The picturesque town of Ayr on the south-west coast of Scotland became the first Scottish place to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, marking another place in the United Kingdom to honour the life and times of the iconic leader of India’s freedom struggle.
A bust of Gandhi was unveiled in Edinburgh’s Saughton Park by former Prime Minister I K Gujral in 1997, but the statue in Ayr produced by sculptor Gautam Pal is the first full statue in a part of the UK that sent several Scots to colonial India as soldiers and bureaucrats.
The statue was unveiled in the Ayr town hall this week by the consul-general of India Anju Ranjan and Helen Moonie, provost of the South Ayrshire in an event attended by MPs, councillors, academics, leaders of community organisations and representatives of the army and police.
A plaque near the statue bears Gandhi’s words: ‘There is no way to peace, peace is the way’.
Moonie recalled links between Gandhi and Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet born in Ayrshire: “We are proud of many similarities between South Ayrshire and India and a special link between Mahatma Gandhi and Robert Burns”.
“Both fought against social injustice and used their unique gifts to carve out their place in world history”.
The event included a cultural performance featuring Gandhi’s favourite ‘bhajan’, ‘Vaishnava Janato’ by Preetha Nirmala, Bharat Natyam by a troupe led by Radha Krishnan, and highland dance by local school children.
Gandhi’s statue in Ayr is the latest to be installed in the UK over the decades. A life-size statue is to be installed in Manchester’s popular Medieval Quarter on November 25 in a city hit by the May 2017 terror attack that killed 22 people during a music concert.
Other Gandhi statues in the UK (and the year of installation) are: Tavistock Square, London (1968), Museum Quarter, Hull (2004), Belgrave Road, Leicester (2009), Parliament Square, London (2015), Cardiff Bay, Cardiff (2017).