Mahatma Gandhi
in Johannesburg

Although Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa, I've concentrated on Gandhi in Johannesburg, and in particular, where he lived.

"....I was an insignificant Coolie lawyer...."

"Truly speaking, it was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now"

"My love for South Africa, and my concern for her problems are no less than for India"

A statue of a young Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi Square in downtown Johannesburg

Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, in the Indian coastal town of Porbandar on 2nd October 1869, Gandhi was later given the title of Mahatma, meaning Great Soul, due to his highly developed spirituality.

He was married as a 14 year old in an arranged child marriage, and battled through school whist his wife, Kasturbai – according to local customs, lived a separate life away from him, with her parents.

After finishing school in 1888, Gandhi sailed for London to study law, and obtained his degree from the University College London in 1891.

After qualifying, he returned to India where he tried to set up his own business in 1892, but after failing, accepted a job to assist at a legal trial, with a Muslim run Indian trading company, Dada Abdullah & Company, in Durban in 1893
South African Citizens : No charge
International visitors : R70.00

7 Days a Week : 10h00 – 16h00 (10.00am - 4.00pm)

Telephone : +27 (0)11 485-5928
Send an E-Mail

Satyagraha Guest House and Museum
15 Pine Road (Entrance via Garden Road, off Louis Botha Avenue)

GPS Co-ordinates (hddd.dddddd):
S26.156378 E028.083938

During his first year in South Africa, Gandhi, en route from Durban to Pretoria, was thrown off a train in Pietermaritzburg for refusing to move to a third class compartment, which was specifically for 'non-whites', despite holding a first class ticket.

This incident had a huge effect on him, and convinced him to remain in the country beyond his planned stay - to fight racial prejudice, and assist South African Indians in their fight to be treated as an equal.

In 1894 he helped found the Natal Indian Congress, to unify local Indians into a political force, and became the first secretary.

In September of the same year, Gandhi became the first Indian to be enrolled as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Natal.

He returned to India briefly in 1896 and started campaigning on behalf of South Africa’s Indians, before sailing back to Durban at the end of that year.

At the start of the Anglo Boer War (South African War) in 1899, Gandhi, a loyal British subject, formed the voluntary Indian Ambulance Corps after calling on Indians who demanded full citizenship, to support the war effort.

1,000 locals volunteered as stretcher bearers, and 7 000 travelled from India as non-combatants.

A memorial on the Observatory ridge, today neglected and vandalized, was erected in 1902 to honour the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Zoroastrian members of the Indian Army who fell during the war, and a grave, in memory of "....four unknown details from India....", is found in the Braamfontein Cemetery – both of these are suburbs in Johannesburg.

Despite Gandhi’s efforts, the situation for Indians did not improve, but continued to deteriorate.

At the end of 1901, Gandhi set sail for India where he presented the resolution on South Africa to the Congress, but sailed back to Durban in 1902 when anti-Asiatic legislation was being passed in the Transvaal.

Gandhi moved to Johannesburg in 1903, and kept offices, until 1910, for a law firm he set up in Court Chambers, 15 Rissik Street, on the corner of Anderson Street.
He lived alone in rooms behind the business during 1903 and 1904.
The original building has been demolished, and this today is a car park.

Later in 1904, Gandhi moved - for a short period, into a house that belonged to Henry Pollak - a partner in his law firm, at 34 Grove Road, Orange Grove.

The house at 34 Grove Road, Orange Grove, where Gandhi lived for a short period in 1904

Later that year, when Gandhi brought his wife and four sons out from India, he moved again, this time into this double-storey house (picture below) at 11 Albermarle Street in Troyeville,

This too was shared with Henry Pollak, and at a later stage, with Pollak’s wife, Millie Graham.

He lived in this house until March 1906.

The house at 11 Albermarle Street in Troyeville, Johannesburg, where Gandhi lived with
his wife and children for two years between 1904 and 1906

Gandhi had acquired land a few years earlier, amongst large sugar cane estates near Durban, where he had established the Phoenix Settlement - his first attempt at communal living.

He commuted between the Phoenix Settlement, near Durban, and Johannesburg for a time during 1906, before moving into a house on the corner of Sharp and Albert Streets in the Johannesburg suburb of Bellevue East in 1906.

He again shared the house with the Polak family, whilst Gandhi’s family remained on the Phoenix Settlement near Durban.

In March 1908, Gandhi moved into a newly built house, and shared it with the architect and builder, Hermann Kallenbach – an intimate friend and dedicated devotee of his.

The Kraal, the house that Gandhi lived in during 1908 and 1909 at 15 Pine Road, Orchards,
Johannesburg, is today a museum and guest house called Satyagraha House

The house was given the name of "The Kraal" because of its cliched African influence of rondawels (round rooms) and a thatched roof.

In 2009, Voyageurs du Monde, a French inbound tour operator, bought the property.

The end result is a beautifully restored guest house and museum - serene and calming.

The late Rocco Bosman, an architect passionate about Johannesburg's heritage, was responseible for the construction and the overseeing of the renovations.

Satyagraha Guest House and Museum is at 15 Pine Road, Orchards.

Part of the reflective garden in Mahatma Gandi's old house, now called Satyagraha House

my-life-is-my-message-a concrete-disply-of-one-of-Gandhi's-writings-in-the-museum-cum-guest-house-called-Satyagraha-House.
"My life is my message". A concrete disply of one of Gandhi's writings in the gardens of Satyagraha House

A crowd of thousands, made up of all faiths, gathered outside the Hamidia Mosque in present day Jennings Street, Fordsburg on August 16 1908, to protest against the Government’s policy of the day, where everyone classified as "non-white" was forced to carry an identity document, known as a pass, or face imprisonment.
Having advocated passive resistance for a while, Gandhi gave birth to his satyagraha campaign by making a bonfire in a cauldron outside the mosque, and encouraged members of the gathered crowd to burn their identity documents.

Hamidia Mosque, the site of the first act of Gandhi's Satyagraha campaign

After returning from London in December 1909, Gandhi left Pine Road with Kallenbach for the untouched terrain of today's Linksfield Ridge.

Kallenbach was very much a pioneer, and he and Gandhi lived in tents amongst stone masons and builders, during the building of Mountain View house.

In May 1910, Gandhi left his tented camp, and moved to a farm owned by Kallenbach in Lawley, south west of Johannesburg, that Kallenbach allowed him to use, rent free.

Kallenbach, who was influenced by Leo Tolstoy's books, as well as his extreme moralistic and abstinent views, named the property "Tolstoy Farm".

Gandhi used it as the headquarters for his Satyagraha Movement, and both he and Kallenbach lived on the farm with Gandhi's followers and their families.
It was a simple life.

On July 18th 1914, Gandhi left South Africa for the last time when he set sail for England, en route to India.

Satyagraha Guest House and Museum

Page uploaded : 16th February 2012
Page updated : 28th April 2018

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