Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the freedom struggle. On the left is a photograph of his last possessions, an image of crucial importance, personifying renunciation. It is not only a moral statement (and an aesthetic one as well), but is the key to understanding the socio-economic realities of the vast majority of our fellow citizens today. On the right is an image of Gandhiji looking down a microscope, for this unique man was also vitally interested in what Science and the Age of Reason had to offer us, and to what the future might bring. In the exhibition, these images frame a window opening on to the real India of the villages, a vision going back to the primordial roots from where we started this vistāra.
The second figure in this triumvirate was Rabindranath Tagore. If Gandhiji understood India through his grasp of politics and economics, Tagore’s understanding came from the intuitive genius of the creative artist. Writer, musician, painter, philosopher, he was an extraordinary force not only in the life of Calcutta and Bengal – but in the rest of India as well. Crucial to his cultural renaissance was the founding of Shantiniketan, an arts complex in an idyllic rural setting. Here, in simple thatched structures and under the shade of trees, Tagore re-established once again the classic guru-shishya relationship, re-awakening in our blood centuries-old attitudes to learning and knowledge.
The youngest of the three was Jawaharlal Nehru, a leader of exceptional intelligence and sensitivity. Nehru understood the essential non-duality of India: that looking back and rediscovering our past does not diminish – but in fact strengthens – our ability to conceptualise new options, to invent our future. As the first Prime Minister of independent India, he was determined that we should join the comity of nations as a modern, liberal and democratic society. His beliefs in science and rationality affected decisively the young nation – and the new architecture it was to build over the coming decades.