Interfaith Prayer Ceremony Commemorates 146th Anniversary of the Birth of Mahatma Gandhi
On 2 October, the nation of India paid homage to the great apostle of peace Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of the 146th anniversary of his birth. An interfaith prayer ceremony was held between 7.30 and 8.30 a.m. on the verdant lawns of the Raj Ghat memorial in New Delhi, which marks the spot of his cremation in 1948. The ceremony was attended by Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, prime minister Narendra Modi, congress chief Sonia Gandhi, and other dignitaries, including the ambassadors of France and Japan, who laid wreathed tributes to Gandhi at the memorial. A large number of schoolchildren also gathered at the venue to pay their respects.
Widely known in India as “the father of the nation,” Gandhi was the most prominent leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule, applying the principle of non-violent civil disobedience in the political field on a large scale. He was a keen advocate of ahimsa (non-harm), a fundamental tenet common to Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain philosophies, which he viewed as essential to cultivating peace and harmony in society. He also embraced the concept of “Sarva Dharma Sambhava,” embodying the view that all religions are equal, a cornerstone of the Indian model of secularism in which the state attempts to embrace all faiths equally. Reflecting the spirit of Gandhi’s approach, prayers and tributes from all faiths were offered as a mark of honor, symbolizing communal harmony and appealing to the values of religious coherence.
The prayer ceremony began with a four-minute Buddhist chant accompanied by drum beats. This was followed by devotional expressions from representatives of the Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Jewish, Parsi, and Sikh faiths, as a symbol of the religious equality that Gandhi aspired to realize.
“Gandhi and Buddha both stood for peace. And it is important that the country follows the ideology of communal harmony espoused by the Mahatma,” said 62-year-old Tokyo-born monk Okonogi T., who led a delegation of monks from Rajgir in Bihar State. (NDTV)
NDTV reported that the Sikh prayer “Tujh bin aur na jina mera saiban” touched the hearts of many attendees, who sat with eyes closed in meditation. It was followed by the Hindu prayer “Gita Paath” and the “Gandhi Vichar” (a collection of Gandhian Thoughts) in both Hindi and English. The “Gandhi Vichar” was accompanied by an audio clip of Gandhi expressing his view on religion: “I believe in all religions. . . . A free Indian [sic] will not be a Hindu rajya but an Indian rajya. . . . And, when people of one religion fight against the other, it belittles their own religion.”
A seven-minute bhajan, a Hindu devotional song, was performed next, followed by touching performances of the popular Hindu devotional songs “Vaishnav Janato” and “Ram Dhun.”
Gandhi’s birthday, commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, is a national holiday in India. On 15 June 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared that the day would be observed as the International Day of Non-violence, urging all members of the UN to use the occasion to disseminate the message of non-violence across the globe.