India harbors a planet’s worth of diversity. Rare are the unifying symbols in a country shared by over a billion inhabitants, professing myriad religions, speaking over 1,000 languages. One of these symbols is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, revered as the Mahatma (“Great Soul”).

For Gandhi is more than India’s Founding Father; his method of non-violent resistance against the British colonial power meant that India’s eventual independence – although marred by the violent trauma of Pakistan’s separation – also was a moral victory. His example provided inspiration to subsequent emancipation movements, such as the Civil Rights movement in the US. Gandhi (b. 1869 in Gujarat) was assassinated in 1948, immediately after independence.

This stamp was issued by India in the year 2000, showing Gandhi’s flowing cape taking on the shape of India. Gandhi, a firm believer in self-reliance as well as non-violence, would have spun that cape himself. His choice of weaving by the masses as an act of non-violent resistance wasn’t as curious as it seems: it required discipline, involved women and inspired his countrymen and -women to spurn British-made textiles.

Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, is celebrated worldwide as International Day of Non-Violence. How about holding that thought for the other 364 days?

A link to this map was sent in by Pranay Manocha. Thanks!