Holidays in South Africa: Gandhi's house in Johannesburg turned into a boutique hotel

Holidays in South Africa: Gandhi’s house in Johannesburg turned into a boutique hotel

History and hospitality intertwine enticingly at this charming hotel in South Africa, where Gandhi developed his spirit of Satyagraha, or peaceful protest.

The historical icon who pioneered the philosophy of nonviolent resistance as a leader of the Indian independence movement in the first half of the 20th century lived in what is now the Satyagraha House in Johannesburg for a year between 1908 and 1909.

Mohandas Gandhi led a simple lifestyle of meditation, vegetarian food and philosophical discussions at The Satyagraha House. Today, guests can experience a similar lifestyle. No alcohol is served, and none of the eight rooms have a TV, although there is Wi-Fi for those who are desperate for a hidden Netflix session on their phone or tablet.

History and hospitality are enticingly entwined at this charming hotel (pictured) in South Africa, where Gandhi developed his spirit of Satyagraha, or peaceful protest.

History and hospitality are enticingly entwined at this charming hotel (pictured) in South Africa, where Gandhi developed his spirit of Satyagraha, or peaceful protest.

Gandhi stayed at what is now the Satyagraha House in Johannesburg for a year between 1908 and 1909.

Gandhi stayed at what is now the Satyagraha House in Johannesburg for a year between 1908 and 1909.

The house was built by Gandhi’s close friend Hermann Kallenbach, a German architect of Jewish origin. They lived in this house together and that was one of the 21 years that Gandhi spent in South Africa between 1893 and 1914.

Kallenbach built the house in a European style, but with integrated elements of African architecture – two rondavels (traditional round huts), a wooden frame and a thatched roof.

When Gandhi lived there, the house was in the countryside, with a cowshed, a well, and even a tennis court. Now in the beautiful suburb of Orange Grove, the home has been remodeled to reflect the local environment. Eco-friendly features include geothermal floor heating and energy efficient lighting.

The house was built by Gandhi's close friend Hermann Kallenbach, a German architect of Jewish origin.

The house was built by Gandhi’s close friend Hermann Kallenbach, a German architect of Jewish origin.

A breakfast with fresh produce from the garden is included in the rate for each hotel guest and is served in the mezzanine dining room where Gandhi used to sleep.

A breakfast with fresh produce from the garden is included in the rate for each hotel guest and is served in the mezzanine dining room where Gandhi used to sleep.

Gandhi used to sleep on a simple mattress on the mezzanine floor, which is now the reading area (with a replica of Gandhi's famous glasses and bookend) above the boutique hotel's dining room.

Gandhi used to sleep on a simple mattress on the mezzanine floor, which is now the reading area (with a replica of Gandhi’s famous glasses and bookend) above the boutique hotel’s dining room.

Kallenbach built the house in a European style, but with elements of African architecture integrated.

Kallenbach built the house in a European style, but with elements of African architecture integrated.

Mohandas Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement in the 20th century.

Mohandas Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement in the 20th century.

The entire staff is local, and prominent South African architects, historians and curators have been dedicated to making the guest house as authentic and educational as possible.

Entertainment takes the form of introductory yoga and meditation courses, or you can book a massage with a local therapist.

All food is vegetarian, prepared with fresh produce from the garden and local farmers – just the way Gandhi and Kallenbach would have eaten.

A breakfast with fresh produce from the garden is included in the rate for each hotel guest and is served in the mezzanine dining room where Gandhi used to sleep.

The main guest house, named Kraal for its architecture reminiscent of a traditional African farm, has three bedrooms, two of which have direct access to the local museum and are named after Gandhi’s wife Kasturba and son Manilal.

Then there is an annex with two handicapped bedrooms and a modern wing that has three more bedrooms and garden views.

The aesthetic throughout is stated to be simple and modest, with linens, decorative pieces and furniture sourced from Gandhi’s native Gujarat, India.

The museum tells about Gandhi’s experiences in South Africa and in particular what he shared here with Kallenbach and is set in the heart of the house, the hotel’s website explains.

Meditation courses take place in the gardens surrounding the museum and hotel.  In summer, the garden comes alive with orange and yellow flowers.

Meditation courses take place in the gardens surrounding the museum and hotel. In summer, the garden comes alive with orange and yellow flowers.

The main guest house, named Kraal for its architecture reminiscent of a traditional African farm, has three bedrooms, two of which have direct access to the local museum and are named after Gandhi's wife Kasturba and son Manilal. The aesthetic of the Satyagraha House is considered simple and unassuming, with linens, decor and furniture sourced from Gandhi's native Gujarat in India.

The main guest house, named Kraal for its architecture reminiscent of a traditional African farm, has three bedrooms, two of which have direct access to the local museum and are named after Gandhi’s wife Kasturba and son Manilal. The aesthetic of the Satyagraha House is considered simple and unassuming, with linens, decor and furniture sourced from Gandhi’s native Gujarat in India.

A double room at the hotel, including a breakfast of fruits, pastries, yoghurt and juice, starts at R3080 (£149.55/£200) per person.

A double room at the hotel, including a breakfast of fruits, pastries, yoghurt and juice, starts at R3080 (£149.55/£200) per person.

It contains a collection of historical photographs, letters, books, drawings and notebooks and is open to visitors and hotel guests every day from 10:00 to 16:00.

The garden, meanwhile, is reserved for meditation and is dotted with terracotta pots, Gandhi quote plaques, and trees called “Pride of India” that bloom orange and yellow in July and August.

A double room at the hotel, including a breakfast of fruits, pastries, yoghurt and juice, starts at R3080 (£149.55/£200) per person. Visit www.satyagrahahouse.com for more information.

THE DISPUTES OF GANDHI AND RACISM DURING HIS TIME IN SOUTH AFRICA

Gandhi is often credited with inspiring civil rights leaders around the world, but his own views on race while living in South Africa are troubling.

Gandhi is often credited with inspiring civil rights leaders around the world, but his own views on race while living in South Africa are troubling.

Gandhi faced discrimination while living in racially segregated South Africa, where white Europeans held a higher position in society than Indians.

The mistreatment he faced helped shape his political outlook of equality between white Europeans and Indian Hindus and Muslims.

However, his peaceful protests in South Africa for equality, including refusing to leave the first class carriage at Pietermaritzburg, did not include black South Africans.

Gandhi called black South Africans “savages” in an 1893 letter to the British colonial government in South East Africa, in which he also distinguished between “Aryan” Europeans and Indians and black Africans.

“Gandhi believed … whites and Indians [to be] higher than Africans at a civilized level,” Ashwin Desai, professor of sociology at the University of Johannesburg, told the BBC.

“He accepted the power of the white minority.”

Many scholars believe that after those early years in South Africa, Gandhi outgrew his racism towards black Africans, eventually influencing Nelson Mandela and the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Gandhi’s radical ideas of peaceful social progress continued to shape the 20th century.

But the comments he made while living in South Africa from 1893 to 1914 remain controversial.

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