On 7th June 1893, a young practicing lawyer was thrown off a train in South Africa for refusing to comply with the travel rules of ‘racial segregation’. The same person later became the reason for awe for the British. He is known by many names in India. Ravindranath Tagore called him Mahatma! Some call him Bapu. Some call him Gandhiji or just Gandhi. It doesn’t matter what you call him! He has a special place in the heart of every Indian. His ethics had influenced many thinkers all around the world and encouraged them to fight against injustice. Not just in India, his work and philosophy have been commemorated and followed by many nations. Being the Father of the Nation (Rashtrapita), Gandhiji’s effigy appears on many coins of India. It is the moment of pride for India that this great Indian Leader is featured on many coins issued by more than 10 countries. In the commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, let’s get acquainted with the coins issued by several countries which feature the glimpses of the life of this ‘great soul’ and unveil important milestones of his life.
The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was born as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on 2nd October 1869 in the princely state of Porbandar, which is located in modern-day Gujarat. He was born into a Hindu family to Karamchand Gandhi who was a diwan of Porbandar. Just like Independence Day and Republic Day, Gandhi Jayanti is one of the three national holidays of India. Also celebrated as the International Day of Non-Violence, Gandhi Jayanti or the Birth Anniversary of this remarkable person is a cause for celebration and is commemorated in many ways in India as well as throughout the world.
Countries like Ajman, Andorra, Cook Islands, Equatorial Guinea, etc. have issued many Uncirculated Proof coins portraying the bust or the effigy of Mahatma Gandhi. This year marks the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the whole world is waiting for the unique celebrations of Gandhi’s 150th-anniversary date.
Mahatma Gandhi is known for his philosophy and principles that were unusual to the contemporary world that was preoccupied in wars, fights, and violence. The strength of his character and simplicity is something of an inspiration. When we think of him the image that comes to our mind is a simple, kind old man wearing simple clothes. The world knows Mahatma Gandhi as a bespectacled skinny man wearing a loincloth and a shawl wrapped around his shoulders.
However, Mahatma Gandhi did not dress like this always. He was one of the few Indians who got educated in England during the pre-independence time. He wore western clothes or traditional Gujarathi clothes such as long turbans, kurta, and dhoti. Though this attire is not so famous, the world is always curious to have a glance at this veiled side of their beloved personality. What would be a better moment than the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi to peep into his lesser-known side? Mints of South Africa and Niue issued two special commemorative coins depicting portraits of young Mahatma Gandhi.
South Africa issued a coin with the denomination of 1 South African rand within the series “the life of Gandhi”. The coin depicts a Frontal figure of Gandhi as a young lawyer. Three figures next to bust along with his signature. Inscription: “My life is my Message” and denomination “R1”. This coin depicts Gandhi in his youth wearing western-style clothes.
On the other hand, 1 dollar coin issued by Niue shows another dressing Style of Gandhi which is more traditional. This coin is among the five coins set issued to commemorate 100 years since the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India. The coin features a frontal portrait of young Gandhi in January 1915, when he and his wife arrived in India. Inscription: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” at the top and “Gandhi’s Arrival in India, 1915” at the bottom. This coin depicts Gandhi in traditional attire wearing a traditional Gujarati Headgear.
It was in the year 1921that Gandhi adopted his signature attire of Dhoti. In the year 1921, Mahatma Gandhi visited Madurai. On his way to Madurai, he had seen farmers and poor people wearing the simplest of clothes, a small towel like dhoti around their waist. He was much disturbed and was affected by this image; he took the decision to dress in a simple way just like so many of the people of his beloved country. He continued to dress this way throughout his life.
Another such turning point of Mahatma Gandhi’s life was his stay in South Africa. Before leading the Indian freedom movement, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi used to live in South Africa. During his stay in South Africa, Gandhi propagated the philosophy of Satyagraha there and propelled the country towards a no class or ethnic discrimination society. This particularly attracted the attention of the congress members of the moderate group who were at that time in a regular tussle with the extremist G. K. Gokhale – the leader of moderates in Indian National Congress needed a strong man to assert his views. He was drawn towards the work of Gandhi. He believed that his achievements would influence the attentions of a large section of the Indian community towards him. So, he advised Gandhi to come to India to study the conditions of his own country and also mentored him occasionally. Hence, Gandhi left South Africa on 19th July 1914 and reached London on 4th August 1914. Gandhi had returned to India from South Africa on January 9, 1915. Gandhiji’s return to India became a pivotal moment in the History of Freedom Struggle of India. The celebration of Centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa has been a separate theme to be featured on coins. The Indian Government Mint, as well as the Government Mint of Mauritius, issued coins commemorating this historic event.
India issued coins with two different denominations on the same theme. These Rs. 10 and Rs. 100 coins depict Dual Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi (both young Mahatma Gandhi and Gandhi Ji in old age), showing his transformation and is inscribed RETURN FROM SOUTH AFRICA1915 – 2015 and CENTENARY COMMEMORATION around the central portrait.
On the other hand, the 100 Mauritian rupee coin is a simple one. It depicts Bust of Gandhi facing 3/4th to left with Inscription: “MAHATMA GANDHI” at the top and “CENTENARY OF ARRIVAL IN MAURITIUS” at the Bottom.
After his return, Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress where Gokhale introduced him to Indian issues, politics, and the Indian people. Gandhi took leadership of the Congress in 1920 and led Indian Politics for almost 3 decades.
The Civil Disobedience Movement was one of the most significant movements launched by Mahatma Gandhi in the course of India’s freedom. On 12th March 1930, Gandhi begins a defiant march to the sea in protest of the British monopoly on salt, his boldest act of civil disobedience yet against British rule in India. Dandi March, Salt March or the Salt Satyagraha was an act of nonviolence protest against the Salt Tax imposed by the British government on the Indians.
This 24-day march which started on 12th March 1930 ended on 5th April 1930 with Gandhiji picking up a fist full of salt from the shores of Dandi village. The significance of this act was great as it defied the Salt Act and Salt Tax levied on Indians by the British. The Salt Act prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt, a staple in the Indian diet. Citizens were forced to buy the vital minerals, which were freely available in nature, from the British. Picking up a small lump of natural salt out of the mud from salt planes of Dandi was an ingeniously simple way to break a British law non-violently. This first nationwide movement was remembered by issuing commemorative coins.
India, without the doubt, issued two special commemorative coins to celebrate the 75th year of Dandi/Salt March with the denominations of Rs. 5 and Rs. 100. The coin depicts Mahatma Gandhi in the center marching with his followers surrounded by Inscription”75 YEARS OF DANDI MARCH” in Devanagari and Roman.
The Niue mint issued a One Dollar coin which depicts Gandhi walking with his followers with the inscription “In a gentle way you can shake the world” at the top and “Gandhi’s Salt March 1930” at the bottom.
The Civil Disobedience Movement was suspended, when Mahatma Gandi withdrew mass Satyagraha on July 14th, 1933. Though the movement ceased completely on April 7th, 1934, the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi had a beneficial impact. This gave rise to the most important movement in the History of India as well as in the life of Mahatma Gandhi i.e. Quit India Movement.
The Quit India Movement was another important nation-wide movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi. It was launched on 8 August 1942demanding an end to the British Rule of India. After the failure of the Cripps mission which proposed the Dominion Status of India, Gandhi made a call of “Do or Die” in a speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan. Through his passionate speeches, Gandhi moved people by proclaiming “every Indian who desires freedom and strives for it must be his own guide…” Gandhi declared in his fiery “Do or Die” speech the day the Quit India Movement was declared. This crucial moment of Indian History has been commemorated on the coins not only India but also by Niue.
India issued a set of 4 coins (one circulating, 3Non circulating coins) to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Quit India Movement. The coins show a sculpture depicting the freedom struggle of India with the inscription “QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT” and “GOLDEN JUBILEE”.
Niue Mint issued a set of 5 limited edition silver commemorative coins on 2nd October 2015 on Gandhi’s birth anniversary as a lasting tribute to his message and teachings commemorating 100 years since the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India. This coin is titled “THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU DO TODAY” on the left to the upper periphery and “QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT, 1942 at the bottom. The engraving shows an aerial view of three waves of marchers in the Quit India Movement.
The British government responded to the call of Gandhi by arresting all major Congress leaders the very next day. They were lodged in prisons in different parts of the country. The congress was banned. This act created a major dishevel amongst the people of India. There were hartals and processions in every part of the country. There is no doubt that “Quit India Movement”, united the Indian people against British rule. The August Revolution was a historic event and it had a tremendous influence on the future of Indian nationalism. By the end of World War II, Britain’s position in the world had changed dramatically and the demand for independence could no longer be ignored.
At midnight, on 15 August 1947, after the struggle of decades, India became an independent nation. The struggle for freedom in India is one inspirational liberating movement in the World. The spirit of independence spread to other countries as well. A wind of change was blowing through the world which gave rise to the growth of national consciousness. Gandhiji, who played a vital role in the struggle, is given the credit for shaping up the Freedom Movement. With the partition of India and Pakistan followed by the assassination of Gandhiji, Indian Freedom becomes the last achievement of his life which is commemorated on the following coins.
The last coin of the series of 100 years since the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India issued by Niue mint in the year 2015 commemorated the Freedom of India. This One Dollar coin depicts a smiling portrait of Mahatma Gandhi with the National Flag of India in the background with inscriptions “INDIAN INDEPENDENCE, 1947” and “My LIFE IS MY MESSAGE – MAHATMA GANDHI”.
The other coin was issued by the Republic of Liberia in the year 1997 to celebrate the completion of the 50 years of Independence. The coin depicts left-facing seated figure of Gandhiji in front of a Taj Mahal with a “Charkha” and is inscribed with “Indian Independence” at the top flanked by the year 1947 and 1997 and the denomination $1 is at the bottom.
During the struggle of independence each and, every Indian played its role in some way or other. While we are aware of several freedom fighters and revolutionaries, many have remained unsung heroes. Even though they are not mentioned, their efforts and contribution is always remembered and recognized and will always run through our veins.
Life of Mahatma Gandhi was eventful and hectic. Even after the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, his stories are being narrated from generations to generations. Since a very young age, he gave himself to the cause of eradicating injustice from society and he became successful in his life’s goal. Unfortunately, his “Great Soul” did not linger on much to see the progress of his beloved nation. Within few months after India became free, Gandhiji was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. Though he lived to see his nation became free, he did not stay long afterward. However, the efforts put by him are still in the minds of the citizens of his country. Whether it is the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi or the 200th, he will be always remembered and worshipped by the people of India.
To remember Mahatma Gandhi, the most significant campaign was launched by the Prime Minister of India. Known as Swachh Bharat AbhiyanProject, this campaign aims to achieve the vision of a ‘Clean India’ by 2nd October 2019. Also known as “Pradhan Mantri Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” and “Pradhan Mantri Swachh Bharat Mission Yojana”, the Swachh Bharat Campaign would be the best tribute India could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150 birth anniversary date in 2019.