Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s name occupies a pride of place in any list of leaders who have left behind a mark. His philosophy, especially the idea of ahimsa or non-violent struggle, resonates far beyond India.
Gandhi’s writings are stocked in public libraries across the globe and his political philosophy is discussed in classrooms. It is a measure of Gandhi’s stature that in countries ranging from Iran and Netherlands to South Africa, you can find landmarks or roads named after him or statues of the frail, bespectacled Mahatma in his trademark dhoti.
It was his experiences in South Africa that forged Gandhi’s activism, turning him from a lawyer to a leader of India’s freedom struggle. During his time in South Africa, from 1893 to 1914, Gandhi perfected the ideas of satyagraha, of peaceful marches against unjust laws. This radical idea of passive political resistance was not only a crucial tool in India’s independence movement, but also influenced South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.
As a homage to Gandhi, a tall statue of him was inaugurated in 1993 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, at Church Street, Pietermaritzburg. The railway station at Pietermaritzburg is where Gandhi was thrown off a train for not being white. A plaque commemorates the incident. Gandhi’s cottage, called Sarvodaya, has been preserved and Tolstoy Farm, which he started with his friend Hermann Kallenbach to house poor satyagrahis will be getting a makeover.
Gandhi is seen as the architect of India’s independence from the British empire, yet England is home to many landmarks associated with the Mahatma.
On March 14, 2015, a Gandhi statue was unveiled in London’s Parliament Square to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his return to India. The statue was inaugurated in the presence of then British prime minister, David Cameron, Gandhi’s grandson and former West Bengal governor, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley and actor Amitabh Bachchan.
In 1986, a bronze sculpture of Gandhi by Kantilal B Patel joined other defenders of freedom in Union Square Park. The other leaders include Washington, Lafayette, and Lincoln.
The park has a long history of being a focal point for protests. The monument was donated by the Gandhi Memorial International Foundation.
The Netherlands have a record number of roads named after Gandhi – Gandhilaan in Amsterdam to Mahatma Gandhiweg in Arnhem to Gandhistraat in Haarlem. A Gandhi restaurant is located a stone’s throw away from the Amsterdam Central station and specializes in “tandoori, curry and vegetable dishes”.
A roundabout named after Gandhi was inaugurated this year in the Israeli town of Kiryat Gat. The plaque honours Gandhi and also commemorates the 60th year of the town’s establishment. The two countries look upon this gesture as a sign of growing friendship. Kiryat Gat is home to 2,000 Ben Israeli Jews of Indian origin and the plaque is a result of a citizens’ initiative.
Iran’s capital city, Tehran, has a shopping district named after Gandhi. The Gandhi Avenue is home to a line of cosy cafes, where students and young people flock to discuss the latest happenings over cups of coffee.