To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian High Commission to the UK planted a memorial tree on the grounds of the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus this week.
The Amelanchier tree was planted by the University of Southampton’s interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Spearing, India’s High Commissioner to the UK Mrs Ruchi Ghanashyam, Baron Lord Patel, Doctor of Science, and Councillor Susan Blatchford, Sheriff of Southampton, outside the Life Sciences building during a ceremony on the morning of Wednesday 5th June. The flag of India was also raised on campus to mark the occasion.
The ceremony, which took place on World Environment Day, comes three months after the launch of the University’s virtual India Centre for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development, which saw over 300 attendees listen to lectures, experience traditional artwork, and dance in the Turner Sims Concert Hall.
Southampton, which is home to over 200 Indian students, is also the city which Gandhi first arrived to in the UK in 1888 as he moved to study Law at University College London. He returned to India in 1891 after belatedly learning of his mother’s passing. Gandhi visited the UK in 1915 and 1931 also, the latter trip during which he met with King George V in his quest for Indian independence from the British Empire. In a nod to Gandhi’s first arrival in the UK, Her Excellency Mrs Ghanashyam said upon the planting of the tree, ‘I couldn’t be more delighted to be here today on this very historic occasion when we are marking the 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi, in the place where he first landed in England, and where so many of his views were formulated’.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Professor Spearing said:
It is a great pleasure to dedicate this tree to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi on the anniversary of 150 years since his birth. You cannot overstate the contribution that Gandhi has made to the world, he is without doubt one of the most significant figures of the 20th century.
Those interested in further exploring Gandhi’s ties to Southampton and the UK at large may wish to visit the Broadlands Archives, a collection of archival and photographic materials which includes correspondence between Gandhi and Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, of Romsey in the County of Southampton, which are held at the University.