Madurai

Mahatma Gandhi's statue in France: a symbol of multiculturalism

Bernard Morin, Mayor, Vaureal, France, garlanding Mahatma Gandhi's statue at Gandhi Avenue, Vaureal, in France.

Bernard Morin, Mayor, Vaureal, France, garlanding Mahatma Gandhi's statue at Gandhi Avenue, Vaureal, in France.  

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Bernard Morin, Mayor of Vaureal, speaks on the significance of Gandhi's statue in his town

Salman Rushdie in his book Step Across This Line talks about Mahatma Gandhi as one who gave up cosmopolitanism to gain a country has become a global icon and the citizen of the World. Not only Gandhi's ideas have gained much importance in contemporary times and travelled farther, but even in the ‘corporeal sense' he has been celebrated as a global icon.

The former French colony, Puducherry's ‘French Connection' has seen a new archetype in strengthening the cultural relationship between Puducherry and France. France known for its multiculturalism, in recognition of Mahatma Gandhi, named an avenue after him in Vaureal, 30 km from the capital city of Paris, way back in the year 1985, when Joseph Wattellier was the Mayor of Vaureal.

Seen as a milestone in strengthening multiculturalism, Vaureal now has a Gandhi statue on the Parisian Gandhi Avenue, courtesy, the Tamil Cultural Association (Association culturelle des Tamouls), and the efforts of Bernard Morin, Mayor, Vaureal.

Mr.Bernard Morin, who is also the first president of Cergy Pontoise Agglomeration, Vaureal, recently came to Madurai and during his visit, he talked to The Hindu about, Gandhi and his ideals and the significance of having Gandhi's statue in his town in France. He was accompanied by the former Mayor, Joseph Wattellier.

French Multiculturalism

When asked whether he sees the installation of Gandhi's statue a result of French Multiculturalism or a recognition to the global iconic status of Gandhi. Mr. Morin said that there are several aspects of Gandhi which had attracted him; however this aspect of multiculturalism was also a reason behind the installation of the statue. “Our city very much exemplifies multiculturalism and has people of various ethnicity, language and religion.”

Though multiculturalism is not the only thing about Gandhi, as an icon of non-violence and peace, Gandhi is less known here in this part of the world, but his ideas are quite interesting and especially his idea of voluntary restrain of consumption in order to share with others is quite remarkable.

“Gandhi disapproves expansive conspicuous public consumption, for him, consumption should be need determined and if our wants are restrained, the basic needs of the commonest people would be guaranteed. In a stage where there is a danger of scarcity we need to save and share the natural resources and this aspect of Gandhi's idea has appealed to me greatly.”

Being a graduate in Economic History, Mr. Morin has read a lot about Gandhi, one of the things that he came to know after his visit to the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai was his idea of the British Rule in India, after watching a short documentary, he said, “I had read that it was violent but never thought it to be this violent.”

On his tour of Tamil Nadu, Mr. Bernard said that he was very much impressed with the Temples of Tamil Nadu, and he said that they are not only gigantic in size but they are very much lively, more than the religious or artistic value which too is significant nevertheless, the temples remain as space of lively things.

As a Mayor of French City, when asked about his observations on Madurai, he said that it seems to be on the transition from the ancient to the modern, burgeoning population of vehicle users and pollution is a problem, honking was banned in the 1960s in France but here it is something which is rampant .He further said that a lot of comparison is being done between China and India but one thing that we have to understand is that one model of urban planning cannot be replicated with the other.

Talking about the installation of statue and its responses, he said, though not specially a tourist town Vaureal, the statue has become an interesting point where all the people who pass by wait for a minute and they either take pictures or read what's been written on the stone plaque. He said that among the eleven states in France this statue is the first and that is very close to the capital city of Paris.

Gandhi as Global Icon

Ilangai Venthan, president of the Tamil Cultural Association, Paris, told The Hindu, “The idea to install the statue came when my daughter as a kid while crossing the Gandhi Avenue in Vaureal asked me about Gandhi and was confused with the modern leaders.”

The cultural association which was started in 2005, then felt the need that it is not only important to spread the ideals and values of “Non-violence, Peace and Tolerance” to the future generations of France, but to have a ‘corporealistic presence' of the global icon. The association was given a municipal building where ‘House of Cultures and Languages of World' was set up, which now teaches many languages to the citizens of Vaureal.

A five hundred kilo bronze statue, specially designed by Varadarajan, Thimmakkudi Swami Malai Sculptor, was installed and unveiled in 2011. The Vaureal Mayor, Secretary, Wattellier Danielle, Krishnaraj Alain, Danaraj, secretaries and Irudayaraj, treasurer, Tamil Cultural Association, Vaureal France were among others who took efforts to install the statue.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 8:54:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/mahatma-gandhis-statue-in-france-a-symbol-of-multiculturalism/article2984457.ece

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