Mandela the Mahatma

The World mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, the man who symbolized hope to the downtrodden of  the world. He was a giant in a world of men. His passing leaves a void in all of us. Below is a unique and lovely tribute by an Indian man, a man who lives far away from South Africa but has been touched like all of us.


                         (by the sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik on the sands of Puri – courtesy ANI News)

Mandela was very dear to hearts and minds of Indians all over the world. He was the connection to Mahatma Gandhi to our generation. We followed his struggles against the apartheid regime in South Africa, we watched him embrace his enemies and torturers as he led an emerging nation into a path of democracy and civil rights for all. We admired him immensely and wished to draw from his greatness. He was the living embodiment of the ancient Indian invocation – Lead Us from Darkness to Light.

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Mandela and South Africa are deeply important to us because Gandhi began his work in South Africa. As Mandela said himself as he unveiled the Gandhi memorial in South Africa:

  • “we are unveiling here the very first statue of an anti colonial figure
    and a hero of millions of people world wide. Gandhiji influenced the
    activities of liberation movements, civil rights movements and religious
    organisations in all five continents of the world. He impacted on men
    and women who have achieved significant historical changes in their
    countries not least amongst whom are Martin Luther King. Mahatma Gandhi
    came to this country 100 years ago, to assist Indians brought to this
    country as indentured labourers and those who came to set up trading
    posts. He came here to assist them to retain their right to be on a
    common voters roll. The Mahatma is an integral part of our history
    because it is here that he first experimented with truth; here that he
    demonstrated his characteristic firmness in pursuit of justice; here
    that he developed Satyagraha as a philosophy and a method of struggle.”
  • “Today as we strive to achieve a date for the first democratic elections
    in this country, the legacy of Gandhiji has an immediate relevance. He
    negotiated in good faith and without bitterness. But when the oppressor
    reneged he returned to mass resistance. He combined negotiation and mass
    action and illustrated that the end result through either means was
    effective. Gandhi is most revered for his commitment to non-violence and
    the Congress Movement was strongly influenced by this Gandhian
    philosophy, it was a philosophy that achieved the mobilisation of
    millions of South Africans during the 1952 defiance campaign, which
    established the ANC as a mass based organisation. The ANC and its
    congress alliance partners worked jointly to protest the pass laws and
    the racist ideologies of the white political parties.”

Both Gandhi & Mandela are distinguished by the fact that they did not transfer fruits of their greatness to their children or families as a hereditary right. This is, in itself, a great example to a world where children of leaders think they have a hereditary right to their parent’s political power.

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