Ahmedabad: Mahatma Gandhi's eternal companion - the charkha - has touched new levels of popularity among his followers as the sale of the hand spinning wheel has tripled in the last year at the Sabarmati Ashram here.

The Father of the Nation used charkha as a tool to promote economic self-sufficiency during the British rule and bring awareness about his `swadeshi' movement.

Charkhas are available in three different sizes and priced at Rs 100, Rs 200 and Rs 300 a piece, Secretary of the Sabarmati Ashram Amrut Modi said.

"In FY 2010-11, the sale of charkhas was to the tune of Rs 3 lakh, which surged to Rs 9 lakh in 2011-12. I have not seen the sale go up in this manner in my entire life," he said.

"The reason for increase in the sale of charkhas, as I can see, is that Mahatma Gandhi's following has increased world-wide. His message of non-violence and truth has become more relevant in these disturbing times."

"What we have done over the last few years is that we demonstrate, to the visitors coming to the Ashram, how hand spun thread is formed by spinning the charkha."

Gandhian Kishorebhai Gohil holds charkha sessions at the Hriday Kunj, the place where Gandhiji stayed in the ashram, for visitors, he said.

"Gohil explains how thread is spun from cotton. Visitors are allowed to try their hands on charkha and many of them find the whole experience amazing," Modi added.

Gandhi used to daily spin charkha in morning and evening at the ashram, produce khadi from it and wore clothes made from them to promote self-reliance.

"Visitors get thrilled when they are able to spin threads from cotton, and some of them take threads spun by them as a souvenir. By this visitors realise the essence of charkha and also understand importance of self-reliance," Gohil said.

"The charkha buyers comprise both Indian and foreign visitors," Modi said. The charkhas are manufactured by families living in the Ashram.

Modi said the number of visitors coming to the Ashram has increased significantly over the last few years. On an average around 3,000 tourists visit Sabarmati Ashram daily and heavy rush is seen between August and March.

(Agencies)