“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” Mahatma Gandhi The first International Day of Non-Violence was commemorated on October 2, 2007, October 2 being the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Taking forward globally the Mahatma’s philosophy


“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
Mahatma Gandhi

The first International Day of Non-Violence was commemorated on October 2, 2007, October 2 being the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India in its publication, ‘Discussing the Mahatma’ states that the idea to designate October 2, as the International Day of Non-Violence had originated from the declaration adopted at the International Conference on “Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment – Gandhian philosophy in the 21st century” convened in New Delhi in January 2006, to commemorate the centenary of the Satyagraha Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa.

On October 2, this year, the Pakkiyam National College, in Matale celebrated this day. The school was chosen as it was Mahatma Gandhi himself who had laid the foundation stone for it in November 1927. The Kandasamy family, owners of the Wiltshire Estate at that time had donated a plot of land in the heart of the city to build a school and invited Gandhiji to lay the foundation stone. The school was named Pakkiyam Vidyalaya. At present it stands in the same place in Matale town as Pakkiyam National College.

The statue of Mahatma Gandhi was garlanded by the Asst. High Commissioner for India A. Natarajan, Minister of Industries Central Province Anushia Sivarajah and the Mayor of Matale Mohamed Hilmy Careem. Ten Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim schools performed with their cultural items. At the end of the performance the participants received commendation certificates. It is proposed to hold this programme every year at the same venue. At the same time separately, the Mahatma Gandhi Sabha which was in existence since 1948 has planned to lay the foundation stone in the near future to build the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial International Centre. This project is fully funded by the Government of India.

The Matale Municipality has given a plot of land near the Rest House on long lease to the Gandhi Sabha to build the Centre for Peace. The main objective of this Peace Centre is to promote ‘Ahimsa’ – non-violence, the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Centre will consist of a museum, a library, cultural centre to link Indian and Sri Lankan cultures, information centre for education in India, education centre for children and adults, conference hall, meditation centre, reception hall and a peace park.
The Cultural Centre will expand its activities and will be open to foreign students for training in dancing, music and of course the teaching of Mahatma’s philosophy of ‘Ahimsa’ will be promoted.

Considering these and other innumerable connections, it is a fitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi to have the Centre for Peace built in this historic city.

Assistant High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka A. Natarajan, who is based in Kandy spoke to the Sunday Times on the International Day of Non-Violence. In these troubled times where many countries are fighting civil wars, Mr. Natarajan stated that it is very vital to take forward globally, Gandhiji’s philosophy of non-violence. Gandhiji fought all his battles with his philosophy of ‘Satyagraha’ or ‘Truth Force’, the non-violence movement which he started on September 11, 1906 from South Africa. The world respects the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, the greatest contribution made by Mahatma to the world. Gandhiji achieved his ‘Swaraj’ and independence of India through his many satyagrahas and was successful in achieving what he desired in a peaceful manner.

There was no violence in his battles for the poor and the down-trodden. Ghandhiji believed that righteousness cannot be achieved by force or violence. Strength comes from righteousness was his belief.

When Mahatma Gandhi was invited to visit Ceylon, he promised to do so on the condition that people contribute to his “Khadi Fund’. He was also very keen to meet the Indian labour. The first group of Indian labour was brought through Mannar to Matale and then dispatched to the up-country plantations. Gandhiji arrived in Colombo on November 11, 1927 by SS”Chinkoa” to a rousing welcome by the many communities.

Gandhiji travelled from Matara to Jaffna where enthusiastic receptions were accorded. Thousands of people waited patiently to get a glimpse of this great son of the east, and to hear him speak. At all these receptions he was presented with a purse for his Khadi Fund and receiving the purse he stated that he was not ashamed to take this money as it is for the ‘Daridranuriya’(the poor). Thanking the people for the purses, he stated that the poor would be benefited through their cottage industries and it would help feed the hungry millions.

Gandhiji had stated that wherever he went he loved to see schoolchildren. He was invited by many schools to their prize distributions and at times only to give a talk which was listened to by wide-eyed students. Professor V. Vitharana in his E.A. Wijesooriya Memorial Oration – 2004 ‘Education at Mahinda: the early phase, its background and content’ states “Mahatma Gandhi – India’s ‘Father of the Nation’ was Chief Guest at the Prize day held in November 1927. He sat cross-legged to deliver his address in which he stressed the importance of things national.

“Spacious buildings are not indispensable to a school if teachers practised what they preached and the students are truthful, he declared. He visited Nalanda Vidyalaya, and other schools in Colombo, Jaffna, Matale and in Kandy Dharmaraja College and Trinity College.

His interest in spinning and weaving took him to the Girls’ Weaving School, Akmeemana and Tellipallai Weaving School, Jaffna. At the Rajagiriya weaving institution, he was received by Dr. C.A. Hewavitarana who requested his advice on weaving and the principal of the school U.B. Dolapihilla who presented him with a purse for his ‘Khadi Fund.’

Sadly, the Mahatma was assassinated by a misguided youth in 1948. But his philosophy of ‘ahimsa’ peace and tolerance cannot be destroyed by an assassin’s bullet. As India’s Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru stated:

“The light has gone out, I said and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illuminated this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years and a thousand years later that light will be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts….”

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