Washington: As the world gears up to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the United States, a country he never visited, has the distinction of having the largest number of memorials, status and busts of the apostle of peace.
While there is no such official record, a list compiled by PTI from available public resources indicates there are more than two dozen statues of the Mahatma in the United States. There are over a dozen major societies and associations related to him in the US. "Outside India, the US has the largest number of Gandhi statues, memorials and busts of Mahatma Gandhi," eminent Indian American Subhash Razdan told PTI in an interview.
Gandhi Memorial Centre, in Bethesda, a Maryland-suburb of Washington DC, was the first of these in the US, which is still active and is engaged in propagating the values and teachings of Gandhi. On October 2, 1986, the popular Union Square Park in New York City installed one of the first major statues of Gandhi. The bronze sculpture of Gandhi by Kantilal Patel joined monuments to Washington, Lafayette, and Lincoln in Union Square Park as a quartet of works devoted to defenders of freedom.
Razdan, chairman of Atlanta-based The Gandhi Foundation of USA, has been instrumental in installation of several of these statues and busts in the US. In 2013, he was felicitated with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award. Gandhi, he said, has a large following in the United States. It's also because civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr was inspired by the teachings and philosophy of the Mahatma.
Former US president Barack Obama and several top leaders of the US - both past and present - including Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, are self-proclaimed followers of Mahatma Gandhi. And this is the reasons why the US today has the largest numbers of statues and busts outside India. "That is undoubtedly the case," Razdan said in response to a question.
Statues of Mahatma Gandhi, today, are in almost all major cities and places of the US, including Washington DC, a federal land, in front of the Indian Embassy. It was formally unveiled by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then US president Bill Clinton on September 16, 2000.
Among places to have Gandhi statues in the US are at the Flint Peace Park, Flint Michigan; Milwaukee County Courthouse, Milwaukee Wisconsin; at the Pacifist Memorial in Sherborn, Massachusetts; Millsaps College, Jackson Mississippi; Mission Inn Plaza, Riverside California; Embarcadero Centre, San Francisco California and Shanti Fund, Hauppauge, Long Island, New York.
It has also been installed in front of old county courthouse, Charlotte North Carolina; Kapiolani Park, Honolulu Hawaii; James Madison University, Harrisonburg Virginia; India Cultural Garden, Cleveland Ohio; Martin Luther King Memorial Centre, Atlanta Georgia; Rockefeller Park, Cleveland Ohio; Houston Garden Centre, Hermann Park, Houston Texas; Center for Families, YWCA, Salt Lake City Utah; Toledo Area Sculptors Guild, Gibsonburg Ohio and at the Bellevue Public Library, Bellvue Washington.
His bust can be found at Martin Luther King Memorial City Park, Denver Colorado; Peace Garden, Fresno State University, Fresno California. A seven-foot tall bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled in Davie Florida by former president A P J Abdul Kalam in 2012. In 2017, a life-size bronze sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled at World Headquarters of Lions International in Oak Brook, Illinois.
By Lalit K Jha/PTI