Mahatma Gandhi has arrived.
Tuesday — what would have been Gandhi’s 143rd birthday — the 7-foot high, 780-pound bronze statue was unveiled at Davie’s Falcon’s Lea Park.
“There is nothing like that in Florida,” said John Thomas, president-elect of Kerala Samajam of South Florida, an Indian cultural group with more than 600 members across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
A throng of Indians, from men in business suits to women in shimmering dresses, packed Davie Fire Rescue Station 91 across from the park for initial remarks, as shuttle buses swept back and forth transporting guests between a parking lot at a nearby car dealership and the event. Traditional Indian dances and music alternated between remarks from dignitaries, including A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who served as president of India from 2002-2007.
“I’d like to congratulate all the citizens of Davie,” he said. “I am really delighted to participate.”
Davie is the seventh city in the United States — it joins New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. — to erect a statue to the man who led India to independence, and inspired civil rights and non-violence movements across the globe.
Thomas said the idea for the statue came about because of South Florida’s large Indian population — it’s more than 43,000.
Kerala Samajam President Joy Kuttiyani reached out to Davie Mayor Judy Paul about a year ago. The group agreed to pay the cost of the statue and the $10,000 needed for transportation and maintenance costs. It just needed the land.
The Davie Town Council granted the group a half acre.
“Everybody has cooperated with us,” Kuttiyani said. “We are all really happy.”
The statue is the centerpiece of the Gandhi Memorial within Falcon’s Lea Park, which also includes square stepping stones, symbolic of the steps Gandhi took toward helping India achieve independence in 1947, and circles that represent the origin of humanity.
At the dedication, the statue was draped in the saffron, white and green flag of India. Mayor Paul greeted the crowd with the traditional Indian greeting “namaste.”
“It is pretty good that the Western world can acknowledge Eastern philosophy,” said Miramar resident Rohit Persad.