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Mahatma Gandhi as never seen before – unless you knew him personally!

Jayan Mitra, GandhiServe

Jayan Mitra was born at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala (India) in 1972. His primary and high school training he received at the Gandhian school and ashram Mitraniketan near Thiruvananthapuram. Gandhian values became part and parcel of his life ever since. Already in his student days he started to identify and collect photographs and other material on Mahatma Gandhi and India’s independence movement. Jayan Mitra graduated from the University of Kerala, and received a post graduate degree (MBA) from Madurai Kamaraj University in Tamil Nadu. During and after his university studies he got associated with several NGOs, such as the Santhigram in Thiruvanthapuram, Peaceful Society in Goa and INSAF in Mumbai. In 1995 he participated in a training for folk education in Denmark and got involved in many social action movements in India and abroad, such as the World Social Forum in Mumbai and the National Social Action Movement in Hyderabad. He organized many seminars and workshops in various parts of India in association with different organisations.

In 1998 Jayan Mitra moved to Mumbai. In 2001 he registered GandhiServe India as charitable trust and acts as its director ever since. He regularly organizes educational projects on Gandhi and nonviolence, and video records talks with participants in India’s Independence movement.

Jayan Mitra co-edited the book MAHATMA – Gandhi’s Life in Colour which was published by GandhiServe India in 2016.

On 2 October 2016 – Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and International Day of Nonviolence –  the Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, brought the definitive photo biography on the Apostle of Nonviolence on its way in his residence at New Delhi. A grand public launch was held on 5th October by Minister of State, Tourism and Culture, Dr. Mahesh Sharma.

The book has been compiled and published by the charitable GandhiServe India Trust, Mumbai. The aim of the Trust is to spread the ethics of peace and nonviolence by disseminating information about and popularizing Mahatma Gandhi’s life and work. GandhiServe India helps alleviate conflicts and inspires others through making available media and resources on Gandhi’s life and thoughts.

The photo biography introduces to the reader the life and work of the historic figure of Mahatma Gandhi through rare images and archival material. In a monumental effort GandhiServe India collected Gandhi’s photographs from sources allover and did extensive research on the captions, too.

In an interdisciplinary project, Gandhi scholars, historians, photo experts and graphic designers joined hands in order to turn black and white photographs into colour images, thus making them true documents of history. After scanning, all photographs have been cleaned digitally and colourized by skilled Indian hands according to the historic settings. When the photographs were taken the actual colourful scenes were reduced to black and white photographs due to technical limitations of those days. Now, in a complex process Indian experts have added the missing colours.  

With this the intention was not to manipulate or adulterate pictures but to bring them closer to the colourful image the photographs documents. Except those who were lucky enough to meet Gandhi personally, the world has never seen him as natural and sharp as in this book. The colours add another dimension to the photographs and reduce the distance between viewer and photograph. The book is of A3 size and weighs 6.5 kg. It contains the oldest known photograph of Gandhi as well as many rare and yet unpublished photographs. On 692 pages the book covers his whole life in detail by 1281 photographs, cartoons, newspaper clippings, select letters and maps. This coffee table book provides an insight in Gandhi’s thoughts by select quotations about 37 subjects that were dear to the Apostle of Nonviolence. His life is documented also by way of a well-written biography and a detailed chronology in the appendix. The foreword has been written by eminent sociologist and social reformer, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement, who also contributed an article about his life and mission in the appendix of the book.

The rare photographs include a unique snapshot of a protest march Gandhi undertook in South Africa in 1913 and his attendance at the appendicitis operation of his granddaughter Manu in the operation theatre.


This and many other events are covered by a series of photographs which comes close to running pictures. Amongst those are also the touching photographs of a highly emotional Mahatma Gandhi during his convalescence at Juhu Beach, Mumbai, in 1944.

The Salt March is covered in detail and allows the viewer a rare insight in the atmosphere of a crucial period of India’s history.

This is also achieved by the presentation not only of the Father of the Nation but also of his close associates and family. His wife Kasturba is often seen together with her husband and also in numerous – impressive – portraits.

Yet unknown stories are revealed in the book such as how Gandhi’s secretary Mahadev Desai was fooled by a photographer who took Gandhi’s photo without his consent. Also Gandhi’s visit to Europe in 1931 is documented in stunning photographs by photographers from England, Switzerland, France, Italy and Vatican City. Have you ever seen Mahatma Gandhi swimming? Now you can with photographs of impressive quality.

Intimate insights are also given by showing Gandhi’s sister Raliatbehn giving massage to her brother in 1939.

The famous photo showing Gandhi walking with his grandson Kanu on the beach has been often wrongly captioned in the past. Now the book reveals the true story behind the photograph.

Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, also known as „Frontier Gandhi“, had established an army of 100.000 nonviolent soldiers in the then North West Frontier Provinces. This army, the Kudai Kitmatgars (Servants of God), were also known as ‚Red Shirts‘. Now they are seen in the true colours of their uniform for the first time.

Gandhi, the advocate of simplicity, sat on a silver chair during his visit of the Ruler of Rajkot in 1939: a unique photograph reproduced in the book in a yet unknown quality.

Gandhi’s train journeys are legendary: seeing him collecting funds for his Harijan cause by just stretching out his arms from the train window shows the faith and trust people had in their Mahatma!

His own trust in God and devotion to the service of humanity can be understood by seeing Gandhi giving massage to a leper patient who was believed to be terminally ill and just wanted to get Gandhi’s darshan when he appeared in front of Gandhi’s ashram ….

Probably the most personal photo shows Gandhi at the deathbed of his wife Kasturba in 1944. The added colours make this intimate photograph even more impressive.

Easily be misunderstood can be the photograph showing a blind villager squatting in front of Mahatma Gandhi in 1947: he is not begging for money but begging that Gandhi may accept his contribution to the Bihar Relief Fund for which he fasted the whole day!

The photographs following the assassination of Gandhi on 30th January 1948, incl. the next days’ funeral and the distribution of his ashes at Triveni document impressively the grief of his associates, family, and even the common man. He left an empty space that could not be filled until today! Nevertheless, his message of peace, truth and nonviolence lives on, without boundaries in time or in space.

Due to extensive research and technical advancement GandhiServe India is now able to publish the definitive photo biography MAHATMA – Gandhi’s Life in Colour. This ‘monument on paper’ is the official contribution by GandhiServe India to the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, which will be celebrated the world over in 2018/19.

This book appeals to the conscience of humanity not to forget or ignore Gandhi’s teachings. For more information and to buy the book visit www.mahatmabook.com.

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