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By Christine Pemberton

There is a corner of Africa that is forever India. In the bustling high-veld city of Johannesburg in South Africa, a city of skyscrapers and go-getters and one of the continent's most happening cities, there is a tiny B&B where the service is French, the ambience and ethos are Indian, but the whole delightful fusion is unmistakably African, too. Namaste, bonjour & welcome to Satyagraha House.

Satyagraha House Image

Mahatma Gandhi lived in South Africa for 21 years, and it is during those formative years that Gandhi-ji was first exposed to racism, when he was thrown out of a whites only railway compartment.

Satygraha House was built in 1907 by the German-Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach, who had forged a friendship with Gandhi-ji when he was developing his Satyagraha philosophy in South Africa. Gandhi-ji shared the house with Kallenbach between 1908 and 1909. Built in the style of an African kraal with rondavels and a thatched roof, it was named the Kraal, which means barn in Afrikaans.

Satyagraha House Image

The original house had stables and a tennis court, but both Gandhi-ji and Kallenbach led a life of meditation and chastity. Gandhi slept in an attic room which he entered via a ladder, but he and Kallenbach shared the same kitchen and entertained their guests in the living room. The houses did not have connecting doors, so you had to leave one house in order to enter the other.

Satyagraha House Image

In 2009, a French company bought the heritage property when it was on the market, and converted it into a charming little B&B with a museum incorporated. There are 3 rooms in the original "rondavel" and a further four modern rooms in the gardens.

Satyagraha House Image

The museum at the heart of Satyagraha House focuses on Gandhi’s life in South Africa, especially the time he spent living at The Kraal. As well as the guest rooms and the museum, there is a dining room situated under the mezzanine where Gandhi lived, and a spiritual library populated with books about different political philosophies. There is also a peaceful garden that guests are encouraged to explore.

Satyagraha House Image

Satyagraha House honours Gandhi’s principles in several ways. Only vegetarian food is served, and introductions to meditation and yoga are offered. Television, alcohol and cigarettes are not part of the Satyagraha lifestyle, but there is a designated smoking area outside. Satyagraha House is environmentally conscious : all produce is organic, the heating is geothermal, all water used for non-drinking purposes comes from a spring on the property, and energy-saving lighting is favoured. One feels that the Mahatma would have approved...

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There is an undeniable Gandhian influenced simplicity and rigour to the bedrooms in Satyagraha House. Plainly and simply furnished, shorn of the usual modern gadgets beloved of hotels the world over, there is a sense of peace and tranquillity here.

Satyagraha House Image

Much of the furniture has been sourced from India, adding to the authenticity, and the "feel" of Satyagraha House.

Satyagraha House Image

Satyagraha means insistence on truth, and it is an amazing feeling to be sitting in the very place where Mahatma Gandhi lived while he developed his thinking on this guiding philosophy. The sparse, tranquil surroundings encourage one to sit and think, too. There is a library and books about Gandhi-ji are to be found on your bedside table, so pick one up, sit cosily by the fire and read and think and dream.

Satyagraha House Image

Another stunning highveld sunset over Satyagraha House, a secret little place where you have the opportunity to live, sleep, eat and meditate in the home of a man who changed the world through peaceful means.


 

 

 

 

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