Gandhi at Jubilee Park, Parramatta: A unique celebration

Jubilee Park is a perfect spot for a community celebration of Gandhi Jayanti

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When the life-size Gandhi statue arrived in Parramatta’s Jubilee Park in November 2018, presented by the Indian government and unveiled by President Ram Nath Kovind, it was quite clear that the spot would become a meeting ground for Indian-origin Sydney-siders as they marked national milestones.

Gandhi’s life-size statue at Jubilee Park, Parramatta

By happy coincidence, the first birth anniversary celebration of Gandhi, at Jubilee Park, has itself been a milestone occasion – the sesquicentenary of India’s most beloved icon.

The evening of 2 October saw an enthusiastic crowd at this spot, gathered to celebrate the International Day of Non-Violence, as the birth anniversary of Gandhi is now called. (Weeknight? No big deal!) Organised by the City of Parramatta, the evening was a pleasant mix of addresses, performances and felicitations.

Gandhi was felicitated with flower garlands galore, before musical tributes followed in the form of his favourite hymns. Gayatri Bharat’s melodious bhajans in different Indian languages reverberated with the Gandhian ideology, and included Kabir’s dohas and the ever-popular Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram and Vaishnav Jan Toh to which the crowds joined in.

Musical tribute to Gandhi

As if in thanks to their singing, they were rewarded with handmade laddoos, in a wonderful hark back to the national day events in India where this sweetmeat was an essential part of the celebrations. On this occasion, they were made with warmth and love by the seniors from AASHA Foundation.

AASHA foundation spreading love with laddoos

An equal obeisance to our karmabhoomi came in the form of the cleansing and welcome dance performed by the Jannawi Dance Clan, in what has become an endearing inclusion in many Indian events at Parramatta.

Jannawi Dance clan welcomes the attendees with a traditional performance

The new Lord Mayor City of Parramatta Councillor Bob Dwyer spoke about the relevance of Gandhi’s philosophies. “In times of complex global challenges, Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence remains an inspiration,” he said.

He acknowledged the Gandhi statue as a gift from the Government of India as a symbol of enduring friendship between Australia and India. Mentioning that there are 27000 residents of Indian ancestry in Parramatta, he joked that in the future, we would see more Indians playing for Australian cricket so we can beat Indian team more regularly.

He was joined on stage by Consul General of India Manish Gupta, Leader of Opposition and Member for Strathfield Jodi McKay MP, Parramatta Councillor Sameer Pandey who was instrumental in getting this event off the ground, and others.

Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer (City of Parramatta) felicitating winner of Arts for Peace competetion

The Consul General in his address expressed his gratitude to the dignitaries and talked about reflecting on Gandhi’s beliefs, thoughts and philosophies. “The freedom of India was about social and economic emancipation of the masses,” he said. “Gandhi’s karamsthal may have been India, but he belonged to all of humanity. His message of sustainable development resonates in the context of the larger world.”

Quoting Gandhi in his closing sentence, he reminded us of a simple way in which we can continue with Gandhi’s legacy: Be the change you want to see in the world.

Students of IABBV Hindi School and Darcy Road Public School reenacted the Dandi Salt March shouting slogans of Vande Mataram, and presented a medley of patriotic songs and Gandhi’s favourite bhajans, as their teachers looked on from the audience. IABBV principal Mala Mehta has initiated primary school student participation at various community events, and as part of the organising committee of this event, brought the young ones yet another opportunity to perform.

Jodi McKay, Leader of the Opposition told Indian Link, “On this day it’s important to remember what Gandhi stood for: peace, humility, non-violence, tolerance. These are worthy messages for us to live by.”

New migrants Sabarish and Urvi mentioned another worthy Gandhi message that they have been living by: during their recent move here they have been reminded often of Gandhi’s “swavalambi” (self-dependence) ideology.

The event also included a Mahatma Gandhi Exhibition in the Harry Todd Band Hall. The Gandhi Peace Centre Australia had organised an ‘Arts for Peace’ competition inviting members of the multicultural community in various age groups to creatively express and share their works on harmony and peace. The contest saw 75 participants from Australia and the selected works were displayed for public viewing. The winners were felicitated by Bob Dwyer and Manish Gupta.

No Indian celebration can be complete without dance, and this time round, Kanan Shah’s Nartan Institute of Performing Arts, Sumati Nagpal’s Swastik Dance Academy and Nabanita Banerjee’s Kiyara Dance Academy did the honours.

The youth band Rubaru from the University of Sydney, growing in popularity with its recent appearances, was an absolute hit with the crowd. The evening ended on a pleasant note with Dipankar Chaudhary’s melodious rendition of Gandhi’s favourite songs.

We’re hoping this inaugural Gandhi Jayanti event at Jubilee Park becomes an annual affair.