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FAQ 5: Gandhi's Associate Mirabehn

Q

I wish to learn about M.K. Gandhi's associate Mirabehn.  I understand she was not with Gandhi on 30 January 1948 (as suggested by the film "Gandhi"), but rather was at her ashram in the Himalayas.

 

 

A

To address the first point you raise, you are right that Mirabehn was not with Gandhi when he was assassinated in New Delhi on Friday, 30 January 1948. She had left Delhi on 18 December 1947 and was indeed at her ashram at Pashulok in the Himalayas.

 


Information on Mirabehn (or Madeleine Slade, her original name) is readily available. Because she was such an important figure in Gandhi's life, all of the respected English language Gandhi biographies (single and multi-volume) discuss Mirabehn and her relationship with Gandhi.
 
I would not begin to give a biographical account of Mirabehn's life here, except to explain briefly how she came to Gandhi. In part, this was through Romain Rolland, who had written about both Beethoven, in whom she was deeply interested, and Gandhi. The two met, and Rolland encouraged her to travel. After she bought a copy of Rolland's 1923 biography of Gandhi ("Mahatma Gandhi: The Man Who Became One With The Universal Being"), her destination was India and Gandhi. She arrived
there in November 1925.
 
Some of the works in which you might be interested are: two publications by Mirabehn - "Gleanings Gathered at Bapu's Feet", and "New and Old Gleanings", both published by Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad in 1949; Mirabehn's autobiography, "The Spirit's Pilgrimage", published by Longmans, London, 1960 (obviously the definitive work on her life); "Women Behind Mahatma Gandhi" by Eleanor Morton, Max Reinhardt, London, 1954; and "In Search of Gandhi" by Richard Attenborough, The Bodley Head, London, 1982.
 
I mention this last book because in it Attenborough recalls his visit to Mirabehn at her home near Vienna in 1973. Mirabehn died in her 90th year, on 20 July 1982. She did see the film before she died and, generally, approved of it.

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