“My life is my message.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
There are few leaders as inspirational as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi around the world. His struggle to help India gain freedom from British rule, his life’s message of peace and non-violence and the example of simplicity and austerity that was reflected in his own lifestyle are all celebrated virtues and ideals even today.
October 2, 2019 marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and not just India but the entire world is gearing up to commemorate the occasion. Many countries have had a series of events already in the lead up to October 2 while others are planning celebrations that continue into next year.
Born on October 2, 1869 in the town of Porbandar in Gujarat, Gandhi has inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world, both during and after his lifetime. His birthday is not only commemorated in India as Gandhi Jayanti but is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Non-violence.
The fact that celebrations of Gandhi’s 150th anniversary are being planned all across the world, highlights the effect of his philosophy on global socio-politics.
Gandhi’s philosophy has influenced a number of important leaders and political movements across the world. Leaders of civil rights movements in the United States, including Martin Luther King Jr, James Lawson, and James Bevel, drew from the writings of Gandhi in the development of their own theories about non-violence.
Martin Luther King Jr even went on to say, "Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics," and would even refer to Gandhi as the "little brown saint."
Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Steve Biko, and Aung San Suu Kyi have all cited the Mahatma as an inspiration.
When in 2009 former US President Barack Obama was asked "Who is the one person, dead or alive, that you would choose to dine with?", he answered “Mahatma Gandhi”.
With monuments and structures around the world that pay homage to him, Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, philosophies and ways of life continue to have a profound impact around the globe. Thus, it is no surprise that his 150th birth anniversary is being commemorated with great excitement in countries worldwide.
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that mega preparations are underway for Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, stating that the significance of the occasion was “a part of the discourse in the whole world”.
“Mahatma Gandhi served communities in South Africa that were bearing the brunt of apartheid. He served farmers in Champaran who were being discriminated against. He served mill workers who were being underpaid," Modi said while addressing the nation on his monthly radio broadcast 'Mann ki Baat'.
"He served the poor, the destitute, the weak and the hungry... he took it as life's prime duty. He presented shining examples through the medium of service in his own life. Gandhiji shared an unbreakable bond with truth; he shared a similar unique bond with the spirit of service," he added.
The Indian government announced plans to celebrate the event at both national and international levels through a year-long calendar of events starting on Wednesday.
A National Committee (NC) headed by the PM and including the chief ministers of all Indian states has been constituted for this purpose. The government is all set to change the topography of the Sabarmati Ashram by turning it into a “world-class Gandhi memorial.” The Centre has plans to expand the existing Ashram by combining all the 61 buildings into one.
The Indian National Congress, founded by Gandhi, will celebrate his 150th birth anniversary by taking out a 'padyatra' from the party's Delhi unit office to the Rajghat memorial on Wednesday, led by party president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other senior party leaders.
After Gandhi died in 1948 and was cremated, Singapore received part of his ashes, which were scattered at sea 3.2 km from the southern tip of Singapore.
Singapore has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of Gandhi since last year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with Singapore’s former premier Goh Chok Tong jointly unveiled a plaque to pay tribute to the Mahatma at the immersion site of Gandhi’s ashes at the waterfront Clifford pier in the city-state.
“Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence remains sage advice in a world where differences are more easily amplified and people take offence more readily,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.
The Indian High Commissioner to Singapore Jawed Ashraf lit a lamp on Friday, September 27, commencing a series of films on Gandhi.
On Wednesday, the High Commission will be organising a solemn ceremony at Gandhi Marker at the Clifford Pier to pay homage to the Mahatma and to recall Gandhi’s influence on the diaspora and how the Indian community in 1948 successfully campaigned to have part of his ashes scattered in Singapore.
Traces of the leader of the Indian national movement can be found in many areas of London, something the Indian High Commission in the British capital will be using as a starting point for its celebrations to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary year.
"Mohandas Gandhi loved London. He arrived just prior to his 19th birthday, a nervous unsure young man from Porbandar, desperate to emulate what he thought the British style of living was," said Lord Meghnad Desai, a leading British Indian academic who recently set up a series of Mahatma Gandhi scholarships in his capacity as the Chair of the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust.
Besides the annual ceremonies that take place at the Gandhi statues at Tavistock Square and Parliament Square in London on October 2, this year there are also plans to mark the milestone with a Vegetarian Food Festival in recognition of Mahatma Gandhi's own quest for vegetarian food in London.
The Indian consulate in Dubai is set to hold a series of celebrations to mark Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, starting with a ‘Walk for Peace and Tolerance’ on October 2.
“Gandhi’s message of truth, peace and non-violence resonates the world over but it has a special significance in the UAE which is celebrating the Year of Tolerance and is home to three million Indians,” said Vipul, Consul General of India in Dubai.
The four-kilometre ‘Walk for Peace and Tolerance’ will begin at Dubai’s Zabeel Park at 6 am on October 2, followed by the Vaishnava Jana To bhajan and a meditation session outside Zabeel Park as well as an inter-school painting and debate competition at the consulate.
The Indian consulate has collaborated with local associations, schools and government entities, including Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Municipality to hold various commemorative programmes in Dubai and the northern Emirates which will last till January 2020.
At Sharjah Indian School, over 1,000 students will assemble these lamps from 8 am onwards. The consulate has also planned a 5-km cycle rally on October 4, in association with Indian Association Ajman.
The Indian consulate will also play host to an exhibition of 100 rare photographs of Gandhi, loaned by the National Museum of Gandhi in Delhi starting October 2.