Printed from the Charlotte Observer -
Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 01, 2008

Gandhi statue hoisted at Old County Courthouse

By Franco Ordoñez
Published in: Local News
  • Known as “Mahatma,” or great soul, Gandhi was the leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule and widely known as the “Father of India.”

    He was born Oct. 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India. He studied law in London before returning to India and then traveling to South Africa, where he lived for 20 years.

    In 1894, Gandhi campaigned to uphold the rights of South African Indians. It was in South Africa that he developed his nonviolent resistance movement known as “satyagrah.”

    Gandhi later returned to India and began his peaceful noncooperation with the British.

    In 1930, he launched his “March to the Sea,” a 241-mile march to protest the British salt tax in colonial India.

    In 1947, Great Britain granted Indian independence. A year later, Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi by a Hindu fanatic.

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    Gandhi is here.

    An 8-foot statue of the bespectacled human rights leader, holding his famous staff, now stands in front of the Old County Courthouse.

    “This is the man who taught the world about the power of nonviolence,” said Garry Bhojwani, president of the Charlotte Asian Heritage Association, standing next to the statue. “Everyone knows his work, his method of peace, of sacrifice, of love.”

    On Tuesday, contractors hoisted the statue of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, made of bronze and weighing 1,700 pounds, onto a concrete foundation, built to withstand 150 mph winds, at Trade and Alexander streets.

    On Sunday, it will be officially unveiled at a public festival celebrating Indian and Asian cultures.

    A few members of the local Indian community gathered around the statue Tuesday afternoon, prayed, and sprinkled rice and powder on the feet of the statue as a blessing and sign of respect.

    “Mohandas Gandhi is the father of our universe,” said Nimish Bhatt, local director of the Universal Vedic Cultural and Educational Foundation. “Even Martin Luther King Jr. learned from him how to fight with nonviolence.”

    Three years ago, Bhojwani, a real estate investor, said he noticed that many major cities had Gandhi statues and decided Charlotte should also have one.

    He created the nonprofit organization, lobbied for county approval, found a sculptor, and underwrote the $35,000 needed to create the statue.

    The statue, depicting Gandhi's famous 241-mile march in 1930 to protest the British salt tax in colonial India, will be the centerpiece of a new park named in his honor.

    It is a gift from the Asian Heritage Association to Mecklenburg County as part of local efforts to teach young people how one man, eschewing violence, changed the course of Indian, American and world history through love, dedication and perseverance instead of violence.

    “When you see this statue of Mahatma Gandhi,” Bhojwani said, “you feel in your body the love and peace and sacrifice he stood for.”

    Franco Ordoñez: 704-358-6180

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