Indian Embassy, Gandhi Memorial Center celebrate Gandhi Jayanti in Washington

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Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Ambassador Sripriya Ranganathan addressing the gathering on October 2, 2022, at the Gandhi Memorial Center in Bethesda, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Bethesda, Maryland: The Gandhi Memorial Center in collaboration with the Embassy of India commemorated the 153rd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, 2022, on its premises honoring his life and teachings.

Embassy of India’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Ambassador Sripriya Ranganathan, in her address noted that although the Mahatma never visited U.S., his teachings inspired iconic leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., and President Barack Obama. The Mahatma himself was open-minded to ideas. The inspiration he got from Thoreau’s essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” served as a turning point in his own evolution as a leader and thinker – and ultimately contributed to his philosophy of civil disobedience and passive resistance, that he initially introduced in South Africa, and later to lead the Indian struggle for independence, she said.

“In the lifetime of the Mahatma, the noble principles that he lived by – truth, non-violence, sacrifice, mutual respect, compassion, and cooperation between people, have become even more relevant in the world that we live in today,” Ranganathan said, adding that the world could derive lessons and messages from Gandhiji’s life which can show how to work together to try overcome problems facing not just small communities but the world at large.

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The foundation laid by the Mahatma’s philosophy reflects the shared democratic values of the people of India and US, lending itself to partnership in multiple forums, from vaccine friendship, climate change, food security, and space and energy sectors, Ambassador Ranganathan said.

From left, Srimati Kamala, Srimati Karuna, and Sripriya Ranganathan on October 2, 2022,at the Gandhi Memorial Center in Bethesda, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Srimati Kamala, president of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Foundation and founding director of the Gandhi Memorial Center, , recalled that even before the Center was built in 1976, Gandhi Jayanti was observed in the Self-Revelation Church founded by Swami Premananda. She also reminded everyone that the Foundation established in 1959, collaborated with people in Pennsylvania to collect books for Gandhiji’s library and to disseminate his message.

Kamala also provided some history about the life-size statue of the Mahatma with the spinning wheel housed in the Center. According to her, it was sculpted by Clara Quien in 1946, during her time at Sevagram Ashram, sitting opposite Gandhiji while he spun the wheel. The statue, which was displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, in 1969, in Washington DC, for the Centennial Birth Anniversary of the Mahatma, was initially on loan to the Gandhi Foundation before finding its permanent home at the Gandhi Center. According to her, treasures including Gandhiji’s ashes, hair, and wooden spoon are beneath the statue.

Artists presenting a devotional offering on October 2, 2022, at the Gandhi Memorial Center in Bethesda, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Nobel Laureate and poet Rabindranath Tagore was the first to address Gandhiji as the Mahatma, and in return Gandhiji called Tagore his Gurudev, said Srimati Kamala.

In addition to the Mahatma, Gandhiji is also known as Bapu (father).  “For anyone speaking of Gandhiji, it’s always a tall order because of the vast influence at the very critical time, and the way he seemed to reach into every avenue of life. Of course, there will always be naysayers and critics. But Gandhi will forever be to us and to the world, a Mahatma,” Kamala said.

Director of the Gandhi Memorial Center, Srimati Karuna delivered the welcome address, and devotional offerings including Ekla Chalo Re, Prathamo Adi Tabo Shakt, Lead, Kindly Light, and Ram Dhun were presented by artists at the event where members of the Indian community and embassy officials were present.

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