagrah is a weapon of the strong that always insists upon Truth; in the context of Indian Freedom Movement, the Truth meant the right of Indians to be free of oppression and to be treated as equals by the British.

[3] Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Gandhi-ji

[4] The chief activity in the Ashrams was the teaching of the old as well as the young, who also received some general education. Hand weaving was the principal industry with some carpentry as accessory to it. The hand weaved cotton was then used for cloth making.  No servants we reengaged; therefore cooking, sanitation, fetching water everything was attended to by the residents of the Ashrams. Truth and other observances were obligatory on them all. Distinctions of caste were not observed. Untouchability had not only no place in the Ashram, but its eradication from Hindu society was one of our principal objectives. Emancipation of women from some customary bonds was insisted upon from the first. Therefore women in the Ashram enjoy full freedom. It was an Ashram rule that persons following a particular faith should have the same feeling for followers of other faiths as for their co-religionists. An Ashram without orchard, farm or cattle would not be a complete unit. At Sabarmati there was available cultivable land and therefore went in for agriculture at once. Therefore, these ashrams were a model of sustainable living in order to attain purna swaraj.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

At a time when the world was witnessing violent warfare, armed revolutions and externally assisted attempts at decolonization, a mass movement for freedom from the British colonial rule through non-violent means was surging in India, a rare and notable example of emancipation driven solely by Indians. This non-violent means of resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi was termed as Satyagrah and became synonymous with the cry of Indian independence agitation.

The Universal Value of this theory lies in its able demonstration in the Indian context that became a role model for other civil rights movements across the world such as the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa led by Nelson Mandela, and the African-American civil rights movement in the United States led by leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and James Bevel.

Criterion (iv): The Ashram as the outstanding example of a type of building or architectural ensemble that illustrates a significant stage in human history – the training centres where the principle of non-violence was indoctrinated in Satyagrahis.

Criterion (vi): The series is directly associated with the idea of Satyagrah, non-violent civil resistance, which is of Outstanding Universal Value and has impacted other civil liberation movements across the world.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Most of the sites identified have been converted into Gandhi Museums or Memorials and follow the Gandhian principles of austerity and simplicity in their maintenance. Hence, while changes have been made to original structures and complexes, they are not drastic in nature to adversely affect the Authenticity and Integrity of the identified sites. The Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India has constituted a Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission to inventories and prepare a framework for protection and management of these sites.

Comparison with other similar properties

The proposed series on Satyagrah related sites is comparable to the following World Heritage Sites, which relate either with social/political emancipation or suppression, or triumph of human spirit and universal principles of Equality, Liberty and Democracy:

1. Independence Hall, USA; Criteria (vi); inscribed in 1979: The property is inscribed on the basis that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were signed in this building that further ascribes to the importance of universal principles of freedom and democracy. The principle of Non-violent civil resistance deployed in the Indian Freedom Movement has also assumed universal proportions and influenced/continues to influence civil resistances worldwide.

2. Robben Islands, South Africa; Criteria (iii) and (vi); inscribed in 1999: Just like this inscribed, the proposed series also symbolizes the triumph of human spirit and of freedom over oppression and racism.

3. Le Morne Cultural Landscape, Mauritius; Criteria (iii) and (vi); 2008: The inscribed property is symbolic of the slaves’ fight for freedom in Mauritius, their sufferings and sacrifices that go beyond its geographical location. The same applies to the proposed series where millions of Indians suffered at the hands of the British but showed resilience in the face of it and became role models for entire humanity.

4. National History Park – Citadel, Sans Souci, Ramiers, Haiti; Criteria (iv) and (vi); inscribed in 1982: Symbols of Liberty being the first monuments to be constructed by black slaves who had gained their freedom; the proposed series also depicts the first nationwide agitation and landmarks of the universal phenomena of Satyagrah popularly known as ‘Truth Love’.

5. Luther Memorials in Eisleben and Wittenberg, Germany; Criteria (iv) and (vi); inscribed in 1996: A personality based inscription where the ideas (of Reformation) promulgated by individuals, Martin Luther and his fellow reformer Melanchthon changed the religious and the political course of the Western World. The contributions of Mahatma Gandhi in promotion of non-violent means of civil resistance in which large sections of society participated and changed the face of agitations and revolutions worldwide are similarly compelling.

On a national level, there are no comparable sites in India as it was a landmark historic event unparalleled in Indian history. There are other sites of Nationalist importance in India from the same period like the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, sites that are Gandhi memorials like the Aga Khan Palace in Pune and other sites related to general political discourse and discussions but have not been included in the series as they do not link directly with the theme of Non-violence civil resistance.