Lithuania to mark Gandhi Jayanti with new monument to the Mahatma

  • PTI, London
  • Updated: Sep 30, 2015 15:58 IST

Lituania will mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary with the inaugration of a monument dedicated to the Indian leader and his Lithuania-born close associate and friend Hermann Kallenbach.

Kallenbach, a German-Jewish architect, worked closely with Gandhi when he was in South Africa and even donated 1,000 acres of land that was to become “Tolstoy Farm” for satyagrahis in Transvaal.

The bronze structure of the duo standing side-by-side will be unveiled on Friday by Lithuania Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius and Indian minister of state for agriculture Mohanbhai Kundariya in the western Lithuanian town of Rusne - the birth place of Kallenbach.

“The monument comes as a testimony to Indo-Lithuanian friendship. Above the many things that connect our two nations, the monument to Gandhi and Kallenbach will tower as a symbol epitomising a single individual’s impact on the larger history of mankind,” said Lithuanian ambassador to India Laimonas Talat-Kelpša.

“While Gandhi gave the world the concept of non-violent resistance, which Lithuania also successfully employed during its struggle with the Soviet oppression, Kallenbach was pivotal in shaping Gandhi’s ideas and testing them in practice. We believe this monument in Rusne will serve as a powerful reminder that one man also matters in history,” he added.

The ceremony in Rusne will be preceded by a public lecture titled ‘Soulmates: Mahatma Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach: A Cross-Cultural Encounter and its Unique Historical Significance’ will be delivered by Israeli researcher Shimo Lev of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“There is little about the political life and work of Mahatma Gandhi that has not been studied, debated and written about. The few relatively unexplored gaps that remain largely concern his personal life. Among his closest friends, Herman Kallenbach, a Rusne-born German-Jewish architect has long been at the backstage of historical research, although his role in Gandhi’s life was highly prominent,” he said.

Kallenbach was introduced to the young Gandhi in 1904 while they were both working in South Africa and after a series of discussions they developed a long lasting friendship.

He accompanied Gandhi in his first fast at Phoenix in 1913. He also accompanied Gandhi and his wife Kasturbha on their final voyage from South Africa to London in 1914.

Gandhi and Kallenbach called each other as “Upper House” and “Lower House” respectively.

Kallenbach planned to accompany Gandhi to India in 1914, but with the outbreak of World War I he was interned as an enemy alien at detention camps and shifted to the Isle of Man as a prisoner of war from 1915 to 1917.

He died in 1945 and left a portion of his considerable estate for South African Indians.

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