In post-independent India, Anandwan stands out in the field of social development and is one of the main inspirations for Snehalaya. Founded by Sadhana Tai and Mahamanav Baba Amte in the forests of eastern Maharashtra, it is now managed by the third generation of the family who have the same devotion and work relentlessly to continue Baba’s vision. On 14 October, our Sadbhavana cyclists reached Anadwan and immediately felt the power of this special place, knowing they had reached the home of social work.
The cyclists first stop was to pay homage to Sadhanatai Tai and Baba by visiting their final resting place. The whole Anandvan family was present on this occasion and Vikas Amte shared many old and new ideas and stories of the Bharat Jodo cycles and Baba's journey which transformed a forest into a paradise for over 11 lakh leprosy patients. He shared how, as there was no cure for leprosy, Baba Amte would allow doctors to experiment on his own body. Reinvigorated our team then planted Sadbhavana trees along the road leading from Tai and Baba's Samadhi which will now be known as Sadbhavana Marg.
We then visited the Miyawaki project and under the shade of a tree learnt how
Pol Sir has treated leprosy patients in Anandwan since the very beginning and how in the last two years he succeeded in curing more than 500 corona-infected patients. We also met with Rajesh Tajne who has been working in Anandwan for 52 years. Crippled and blind in both eyes he manages the amazing Swaranandavan orchestra of blind, disabled, deaf and mute musicians and artists. The cyclists were treated to a full performance of patriotic songs and dances.
Next was a visit to the Anandvan school. where children were waiting to play traditional games. Day by day cultural games are disappearing and we happily watched the old games still providing fun for a new generation.
Connecting with Anandwan gave all of our cyclists a real boost and reminded us all why we are taking on this challenge. Anandwan is a truly inspiring place and we were made so welcome and treated with great hospitality and met so many people that motivated us. We were sad to leave as Ravi Dada Rajubhau Shaukat Dada waved the flag as we headed back on the road to Bangladesh with Baba and his dream firmly in our hearts.
Why cycle yatra?
Our current India-Bangladesh Sadbhavana Cycle Yatra is inspired by two ‘Bharat Jodo’ (first coined by Baba Amte in 1967) cycle rallies by Baba and youths, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in 1985 and from Arunachal Pradesh to Okha (Gujarat) in 1987. Bharat Jodo played a big role in social change. The initial plan was to take the rally to Pakistan but Musharraf rejected the idea and it remained a dream. Last year, the Snehalaya family considered a rally to Peshawar, but instead decided to follow Baba's path to an alternative destination, Bangladesh.
This is not our first cycle rally, in 2011, Snehalaya’s inaugural yatra paid homage to the memory of Baba Amte, marking the 25th anniversary of his second yatra connecting India. This was followed by a second cycle guided by Annaji Hazare to highlight corruption and promote systemic change. Our third yatra was to introduce youths to a new social project in Ahmednagar district.
In 2019, our fourth cycle marked the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the 125th birth anniversary of Vinoba Bhave, 90 years of Babasaheb Ambedkar's Kalaram Temple Satyagraha in Nashik and Lokmanya Tilak's Memorial Centenary. A total of 150 cyclists rode from Ahmednagar to Vinoba's birthplace covering 1,200km over 28 days, visiting Mahatma Gandhi's Sevagram Ashram in Wardha and Anandwan en route.
Our current cycle yatra is to create harmony in five states and two countries and more importantly to connect youths with organizations and people who sow change. The aim is to strengthen their motivation for change in the world, by giving them an in-depth look at the country's diversity and economic and social issues we hope to inspire them to lead a meaningful life following in the footsteps of Baba Amte.