On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, the Government of India has planned a year-long celebration
Renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein had once said of Mahatma Gandhi, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”
Bapu, as the Mahatma is fondly called, was one of the main protagonists of India’s freedom struggle. He was a firm believer in non-violence and took the same approach in his fight for independence. The Mahatma not only strived for political freedom but also for a self-sustaining nation with a society free of prejudices against caste, religion, economic stature and gender.
October 2, 2018, marked the start of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Mahatma’s birth. And to commemorate the event, the Indian government has planned a year-long program, including various events propagating his message of peace, humility and acceptance. Celebrations are being held in India and in countries across the world — from screenings of films based on Bapu to “health drives” across the country and street plays depicting the Mahatma’s philosophies.
One of the highlights of the celebrations is a musical medley that pays homage to the Mahatma through his favorite bhajan, Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye. Artists from over 150 countries rendered their voices for the hymn. The five-minute video that features a musical medley of the hymn sung by artistes from select countries was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the closing ceremony of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Conference on October 2, 2018. It was launched in the presence of secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Gutierrez; minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation Uma Bharti among other prominent personalities. Artistes from over 155 countries have participated in the initiative.
Indian missions and embassies abroad had identified performers from their respective countries to render the bhajan in Gujarati for the medley. Different regions and countries recognized by the United Nations had sent in video clips, which were then put together in the fusion video. The result was an eclectic, colorful and rich rendition of the hymn infused with the local flavor of various regions. From Armenia to Angola, Sri Lanka to Serbia and Iraq to Iceland, prominent local singers and groups have showcased their talent in this tribute. One of the most prominent voices in the video is that of Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of the Republic of Nauru. President Waqa’s gesture was not just a special homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary but “was also a personal gift from him to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye is a Gujarati hymn that was written by Narsimha Mehta, a 15thcentury poet. It was one of Bapu’s favorite bhajans. Mahatma Gandhi included it to the roster of prayers routinely sung before he started his day.
Light up the world
On the evening of October 2, 2018, iconic monuments across the world lit up in colors of the Mahatma, reiterating his message of peace and co-existence, and their relevance in today’s world. In a novel initiative, glimpses of Mahatma’s life and his teachings were displayed through spectacular LED video projections at over 120 locations globally, including at historic landmarks such as the UK’s Piccadilly Circus and Berlin’s oldest residential quarter, Nikolaiviertel.
INDIA’S 73RD INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION
One of the most noteworthy projections was at Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa, which was organized by the Indian embassy, Abu Dhabi and the Indian consulate in Dubai. It attracted a large number of spectators.
LED displays of Bapu’s messages were also organized at Welt Museum in Vienna, Buda Castle in Budapest, Palazzo Senatorio in Rome, Prambanan Temple in Indonesia and Museo de Arte in Peru, among others.
The video film that was projected, highlighted key moments from Gandhiji’s life and a few of his inspiring quotes along with discourses and initiatives. These were presented in a spectacular yet simple visual narrative using hand-drawn illustrations layered with water colour and ink wash. Using neutral colors, the illustrations represented the simplicity of the life and teachings of one of the tallest personalities the world has seen.