Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary: triple celebrations on October 2, 2019
(Left) Pujya Swami Ji with "child Gandhi" Arav Jain and director Sandhya Bhagat. (Photos: Sri Photos)
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared that Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary would be celebrated not only on October 2, 2019, but also from 2018 until 2020, and that too, globally. Gandhi’s birth anniversary is now also celebrated throughout the world as International Day of Nonviolence, the ideal that Gandhi fought for throughout his life.
The Consulate General of India in Atlanta, the Gandhi Foundation of USA (GFUSA), and the Atlanta Hindi theater group Dhoop Chaoon, with support from the larger community, gave a three-part celebration on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.
(Right) Dr. Kulkarni garlanding the bust of Gandhi on the Consulate premises. (Photos: Sri Photos)
In the morning, on the lawns of the Consulate, the newly installed bust of Gandhi was draped with flower garlands placed as a tribute in his honor by attendees, staff, and the guest of honor Pujya Swami Adhyatmananda, president of Shivanand Ashram, Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
(Below) Guest of honor, Pujya Swami Adhyatmananda, speaks, accompanied by Consul Shailesh Lakhtakia and Consul General Dr. Swati Kulkarni. (Photo: Sri Photos)
Emcee for the event was the likeable Consul Shailesh Lakhtakia, who never fails to bring his sense of humor to all events and who was ably supported by Consul Asim Kumar. Swami Adhyatmananda from India, who is not only a staunch believer and follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles but also experienced the touch of Bapuji, and whose grandparents were companions of Mahatma Gandhi in the Dandi march; Isaac Farris, Jr., nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Dr. Swati Kulkarni, Consul General of India in Atlanta, shared their insights on Gandhi.
The second part of the program was orchestrated in the early afternoon. Associates of GFUSA hosted a “Feed the Hungry Lunch” at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Meanwhile, others gathered at the life-sized statue of Gandhi at the MLK Jr National Historic Site: besides the GFUSA team leads Subash Razdan and Antony Thaliath, guests included Mr. Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., Greg Pridgeon (Vice Chair of GFUSA), CG Dr. Kulkarni, and Pujya Swami Adhyatmananda. Perching themselves on the base of the statue, and reaching high, they garlanded Gandhi ji with a prayer. With the afternoon sun at full beam, they made their way in a quiet march towards Dr. and Mrs. King’s crypts where they placed floral tributes to the honored couple—since in America, one cannot fully celebrate Gandhi without celebration of Dr. King as well.
The gathering then moved to the newly built auditorium at the Knowles Conference Center at the College of Law, on the Georgia State University campus. There, emcee Subash Razdan welcomed all. Consul General Dr. Swati Kulkarni, in her friendly and practical way, spoke about Gandhi and King, the new bust of Gandhi on the Consulate lawns, and the fact that we are also celebrating the birthday of Lal Bahadur Shastri and Kasturba, the 90th birth anniversary of Dr. King, 60th anniversary of Dr. King’s visit to India, and 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. She sought the community’s support in passing the bill, “Gandhi–King Scholarly Exchange Program” introduced by the Congressman from Georgia, Rep. John Lewis, to foster the ideals of nonviolence and peaceful social transformation. The bhajan “Raghupati Raghav Rajaram” that Gandhi loved was sung.
Swami ji sang a dhun which honored all the main religious sects of India, and noted the need for Truth and Nonviolence around the globe; he highlighted Gandhi’s secular view for all Indians. Two more bhajans followed: “De di hamein azaadi” and “Vaishnava Janato.”
(Right) At the conclusion of the program, keynote speaker Isaac Farris Jr., nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., cut the birthday cake. (Photos: Sri Photos)
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. King’s nephew, Isaac Farris Jr. He spoke of the impressions his uncle had left on him of the Gandhian influence and the way to win the racial divide. He declared that even though his uncle was a Christian and the Mahatma was a Hindu, but both men were militant ecumenicists who believed that all religions had something valuable to contribute to making our world more just and humane. He said that if not for Gandhi’s courageous example, America might still be mired in dehumanizing legal racial segregation; it was the method of nonviolent resistance pioneered by the Mahatma and adopted by MLK Jr. that transformed America into a true human democracy.
(Left) Sanjay Sehgal addresses Greg Pridgeon, Swami Adhyatmananda, Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., Consul General Dr. Kulkarni, Subash Razdan, and Antony Thaliath on the release of the Heartfulness book, Designing Destiny. (Photos: Sri Photos)
Heartfulness’ Sanjay Sehgal launched the charitable organization’s 2nd book, Designing Destiny, which describes the foundation’s innovative programs to develop our youth.
(Left) A scene from From Gandhi to Mahatma, a play presented by Dhoop Chaoon—the episode of Dandi March where police are beating satyagrahis. (Photos: Sri Photos)
Then came the evening attraction: From Gandhi to Mahatma, a play in English, presented by Dhoop Chaoon. The seasoned actors were a delight to watch, although the presentation was on the floor in front of the seating, not ideal for sight, light, or sound. Actors and narrators took the audience through the different stages of Gandhi’s life.
(Left) Child Gandhi with his father on watching Raja Harishchandra. (Photos: Sri Photos)
The youngster who played young Gandhi spoke fearlessly and with proper diction. Makeup, including the bald hairdo, was so proper that one could not make out the difference despite the close quarters. The audience, with eyes brimming with tears, gave the cast a standing ovation.
This was followed by everyone singing the Civil Rights anthem, “We shall overcome” and the Hindi version, “Hum hoge kaamyaab.” Outside the auditorium, “Happy Birthday” was sung for Gandhi ji and a birthday cake was shared. Delicious food was also catered by Swapna Indian Cuisine of Smyrna, GA.
The 4-hour-long evening program and other orderly festivities were thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Website Bonus Feature
TV Asia: highlights of this event. Special thanks to Anjali Chhabria (our team member too) & Anwar Azameri for covering the show.
At the Consulate:
At Gandhi Statue:
At GSU Auditorium:
by Puneet Bhatnagar:
on Facebook page of Dhoop Chaoon Hindi Theater Group
Associates of GFUSA hosted a “Feed the Hungry Lunch” at Ebenezer Baptist Church:
Leela Kaul, Vasantha, Antony Thaliath, Kumkum Kashiparekh, Ruth Gupta, and Neela Shah.
Singers of national anthems:
young ladies, Meenakshi Ramadgu, Archisha Darpally, Manasi Oleti, and Anika Nallur.
Singers of “Raghupati Raghav Rajaram”:
Srivalli Sridhar, Gowri Karumanchi, Hima Karri, Rekha Hemadribhotla, Madhumati Urmila MOta, Padma Joshi, Rajalakshmi Nair, Nidhi Nair, Mini Nair, Siri Kamsali, Loukya Challapureddi, Rishika Akula and Tanish Borra.
Play, From Gandhi to Mahatma:
The cast included: Child Gandhi – Arav Jain, Young Gandhi & Nehru – Sarfaraz Khan, Old Gandhi and Narrator 1 – Sachin Bapat, Kasturba Gandhi – Surbhi Jain, Gandhiji’s father, English Officer & Policeman 2 – Aashish Kapoor, Viceroy, Abdulla & Ticket checker – Moiz Hussain, Putlibai – Manjusha Verma, Gopal Krishna Gokhale & Narrator 3 – Permanand Goswami, Policeman 1 – Giri Girdharan, Volunteer Dandi March & Judge – Anil Bhagat, Volunteer Dandi March – Asha Gupta, Shabana Syed, Akila Girdharan, Anshika Mishra, Atharva Mishra, Ayaan Kapoor & Sachin Bapat. Dr. Martin Luther King & Coolie – Howard, Mrs. Coretta Scott King – Chrissy, Sarojini Naidu & Narrator 4 – Ritambhara Mittal, Friend, Meera ben & Narrator 5 – Akila Giridharan, Narrator 2 – Shabana Syed. Music was designed by Jayesh Jurani and Videography by Puneet Bhatnagar. Lights by Kartikay Bhagat, Make-up by Sumona Goswami and Script Research & Writing by: Jayesh Jhurani, Sachin Bapat, Ritambhara Mittal & Stefanie Temme Bapat.
[Updated November 1, 2019]
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