By Surekha Vijh
WASHINGTON: Mahatma Gandhi’s One Hundred Forty Fourth anniversary of his birth (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948) was commemorated with élan all over the world, including South Africa and here in Washington, DC at the Indian Embassy and the Gandhi Memorial Center on October 2.
Indian Ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao, the Indian Embassy community and the Indian community of Washington participated in a warm floral tribute to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Embassy. The statue of Gandhi, which has become an institution over the years, was installed on September 16, 2000 and was inaugurated by the then US President Bill Clinton. The then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee dedicated the Gandhi Memorial during his state visit to the United States. Since then it has become a must see on DC tours.
Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, a favorite song of Mahatma Gandhi, was sung at the occasion.
Addressing the gathering, Ambassador Rao reiterated the continuing importance of Gandhi’s message of non-violence. “Gandhi’s philosophy is more relevant today than before.” The function was organized by the Embassy of India, Washington DC.
The Gandhi Memorial Center in cooperation with the Embassy of India held a beautiful cultural program at their center also commemorating Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary by lighting 144 earthen lamps (dias) on the reflecting pond on the side of the Center, each dia for his years since his birth.
The program began paying a special tribute to Gandhi with a dance invocation by Carrie Trybulec. Ms. Trybulec, an American, has been training in the Indian classical dance for over two decades and has performed at the center regularly. It was followed by Ram Dhun, melodiously rendered by Isha Debe, Pratap Das. Ms. Dubey is a PhD student from George Washington University.
Mrs. Kamala, an American, who adapted the Indian name of Kamala, started the Gandhi center forty years ago. Talking about her association with Gandhi center she said it had been a fulfilling journey over the years. Calling the center as an ashram, she said that “we members are all ashramites.”
Calling Mahata Gandhi “a truly modern man” ambassador Nirupama Rao said, “It is so important to carry the message of Gandhiji in our minds: he is our friend, philosopher and guide.”
“Inspired by Gandhiji’s passive resistance, Martin Luther King had said, `The only alternative to non violence is non existence,”’ Ambassador Rao added.
Amader Khepie Berai, a song by Rabindranath Tagore was sung, since Tagore and Gandhi were very close Indian freedom leaders. The title of “Mahatma” was given by Tagore to Gandhi. Dressed in black, the Golden Lotus temple bell choir played, a somber piece, “The wondrous Cross.” Alif Laila, a noted sitar player, played Gandhi’s another favorite song, Vaishnav Jan to Taine kahiye, concluding the evening’s celebrations. Originally from Dhaka, Ms. Laila has been learning Indian classical instrumental music since childhood.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India. Later in his life he was known as – Mahatma (Great Soul).
A message was Gandhi was highlighted. “Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth. Life is an aspiration. Its mission is to strive after perfection, which is self-realization. The ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses or imperfection.”