Loosely translated, satyagraha means insistence on truth, formed by compounding sanskrit words satya meaning truth and agraha meaning insistence or holding firm to. It is famously known to refer to Mahatma Gandhi’s pacifistic political movement that emphasised non violent resistance against the British rule in India and influencing civil movements in South Africa and Martin Luther King in the United States.
When in South Africa (1893 -1914), Gandhi had a Jewish-German friend called Hermann Kallenbach. Kallenbach was an architect and lived with Gandhi in Johannesburg for about two years from 1908 in the house he built him. The house is called The Kraal, because of its design similar to an African kraal; it still stands in Norwood Johannesburg and it’s managed by the Simon Van Der Stel Foundation. Just a stone throw away from the busy Louis Botha Avenue, yet upon entering the Satyagraha House you’re immediately transported to serenity and calmness that epitomised Gandhi. The small meditation garden and sound of nature from the birds populating the large trees scattered in the yard amplify the peaceful and meditative atmosphere.The house is now a registered part of the South Africa’s historical heritage and presents an innovative accommodation concept linking guesthouse to museum. Seven rooms are spread out between the original house, a cottage added a few years later, and the modern wing built in 2010. A museum retracing Gandhi’s experiences in South Africa is installed in the heart of the house.
During my visit SABC 2’s Sunday Sadhana (a Hindu magazine program) was shooting a feature on the Satyagraha House which will be aired some time in March. I’ll record the episode and link it to this post as I, yours truly, will be featured in the episode eating the freshest green salad I have ever had, prepared in their kitchen, with some of the ingredients taken right from their thriving garden. If you find yourself there for a visit of their museum, or decide to attend their Sunday meditative yoga class, make sure you ask for their freshly squeezed apple and watermelon juice. It’s divine.