By N.A. Mirza
Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma – the great soul – assassinated on January 30, 1948 was a versatile personality who inspired several world leaders like President John F. Kennedy, President Nelson Mandela, Black leader Martin Luther King and many others. No other leader is being remembered the way he has been and he is the only personality on whom commemorative stamps and other postal stationery were issued by 91 countries between 1948 and 2011, many on the eve of his birth centenary in 1969. This is the largest issue on any personality in the 168-year-old history of philately and includes an embossed plastic stamp from Bhutan. Even Britain which never issued any stamp on any non-Englishman issued commemoratives and an FDC on Gandhi.
Stamps on Gandhi are a study on Gandhi\’s life, his ideals and views on universal brotherhood, communal harmony and social upliftment; his vision of peaceful co-existence, end to colonial exploitation and enduring peace in the world; major events in his life as a tough and man of conviction and a believer in non-violence.
Apart from having philatelic importance as a theme, these stamps also highlight Gandhi\’s memorable quotes like \”Hate the sin, love the sinner\” as seen on stamps from Afghanistan and Gibraltar; \”I have discovered that man is superior to the system he propounds\” and \”… I am slow to see the blemish of fellow beings, being myself full of them and, therefore, being in need of their charity\” (Nevis); \”My life is indivisible whole, and all my achievements run into one another; and they all have their rise in my insatiable love of mankind\” (Ghana); \”Do or die\” (India); I believe in truth and therefore, I have no doubt in the future of humanity\” (Antigua & Barbados); \”I am an irrepressible optimist because I believe in myself (Guyana).
These stamps have visual effects too. They depict India\’s heritage and rural life as one can see the Taj Mahal, spinning wheel (charkha) in the background on a Madagaskar issue; Ashoka\’s Lion capital and Gateway of India on a Grenada souvenir sheet; Natraj image and Charminar on Grenada Grendines issue; beautifully framed portraits of Gandhi on Guyana, Gambia, Ghana, Iran, Mauritius and Syrian issues.
They also portray Gandhi\’s different profiles like Gandhi at spinning wheel that depict his war against European market (Dominica); Dandi March, salt collection and satyagrah which portray him as a defiant man (India).
Gandhi in stamps and coins is indeed a new dimension which surpasses volumes of all kinds of writings ever written on him. These stamps, sheetlets, souvenirs and miniatures depict his image as the dynamic and a multi-dimensional personality who asserted Hindu ethics; discarded Western ways; practiced asceticism; defied the Raj, launched civil disobedience movement and went to jail; campaigned for non-violence and passive resistance, and fasted unto death in the post-Independent India as a political weapon to force the Nehru government to restore peace and order when independent India was in turmoil in the aftermath of the partition. He was shot dead on January 30, 1948 while on way to attend a prayer meeting in Delhi.
Stamps and coins on Gandhi may inspire rather provoke researchers to search for the truth when history is being distorted. One has yet to answer why was the subcontinent divided when Gandhi had described Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.These stamps on Gandhi provide an impetus to look at history from a different angle. United Nations too has at last declared Gandhi\’s birth day, i.e. October 2 as the \”International Day of Non-Violence.\”