Mumbai, Nov 6 (PTI) After visiting the house of Mahatma Gandhi whom he looked to for inspiration, US President Barack Obama today hailed the Father of the Nation as "a hero not just to India but to the world."
"I am filled with hope and inspiration as I have the privilege to view this testament to Gandhi's life. He is a hero not just to India but to the world," Obama, who was struck with awe, wrote in the visitor's book at the Mani Bhavan here with a cupboard teetering with books of the Mahatma in the background.
Obama, who is a self-confessed hero of Gandhi, accompanied by his wife Michelle spent about 45 minutes going around the simple, old-style, two-storied building on Laburnum Road in South Mumbai where the Father of the Nation stayed during his visits to Bombay.
The President in his speeches has often cited Gandhi has having a major influence on him.
Michelle said she will always "treasure" the visit to honour Gandhi's memory.
"The visit will be on that I will always treasure. The life and teachings of Gandhi must be shared with our children around the world," she wrote in the visitors book. The Mani Bhavan has now been converted to a Gandhi museum.
The Executive Secretary of the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya Meghshyam Asgaonkar said Obama appeared to be very impressed on seeing Gandhi's simplicity when he went to his living room.
The room on the second floor, which used to be the living room and working place of Gandhi, has been preserved in its near-original setting.
Obama also went to the adjoining room which is home to an exhibition depicting Gandhi's life through mini figures in about 28 tableaux. The rooms on either side of the exhibition have been turned into a photo gallery which gives glimpses of Gandhi in Mani Bhavan and the important events in his life.
It was at Mani Bhavan where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visits to Bombay and from where he launched some of his path-breaking initiatives like Swadeshi, Khadi, the non-cooperation and Khilafat movements. The modest building served as Gandhi's headquarters in Mumbai for about 17 eventful years from 1917-1934.
Obama also wrapped a bust of Gandhi with a cotton garland. Visitors from all over the world come to Mani Bhavan to see the room Gandhi occupied, its picture gallery, the Library Hall and the terrace where he was arrested on January 4, 1932.
Obama in his speechss has often said that Gandhi has inspired Americans and African Americans, including Dr Martin Luther King. During a school interaction in the US, Obama had said once that if it were possible, he would have loved to have dinner with Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi launched the satyagraha from Mani Bhavan in 1919 and the civil disobedience movement in 1932. In many ways Mani Bhavan played a crucial role in moulding the course of history.
The trust that runs Mani Bhavan also gifted Obama literature on the Mahatma.
The library consists of around 50,000 books and periodicals, several of them on and by Gandhi. On the first floor is the auditorium where films on Gandhi are shown from time to time and recordings of his speeches are played on request.
Mani Bhavan had a special 'shamiana' put up for the President's visit. In fact, the municipal corporation has plucked away all the coconuts from the trees in the area, just to avoid any mishaps.
Obama has never missed an opportunity to mention how Gandhi has had a major influence on him. It's well known that Mahatma Gandhi's portrait hangs in Barack Obama's Senate office.