unveiling philip jackson statue of gandhi parliament square london

British sculptor, Philip Jackson’s statue of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) has been unveiled in London’s Parliament Square. It commemorates the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s return to India, following his political success in South Africa, to start the struggle for his native country’s independence from British rule.

Jackson was approached by Sajid Javid, who was then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to make the sculpture in July 2014, leaving him less than a year to complete the project. He rose to the challenge, ‘thrilled to have the opportunity of depicting the great man in such a magnificent setting.’

During the making process, Jackson surrounded himself with photographs and books on Gandhi, paying particular attention to the photographs of Gandhi during his visit to London in 1931, standing outside 10 Downing Street wrapped up in a thick shawl, with no stick at his side.

After making a small wax maquette and a 9ft clay model, the Gandhi mould was taken for casting at the Morris Singer Art Foundry in Lasham, Hampshire. Here Jackson used the traditional ‘lost wax’ method of casting which dates back to antiquity and was used to cast early bronzes in India. The resulting sculpture is a fine 9ft, life-and-a-half-size cast, now standing on a low base in a quiet area of Parliament Square, sheltered by one of the square’s plane trees (fig.1).

gandhi jackson parliament square
1. Philip Jackson, Mahatma Gandhi (detail), bronze, Parliament
Square, London SW1
(photo: Arron Hoare, © Crown)

Interestingly, the Gandhi sculpture stands lower than the other sculptures surrounding it in the square. This was a deliberate decision by the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust, who raised the funds for the statue, because it was thought this reflects Gandhi as a man of the people. The paradox between ’one of the most towering figures in the history of world politics’ as David Cameron described him in his speech at the unveiling, and Gandhi’s identity as a man of the people is an important aspect of the Indian leader’s character and is one of the reasons he continues to be so highly revered today.

Donations for the public monument to Gandhi flooded in, not just from people in the UK and India, but from all over the world. Lord Desai, Chair of the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust commented that these generous donations, which totalled over £1m., reflected a quotation from Gandhi himself, who said, ‘If the cause is right the money will come.’

Lord and Lady Desai, who led the campaign for the statue, attended the ceremony on 14th March 2015, when the sculpture was unveiled by India’s finance minister, Shri Arun Jaitley and Prime Minister David Cameron. Gandhi’s grandson, Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi and a leading Bollywood actor, Amitabh Bachchan were also involved in the ceremony.

For Jackson, the sculpture’s position in Parliament Square Gardens is fitting. The gardens, he says, ’encompass the heart of contemporary British politics’ and are of ‘significant historical and symbolic value to the British people and others worldwide.’ Gandhi now stands amongst ten other statues of British, Commonwealth and foreign leaders including Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. It has been noted there is a certain irony in the placing of Gandhi in the same Square as his great opponent Sir Winston Churchill, who tried so hard to thwart his fight for Indian independence.

Main image: The Unveiling of Philip Jackson’s Statue of Mahatma Gandhi by India’s Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley and Prime Minister David Cameron (photo: Arron Hoare © Crown)