The first pictures of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue to be installed early next year in London’s historic Parliament Square were released by Lord Meghnad Desai, the founder-trustee of the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust. Desai also released the pictures of the spot in Parliament Square where the statue will stand.
Also present on the occasion was the renowned British sculptor Philip Jackson, who was commissioned to create a nine feet high bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
Speaking in the House of Lords Jackson said, “In a way Gandhi got the best situation in Parliament Square because he looks directly at the Palace of Westminster and at night when all the tourists have gone and the Palace of Westminster is quiet he has to his left hand side Jan Smuts (against whom Gandhi launched Satyagraha for equal rights in South Africa) to talk to, on his right stand Nelson Mandela, behind him is Abraham Lincoln and in front of him is Winston Churchill. What could be better than that.”
In Audio: Philip Jackson on Gandhi Statue
All over the world people are accustomed to see Gandhi in his usual attire of loincloth and a lathi (stick) in his hand. This will perhaps be the second public statue of Gandhi where he is portrayed wrapped up in a heavy shall and not in his traditional attire. The first such statue of him was put in Gandhi Square in Johannesburg where he stand wearing his barrister’s robe.
When asked why has he chosen this unusual image of Gandhi wrapped up in a heavy shall, Jackson said, “Gandhi came to London in 1931 and visited Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald at 10 Downing Street and so that was the hook I was looking for. Doing it for Parliament Square what is more appropriate than to link it to that particular visit. He was 62 at that time… Because it was November when he visited London he was wearing quite a heavy shall and he was well wrapped up. And I thought that was more appropriate for Parliament Square in the sort of northern climes that we live in.”
Jackson with his wife visited India last year and went to see Gandhi Memorial in Delhi with absolutely no idea that a year later he himself will be casting the statue of one of the greatest leaders of humanity who is now universally respected for his moral force and his unwavering faith in non-violence, freedom, equality, religious harmony and the uplift of the poor and downtrodden.
“I feel this came as a very fortuitous development in my life as exactly a year before I was at the Gandhi memorial in Delhi with my wife. It was almost like a tap on the shoulder from God,” said the award-winning sculptor.
Lord Desai expressed confidence that he will be able to raise enough funds to successfully complete the project. An Indian downer has promised a six figure amount. Desai declined to disclose his name. He said, “The word is spreading around. We are getting very good support from donors and we have lots of pledges and money is also coming in through our website. I have also written to my colleagues in the House of Lords and they are doing their bit to help too. We are pretty sure we will achieve what we have set out to achieve,” he said.
In Audio: Lord Desai on Gandhi statue in Parliament Square
While Desai has refused to disclose the exact amount required, according to estimates the budget for the project could be more than a 1 million pounds.
So ‘the half-naked seditious faquir’ who waged one of the world’s biggest non-violent mass movements to destroy the British Empire, will soon be standing next to his greatest political opponent Winston Churchill overlooking the British Parliament once the seat of British Empire. .
The proposed Mahatma Gandhi statue in London’s historic Parliament square