G20 leaders, including US president Joe Biden, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and UN secretary general António Guterres, paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial Rajghat on Sunday (10).
Prime minister Narendra Modi received the leaders at the rain-drenched Rajghat.
Modi welcomed his guests to the site where the apostle of non-violence was cremated in January 1948, the day after he was gunned down by a Hindu nationalist ideologue.
US president Joe Biden was among several visiting heads of state to opt for felt slippers instead of going unshod at the site, where normal footwear is forbidden as a mark of respect.
Others including British prime minister Rishi Sunak and French president Emmanuel Macron joined Modi in shedding their socks and shoes on the walk to the marble plinth where an eternal flame commemorates Gandhi’s memory.
After a rendition of a Hindu devotional hymn, they stood for a moment’s silence before leaving wreaths to honour the peace icon.
The prime minister was seen explaining to the leaders the significance of the ashram. The G20 leaders paid tributes to Gandhi by laying wreaths at his samadhi.
Modi has regularly paid respect to Gandhi and spoken movingly about his ideals and legacy.
The Raj Ghat memorial complex is one of the most hallowed spaces in the capital New Delhi, and more than a million people escorted Gandhi’s body as it was transported there after his assassination.
In the decades since, it has hosted the funeral pyres of India’s top statesmen and women.
“I was very moved,” an emotional Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country will host next year’s G20 summit, told world leaders afterwards.
“In my political life, Mahatma Gandhi has a lot of meaning, because non-violence is an example that I followed for many decades.”
Arriving leaders bowed before Modi as he hung shawls around their necks in front of a photograph of Sabarmati Ashram, a long-term residence of Gandhi’s in the prime minister’s home state of Gujarat.
The ashram is a popular spot on the itinerary of visiting world leaders, with Modi using it to host, among others, his former British counterpart Boris Johnson, and former US president Donald Trump and his wife Melania.