Posts Tagged ‘Mahatma’


Memorial Statue of Mahatma Gandhi

In a city that is home to an abundance of memorials, including a large number which honor our country’s military figures and war heroes, the memorial on Massachusetts Avenue between Q and 21st Streets in northwest D.C. (MAP) stands out as different. It is different because the bronze statue in the small park in the DuPont Circle neighborhood honors the leader of a foreign independence movement who promoted strict nonviolence.

The memorial to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi stands across the street from the Embassy of India, and was presented to the city as a gift from the people of India and the Indian-American community. The figure stands nine feet tall, is perched atop a granite base, and is surrounded by Gandhi quotations carved into granite.

After numerous non-violent demonstrations, fasts, and boycotts, as well as several periods of imprisonment, Gandhi eventually led his native India to independence from British rule through his philosophy of non-violent confrontation. However, despite seeking a unified India, the two independent states of India and Pakistan were instead created and Gandhi was greatly distressed by the partition. Soon afterward bloody violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims in India. In an effort to end India’s religious strife, Gandhi resorted to fasts and visits to the troubled areas. He was on one such vigil in New Delhi when a Hindu extremist who objected to Gandhi’s tolerance for the Muslims, fatally shot him.

In India Gandhi is recognized as the Father of the Nation, and his birthday is celebrated as a national holiday. Known as Mahatma, or “the great soul,” during his lifetime, Gandhi’s persuasive methods of civil disobedience influenced leaders of civil rights movements around the world, especially Martin Luther King Jr.  Albert Einstein once wrote, “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”.

Gandhi is perhaps one of the best known political leaders in the world, but here are some lesser known facts about him. He married his wife when they were both 13 years old. Then after having a number of children, he informed his wife that he planned to follow the Hindu practice of brahmacharya, which meant going celibate. They stayed married anyway, until her death in 1944. Despite being a lawyer, he was terrified of public speaking. Gandhi did not get his start as an activist in India. He began his legacy as an activist in South Africa, where he had moved when he was unable to find employment in India. Gandhi was pen pals with the Russian author Leo Tolstoy. And he had a set of false teeth, which he carried in a fold of his loin cloth. He put them in his mouth only when he wanted to eat. After his meal, he took them out, washed them and put them back in his loin cloth again.

Another little-known fact about Gandhi is that he often rode a bicycle, as a means of transportation to commute to work in his younger days, as well as for exercise and enjoyment in his later years. The great protestor and crusader even took on causes pertaining to cycling, such as when he wrote about and protested against a bike licensing law aimed at African natives in Johannesburg. So he was not just a great advocate for the Indian people, he was an advocate for cycling as well.

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