Lead Kindly Light: Celebrating 150 Years of Religious Pluralism encompasses theatre and dance performed to 15 hymns dearest to Mahatma Gandhi, as it traverses the roots of the leader’s multi-religious ideology.
As much a visual treat as a play, Lead Kindly Light takes up a seemingly simple yet crucial aspect of Mahatma Gandhi’s life — his prayer meetings, which encapsulated his idea of bringing all faiths together for a political cause in his time. Comprising hymns from every religion possible, these meetings were like his balm to soothe the turbulent time the country was going through. The play was first staged on 1 October 2019 at St Andrew’s Conference Hall, Bandra, in a very unique style with the help of ANDIE (Andrean Network of Dynamic and Inspired Educators), and SAPP (St Andrews Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts) and Metamorphosis Theatre Inc.
Mahatma Gandhi or Bapuji, as we fondly know him, showed India the way to independence from British Rule. He stunned the entire world by using Ahimsa or non-violence, Satyagraha or peaceful demonstrations, the famed Non-Cooperation and Swadeshi Movements. Gandhiji vowed never to use violence or force to achieve India’s goals. He also practised yoga and meditation and led a simple and frugal life.
At St Andrew’s Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts, Mumbai (SAPP), co-founders, Fr Magi Murzello and Dr Omkar Bhatkar, were mulling over an apt tribute for Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. The result was Lead Kindly Light: Celebrating 150 Years of Religious Pluralism. The play, designed and directed by Dr Omkar Bhatkar, in collaboration with ANDIE (Andrean Network of Dynamic and Inspired Educators), SAPP (St Andrews Centre for Philosophy & Performing Arts) and Metamorphosis Theatre Inc., was yet another unique and wonderful concept brought to fruition in less than a month.
Gandhiji was immensely inspired by religious pluralism and tolerance and inculcated these values into his own life. He imbibed and practised teachings from all religions which had had a profound influence on his life from a young age. An incident that sparked this thought was when he was aboard a close-to-sinking ship from Bombay to South Africa where he saw people praying in different languages to different gods. It also goes back to his childhood, where his father would read the Ramayana and his mother was a Vaishnava devotee. They had Jain monks visiting them, as did his father’s Muslim and Parsi friends. He would listen to these adults conversing about their faiths. But the turning point was when he realised he hadn’t read the Bhagavad Gita and decided to read all the possible scriptures in the world to gain a better understanding of life.
From scratch to stage: The soulful journey began in mid-September 2019, inspired by religious pluralism professed by Gandhiji in addition to his simplicity, tolerance and profound wisdom. Dr Omkar Bhatkar did extensive and meticulous research and brought together a very driven team of artistes and technicians. The play had Gandhiji’s personal favourite bhajjans and other hymns that were sung in Sabarmati Ashram.
Sharmila Velaskar Kadne is an actor, director, voice artiste, voice coach, writer and poet. An ex-flight attendant who has travelled around the world, she is passionate about art, performing arts and teaching voice, and has a great interest in the esoteric.