A non-profit Organization
[tax exempt under 501(C)(3)]
Gandhi Memorial Tr Fund NFP
Federal ID Number (Tax ID) # 01-0571372
Gandhi Memorial Tr Fund NFP
Address: 7219 N, Karlov avenue, Lincolnwood, IL 60712
E-Mail: [email protected]
Location: GandhiJi statue, Heritage Park on McCormick Blvd between Dempster Street and Church Street, Skokie IL. 60076
The Gandhi Statue Concept to Completion
The dream comes true
The seeds of the Gandhi project were laid in the first informal town-hall meeting between the village of Skokie officials and Indian Community on Oct. 17, 2001. Following an initial positive response from the Mayor of Skokie, a small group of volunteers began meeting, to examine a proposal to establish a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
After informal discussions with Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, the group invited the mayor and top officials of the Village to a meeting. This meeting was very productive; with both the Mayor and the Village counsel (Barbara Meyer) taking great interest in the plans for the concept of the statue.
Proving our Credentials
“When we showed him the tentative sketch of the statue, the mayor was impressed but he expressed his concern about our ability to raise the required funds.
Each member of the committee initially donated $101, with some members throwing in more. A not-for-profit trust was formed (Gandhi Memorial Trust Fund) and registered.
Through the good offices of some committee members, the National Republic Bank issued a letter of credit for $ 100,000 to the Fund, which was presented to the Village as required by them. The $10,000 commitment was given by Dr. Chandrakant Modi towards the cost of the statue.
In January 2002, Gandhi Memorial team wrote to Mayor Van Dusen seeking formal permission to install the statue in the Village of Skokie. Gandhi is credited with leading the people of India to freedom, in perhaps the only instance in history, where a country of the size of India managed to throw off its colonial reins, in a completely non-violent way.
His statue in a public place would not only be a fitting tribute to one of the greatest leaders of the 21st century, but also a constant reminder of the values which Gandhi stood for: religious tolerance, compassion towards fellow beings, and non-violence.
On October 29, 2002 the Mayor wrote to Gandhi Memorial team saying that the “Village would be pleased to work with the Indian community on a statue dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.” The statue, he indicated, would be installed in the Heritage Park, between the Chicago canal and McCormick Blvd.
“This project (the Gandhi statue) will be the first one in a newly created Heritage Park. In as much as the Gandhi project will be the first it also will be the prototype, so we want to be sure that we work out all the details beforehand.
We chose Gandhiji because he is better known in the West…his name is synonymous with the non-violent movement.
“Our biggest challenge” was how to come up with the funds. The second one was to comply with the Village requirements.
“We could have gone to a few big contributors and raised the money. But we decided not to do this, choosing instead to go to the common man and raise the money even if it was in small amounts.”
An Exhibition and a Community Meeting
As part of the effort to propagate the idea of a statue of Gandhiji, an exhibition about Gandhiji was organized at the Skokie festival of culture in May 2002. The exhibit got tremendous exposure among both Indians and Americans, given that the festival attracted over 10,000 visitors. The committee had prepared brochures with a brief outline of Gandhi’s life, which was given to every visitor.
The exhibition offered visitors a chance to see rare pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, which had been donated by Vikram Desai, whose father (Prof. Jagannath Desai) had been a close associate of Gandhi. These included the dhoti, charkha and letters to world leaders, some of them rarely seen before this occasion.
In September 2003, the Gandhi Memorial Trust Fund organized a community and press meeting at the Indo American Center, where all the board members and the three architects involved with the project – Subhash Nadkarni, Mayur Modi and Himanshu Modi were present. They explained with detailed sketches, the final shape the project would take. A brief history was presented about the project, with details of the statue and the
proposed drive to raise adequate funds.
The funds drive now started gaining momentum. A fund-raiser was organized at Schaumburg on November 30, 2003. This turned into a major event: about a thousand people including business leaders and elected officials attended the dinner and cultural presentation. The evening included elaborate multimedia presentations.
“It was a full house,” The response was even better than we had anticipated. Significant funds were pledged that evening.
Meanwhile, the effort to find the right sculptor had been ongoing and bids had been invited. Several bids were received from North America, Netherlands and India. On the recommendation of committee member Devendra Parekh, and on the strength of her credentials and cost estimates, the committee finally chose Jashu Shilpi, a well-known sculptor from Ahmedabad, India. Devendra Parekh visited ‘her studio, followed by Dr. Chandrakant Modi.
To get an idea of the logistics involved, members of the committee, along with Mayor Van Dusen, then visited Milwaukee where the local Indian community had recently installed a statue of Gandhi.
In March, 2004, Skokie Village manager AI Rigoni wrote to Gandhi Memorial team saying that all requirements in the pre-application and application for a permit to install, construct and maintain a sculpture in the Heritage Park had been properly satisfied, Then the construction of the project was assigned to Pratap Gohil of Sumit
Final Preparations: Bhoomi Puja and Inter-Faith Prayers
With adequate funds and all the permits from the Village received, everything was set for the final installation of the statue.
A “Bhoomi Puja” of the site where the statue is to be installed, was held in July 25,2004. A Hindu priest, Anant Rawal, explained the significance of the ritual: seeking forgiveness from Mother Earth for the invasion. Explaining his attitude towards faith, Gandhiji once said ”My effort should never be to undermine another’s faith, but to make him a better follower of his own.”
With members of several other communities and religious denominations present to witness the solemn occasion, interfaith prayers were then recited. Skokie is now ready to receive the first occupant of its Heritage Park.