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North America's first Gandhi Museum opens in Houston

PTI | | Posted by Sreelakshmi B
Oct 06, 2023 07:23 PM IST

The outer walls of the semi-circle-shaped museum depict various peace activists including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and more.

A long-awaited dream of having the first free-standing Gandhi Museum in North America, dedicated to the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace, is finally a reality and open for the public in the US city of Houston in Texas.

The Eternal Gandhi Museum, US(The Eternal Gandhi Museum website)
The Eternal Gandhi Museum, US(The Eternal Gandhi Museum website)

The Eternal Gandhi Museum is the only Gandhi-related Museum in the United States, dedicated to Gandhi, to preserve and promote his ever-lasting legacy of nonviolent conflict resolution.

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The museum officially opened its doors to the public on August 15, but the Grand ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on October 2, the 154th birth anniversary of Gandhi.

The outer walls of the semi-circle-shaped museum depict various peace activists including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Betty Williams, and more. A statue of Gandhi stands in front of the museum.

READ | Eternal Gandhi Museum in Houston gets grant of USD 457,000 from Fort Bend County

Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Dr. Rajmohan Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s nephew, Isaac Newton Farris Jr., CGI Houston D Manjunath, were the special guests amongst several invited guests Monday afternoon, to celebrate the grand opening of the Museum.

"EGMH will encourage humanity to get beyond hate, violence, and supremacy," Dr. Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, said.

"For a great many in the world, Gandhi and King are symbols of dignity, of peace, of equality."

The 13,000 square-foot museum's architecture is based on Gandhi's twenty-four-spoke Chakra spinning wheel which he used to seek independence from colonial rule.

EGMH offers insights into different chapters of Gandhi’s life, including his childhood in India, early adulthood as a lawyer in Africa and followed by the Satyagraha movement and nonviolent fight for independence.

The interactive and engaging exhibits tell the story of Gandhi’s life and visitors experience it in three parts: “His Journey,” “Our Journey” and “My Journey.”

READ | Mahatma Gandhi statue unveiled in Houston's Little India

Isaac Newton Farris Jr., who flew in from Atlanta for the event, said "This museum and the great Mahatma's philosophy is desperately needed in America today, and so I certainly had to be part of this," Farris said.

“In recognition of the impact that the great Mahatma had on my uncle, my aunt, Coretta Scott King, established the Gandhi Room in the Martin Luther King Jr Freedom Center Hall building, where millions of tourists can view personal items that belong to the great Mahatma.”

US Representative Al Green, who has been a great supporter by helping the EGMH board secure USD 3 million through the Community Project Funding to get the project off the ground, said in a statement, “Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy remains deeply relevant in today’s world, where we face pressing global challenges.

From military conflicts to social injustice movements, his teachings offer guidance for peaceful solutions and social change.”

“EGMH will be a museum where people of all diverse backgrounds can come together and learn stories of leaders who made profound social changes, through peaceful means. The goal is to create a cultural and educational hub for Texas students in grades six-12 by offering curriculum-based tours, inspiring the next generation of leaders to advocate for peace and social justice.” Atul Kothari, its trustee and co-founder told PTI during the tour of the museum.

The exhibit space takes the visitor through three distinct galleries:

Gallery One – His Journey: Learn about the transformation of Mahatma Gandhi from a child of fear to a man of freedom.

Gallery Two – Our Journey: Learn how global peace leaders have followed into Mahatma Gandhi’s footsteps to bring about profound social change around the world. Learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan, and others who used nonviolent conflict resolution in their work for social justice.

Gallery Three – My Journey: After learning about Mahatma Gandhi and global peace leaders, this gallery provides the visitor with a place to reflect and contemplate.

It invites the visitor to make a personal commitment to be a catalyst for positive changes in their own lives and community – i.e.- “What is something you can do, large or small, that can make an impact on your own life and environment?” How can you “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

EGMH started its journey in 2016 when Atul Kothari, returned from India with an offer from Eternal Gandhi Multimedia Museum in Delhi of Aditya Birla Group to host a travelling exhibit in Houston. The EGMH Board immediately agreed to host and establish a new civic asset - the Eternal Gandhi Museum Houston.

The Houston Endowment Foundation provided USD 750,000 for the construction of EGMH, which was followed by Congressman Al Green, who sponsored a grant of USD 3 million under Community Project Funding of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

With the help of Fort Bend County Judge K P George, the Fort Bend County Commissioners approved a grant of USD 475,000.

Dr Anne Chao, Chair of the Advisory Board, donated USD 500,000 through her various foundations.

“To date, we have raised USD 8 million of the total construction budget of USD 10 million”, Kothari said.

"The journey began with the selection of RDLR Architects and Lorie Westrick, the Principal of the firm. The Charkha, the spinning wheel, inspired her masterful museum design.

We engaged the services of Brian Crockett, a museum consultant with a Smithsonian background. EGMH selected Solid Light, Inc., Cynthia Torp, CEO, from Louisville, Kentucky as the exhibit designer, who planned, designed, fabricated, and installed all the museum galleries”.

To gain inspiration for the museum, the Board, Architect, and Solid Light went on a whirlwind tour to India in February 2020 visiting 6 different Gandhi museums in 4 different cities in 5 days.

Former Consul General of India in Houston, Aseem Mahajan, facilitated the donation of the Mahatma Gandhi Statue from the Government of India.

Sanjay Khanna of Superior Granite and Marble by Vivaldi was instrumental in producing the granite figures that are prominently embedded in the facade of the museum.

The museum builder, TDK Construction owned by Dhansukh (Dan) Khatri, and his daughter Tina, managed the entire construction from inception.

The exhibits at the museum were created by Solid Light, a firm known for its interactive multimedia experiences in schools, museums and other public places.

Most in this museum are presented in English, Spanish and Hindi. Kothari and his team hope that by the time they finish the tour, visitors will make a commitment to being part of some sort of change.

Inside, visitors learn about others who effected change peaceably: Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, American labour leader Cesar Chavez, Native American activist Wilma Mankiller and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai.

There’s a small theatre, called “A Force More Powerful,” where up to 20 people at a time can sit and watch a seven-minute film about Gandhi.

They’re developing a curriculum that’s compatible with state educational guidelines and working with

The museum has a state-of-the-art auditorium which is available for birthdays, anniversaries, conferences, performances, and other celebrations. The auditorium can accommodate up to 108 people.

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