Hidden in the narrow lanes of Banaras-suburb Ramnagar, Lal Bahadur Sahstri’s paternal home has been around for over a century. However, the only time it ever made national news was when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited it earlier last year. However, following his visit, the iconic landmark has once again fallen out of favors with the media.
India’s second Prime Minister and one of her most loved sons, Lal Bahadur Shastri passed away on 11th of January, 1966. Shastri left behind a legacy of simplicity – something which was reflected in his private life as well as his public life. In an era where leaders run campaigns to be perceived as a ‘man of the people’, Lal Bahadur Shastri stands out as the apex example of simple living and high thinking.
When you typically think of Banaras, the first image that flashes is that of the ghats and the mighty Ganga. The evening prayers and the babas. Maybe some visuals from Raanjhanaa and Masaan if you’re into Bollywood. However, Ramnagar is a suburb which is often overlooked by tourists visiting this temple-town.
Ramnagar, which is on the opposite side of the river bank of Banaras, is known for the Ramnagar fort and a few temples of local deities. However, Lal Bahadur Shastri’s home – hidden in narrow lanes of these streets is all set to get national recognition soon as efforts have now begun to develop it into a museum.
Reaching It: Reaching the place can be quite tough, especially if you do not know the exact location. However, the best thing to do is to ask. The home is located close to the Ramnagar fort – and you can reach there on foot within 10 minutes. The locals know the location of the place and will happily guide you. However, here’s a Google Maps link for the same.
Shastri’s Home is a Reflection on Shastri’s Life
Psychologists believe that the early years of your life are very important and help you shape your future. Shastri, who would later be known for his humble lifestyle and simplicity – spent a significant portion of his childhood here. While a major part of the home now reflects modern day architecture, some parts of it are still a kuchha house, made of mud – the way it was during Shastri’s childhood.
Back when he was growing up, the place lacked any comfort or luxury. Mud floors, charpoys made of wood and rope, lanterns for illumination – such was the childhood of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Later in life when he became India’s prime minister, he continued this simple lifestyle.
If you enjoy stories from India’s past, then this is a really cool place to visit. The volunteers who sit at the front desk are great storytellers and will keep telling you about interesting tidbits from Shastri’s life. There are a number of portraits and pictures of Shastri with various foreign delegates and important men of his era.
Stories of Shastri’s simplicity are quite popular.
- Shastri would swim across the river with books tied to his head because he could not afford a boat or a ferry.
- When Shastri was in jail, his family got a pension of Rs. 50 per month. After realizing that his wife had managed to save Rs. 10 out of this pension, he requested his pension to be reduced to Rs. 40 and the remaining Rs. 10 to go to the servants of people’s society.
- Even as Prime Minister, Shastri never accepted gifts. He once went to a textile mill and was looking for Saris to gift his wife – however, he kept asking the mill-owner to show him a cheaper sari as he could not afford a costly one. He refused gifts saying he cannot accept what he cannot afford. Can you imagine any Prime Minister of India saying this?
- While he was the Prime Minister, he let go some of his personal staff and servants as he was unable to pay them monthly salaries. Instead he began to wash his own clothes and utensils.
The next time you go to Banaras, do pay a visit to Shastri’s home in Ramnagar and feel the simplicity of this great leader. Almost every major city today has a place named in his honor. There’s always a Shastri-nagar, Shastri road, Shastri Park, Shastri Hall – or some structure named in his honor. It’s a shame his home is now a forgotten landmark in his own country!