Gandhi Library

The M.K. Gandhi Library was officially opened on 10 September 1921 at 140 Queen Street (renamed Denis Hurley Street), at a time when public library services for Indians were severely neglected. The library was the vision of Parsee Rustomjee, a retailer and merchant from India who settled in South Africa. The Bai Jerbai Rustomjee Trust, named for his wife, administers the library and the Parsee Rustomjee Hall, which is part of the library. The first librarians were Essop Bapu and A.M. Kotwal. They assembled books and magazines with a focus on history (including of India), politics, religion, language, tradition and culture, as well as a large collection of vernacular newspapers from India. The valuable library archive is now kept at the UKZN Documentation Centre. The motivation for the Gandhi Library was to “enhance the social, moral, intellectual and political upliftment” of the Indian community. The library was used mainly for study as it did not lend out books to users, and time was set aside on Fridays exclusively for women.
Prominent visitors to the library included Srinivasa Sastri, Sir Radhakrishna, George Bernard Shaw, Professor G.M. Theale and Dr Keppel of the Carnegie Trust. The Parsee Rustomjee Hall was used for meetings, public lectures and social functions by a wide variety of organisations. These included the Indian Teachers Association, the Indian War Memorial Committee, the Hindu Tamil Institute as well as the Natal Indian Congress, Communist Party of South Africa and trade unions. It was rightly “a hub of social and political activity”.

Location

Address: 140 Denis Hurley St
GPS Points: -29.85286, 31.02419
Site Contact Details: Steven Kotze
Durban Local History Museums
steven.kotze@durban.gov.za
031 311 2239

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