Bahai News -- Vajpayee joins in tribute to Gandhi

Vajpayee joins in tribute to Gandhi


NEW DELHI: The gentle strains of Mahatma Gandhi's favourite hymns wafted around as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee led a group in paying tribute to the apostle of peace on his 55th death anniversary here on Thursday.

As a winter breeze rustled the leaves of trees, the gathering of politicians, diplomats and schoolchildren observed a minute's silence at Gandhi Smriti, the house in central Delhi where Gandhi spent his last days and was assassinated in 1948.

Time seemed to come to a standstill as the gathering fell silent at exactly 5.17 p.m., the exact time at which Gandhi was gunned down just before he was to lead a gathering in prayer.

Gandhi, an enduring icon of peace and non-violence the world over, had escaped an assassination attempt at the same house barely 10 days before he was killed.

Vajpayee, clad in a blue bandh-gala suit and sitting under a garlanded portrait of Gandhi, was enthralled as a group of musicians performed several of the Mahatma's favourite devotional songs, including the Gujarati hymn "Vaishnava janato" and "Ram dhun".

On arriving at Gandhi Smriti, Vajpayee showered flower petals on the spot where Gandhi was killed, marked by a small stonestructure on which is inscribed "Hey Ram", meaning Oh God, -- the last words the Mahatma uttered before he fell to the gun of a Hindu fanatic who blamed him for the country's partition.

The ceremony commenced with a brief prayer that had representatives of various religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, the Bahai faith, Judaism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity, reading from their scriptures.

Joining Vajpayee in the tribute were former president R. Venkataraman, former prime ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and I.K. Gujral and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and hundreds of schoolchildren.

Some of the people sitting on the lawns of Gandhi Smriti made yarn using the 'charkha', or spinning wheel that the Mahatma had popularised as a symbol of self-reliance and defiance of British rule during the freedom movement.

Many were clad in white khadi, the hand-spun cotton made using the charkha.

Earlier on Thursday, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Vajpayee led the nation in offering homage to Gandhi at Rajghat on the banks of river Yamuna where he was cremated after his assassination.

©Copyright 2003, NewIndPress (India)

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