A statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled outside Manchester Cathedral today to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the man who led India to independence and became a global ambassador for non-violence and peace.
The unveiling of the 9ft high bronze statue, weighing almost a tonne, followed an hour-long inter-faith service of non-violence, peace and unity hosted by Manchester Cathedral, which included readings, poetry and songs.
The service was invitation-only but was relayed to the public via a large screen outside.
The statue project is an initiative of Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur (SRMD), a worldwide spiritual movement headquartered in India. Shrimad Rajchandra was Mahatma Gandhi’s spiritual mentor and Gandhi attributed the foundation of his values of non-violence and self-improvement to him.
Crafted by renowned Indian artist Ram V Sutar, the Gandhi bronze is the first in a series of public realm improvements in Manchester’s Medieval Quarter and new riverside park close the cathedral and Chetham’s Library.
The proposed permanent memorial to the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack is expected to be located nearby.
Celebrations with dance and music from Manchester University students, The Voice finalist Natasha Seth of the Parrs Wood School choir, and Indian dancers, greeted the unveiling of the statue.
Among those present at the unveiling were senior representatives of the High Commission for India, the Manchester India Partnership, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, city council leader Sir Richard Lees, the Bishop of Manchester the Rt Rev David Walker and Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner MP, whose Ashton-under-Lyne constituency has a significant Hindu population.
Costs of the project have been sponsored by the Kamani family – creators of Manchester global fashion brands Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing – in memory of their grandfather Bhanji Khanji Kamani who died 40 years ago this year at the age of 91.
Gandhi, who led India to independence from Britain in 1947 after years of non-violent campaigns and protests, was no stranger to the north of England.
During a 1931 visit to the UK, Gandhi travelled from London to Blackburn via Manchester to meet with mill workers and explain the Indian perspective on the boycott of British goods that was damaging their industry. During this visit, Gandhi received a warm welcome and attracted large crowds of admirers.
More recently, his teachings and vision were captured by Sir Richard Attenborough’s epic 1982 movie Gandhi, in which former Manchester Grammar School boy Sir Ben Kingsley won an Oscar for playing the title role.
Manthan Taswala, SRMD UK head of public relations, said: “Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings remain as potent today as when he first said, ‘be the change that you want to see in the world’.
“Following the 2017 Arena attack, Manchester’s unique civic pride displayed the values of non-violence and compassion. We are inspired by the people of Manchester for their strength, decency and community in the face of this unparalleled tragedy.
“The statue of Gandhi will celebrate the universal power of his message. A statue in Manchester will ensure that the heart of our politics and democracy can all be blessed with his ethos.”