Mahatma's Relevance

Atlanta is at the forefront of cities championing the cause and credo of the Mahatma, writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: Oct 05, 2005 18:08 IST

While many Indian leaders and visionaries enjoy singular distinction abroad for their contribution to the Indian freedom struggle, none is as universally revered as Mahatma Gandhi.

Then again, being the political epicentre of what can best be described as a parallel agitation for equality in the US; the Civil Rights Movement, Atlanta, is at the forefront of cities championing the cause and credo of the Mahatma.

The 136th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was observed a day earlier on Saturday, October 1, 2005 by the Gandhi Foundation of USA in the Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic District. It began with a traditional obeisance in the form of a devotional Service at 10.30 am in the precincts of the Gandhi Statue.

The statue of the Mahatma at the Martin Luther King Centre in Atlanta is the first of its kind in America. It is here that many tourists and visitors converge to comprehend and imbibe in turn the core philosophy of non-violence that makes this otherwise ordinary man from Gujarat, historic.

The service here was followed by the Main Gandhi Birth Anniversary Programme, including the presentation of the 2005 GFUSA Awards Ceremony at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Auburn. This year's Gandhi Foundation Peace Award was bestowed upon Congressman John Lewis, a prominent figure in the Civil Rights movement and an important political leader today.

Joining in the celebration as co-sponsors were other important Indian American organisations as the NFIA (the National Federation of Indian American Associations), the IACA (India American Cultural Association and the Hindu Temple of Atlanta.

In his message to the Diaspora and other Gandhi enthusiasts the GFUSA's President Mr Giriraj Rao said the he was "extremely delighted that this year's event will honour Jainism, the Jain Society who will be our co-sponsors and members of the Jain community who will be participating in this year's Birth Anniversary observance of Mahatma Gandhi".

The reverberation of the core Indian philosophy of inclusiveness and brotherhood -- synonymous for years now with Gandhi's name is acknowledged by the city, as important civil personages grace very many of the foundation's functions with stellar attendance.

The foundation, a non-profit organisation run by individuals who are united in their appreciation of the universality of Gandhi's message is now in the process of establishing an office facility for the Foundation as the operational hub for their work.

This becomes even more important given the fact that the organisation currently works from the heartland of the Martin Luther King Historic District in Atlanta, or Sweet Auburn as it is known locally.

This year's theme: "The Inspiration and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi" resounded with relevance, as it dovetailed harmoniously with the philosophy behind Jainism, a religious creed that enshrines principles of non-violence and spiritual attainment through good deeds.

The similarity between the tenets observed in the Jain philosophy and the primary method of Gandhi's resistance to injustice is all too obvious to state. To conjoin the two on this event was therefore a most befitting gesture, appreciated by Indians enthusiastically.

The Gandhi Foundation of USA, which prides itself in being an active catalyst for meetings between like minded individuals and organisations, presentations, classes, workshops and community services is a ubiquitous Indian presence in the Diaspora landscape here in Atlanta, and not without reason.

Annually, the celebration of Gandhi Jayanti reaffirms its goal of spreading the message of harmony across cultures and borders. Through efforts such as this, resident Indians reiterate the mammoth legacy of peace behind them and the vision of progress as yet, on the distant horizon.

First Published: Oct 05, 2005 00:00 IST