“To believe in paradise is easy, but imagining it is not. Poets and prophets have had to show us the way. Buddha performed enlightenment, an existence without suffering. The Vikings dreamed up Valhalla, hall of dead heroes battling by day and feasting by night for eternity. Dante famously described a heaven ruled by reason--- the list goes on, with each paradise based on different conceptions of God, reality, salvation and delight.”--- Sho Spaeth

    For Amalprabha Das paradise meant rendering service to the suffering humanity. She created her heaven at a hermitage atop the Sarania Hills, from where, following in the footsteps of  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, she served women, children, Harijans and the downtrodden of society. In 1934 when Mahatma Gandhi came to Assam in connection with the Harijian Movement he stayed at the residence of Amalprabha’s father, Dr Harikrishna Das. Amalprabha, then a young girl, had opportunity to observe Gandhi’s work and lifestyle from very close quarters, and it left such a deep impression in her mind that she decided to dedicate her life to the service of the nation. 

Amalprabha was an amiable lady with a mind of steel. In 1927, having been denied admission in the Cotton College since no girl had been admitted till then, she went to Calcutta to pursue higher studies. There she obtained her MSc degree in Applied Chemistry, earning her the unique distinction of the first Assamese lady to obtain a postgraduate degree. On her return to Guwahati she was offered a teaching job in the same college that had earlier denied her admission. But by then she had been baptized into the nationalist into the nationalist spirit and refused to serve in a college run by the British government. 

 In 1939 Amalprabha and her illustrious mother Hemaprabha Das stayed at the Maganbari Centre of Self-development at Wardha for three months in order to acquaint themselves with Gandhiji’s village reform movement. Imbued with community development spirit, mother and daughter returned home and set up indigenous cottage industries in their Sarania Hills land. They started bee preservation for extracting honey, making soaps and paper, extracting oil from oilseeds etc. Weaving got special emphasis. Gradually the hermitage became a center of excellence in spreading the Gandhian concept of gramudyog in the northeast.  

After Kasturba Gandhi’s death in 1944, Gandhi wished to spread the work of the newly-formed Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust in every nook and corner of the country and he chose Amalprabha for the task in this region. Harikrishna Das decided to donate his Sarania Hills property to the Trust. Since after that, the hilltop hermitage has been called the Kasturba Ashram. 

On January 9, 1946 Gandhi came to Guwahati and stayed in the ashram for three days. A small Assam-type structure was constructed for his stay which exists till date. During Gandhi’s visit, at the initiative of the Kasturba Trust, the Gram Sevika Vidyalya was established and dedicated to the nation. 

Later twenty-one gram sevika kendras were established in different parts of the region, including Arunachal Pradesh. During the 1950 tremors hundreds of volunteers of the Kasturba Ashram and gram seva kendras rendered yeoman service to people. The same year, at the ashram’s initiative, the Gauhati Katai Mandal was established to strengthen the concept of self-help and gramudyog. Two years later Amalprabha began the Guwahati Yubak Sevadal with school and college students in order to emancipate and rehabilitate the Harijans. It was this movement that was instrumental in establishing the Harijan Colony the Solabeel area in the heart of town. 

When Binod Bhave came to Assam in course of the Bhoodaan movement, the Kasturba Trust volunteers arranged the entire program under Amalprabha’s supervision. It was in Assam that the Bhoodan movement took the concrete shape of gramdaan. The draft of the first Gramdaan Act was prepared by the Kasturba Trust, Guwahati and presented to the Government of Assam. This was passed into a law within a short time due to the untiring efforts of Amalprabha. After Mahendra Mohan Lahiri donated 100 bighas of land in Guwahati towards Bhoodaan, Amalprabha also started work of the Assam Goseva Samiti. 

Till her death Amalprabha was the heart and soul of the ashram. Although born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she had no attachment to power, position or pelf and could thus gracefully decline the Padmabibhusaan award. Even today inmates of the ashram hold her values close to the heart. And it is this that elevates them to their paradise.