Endowment Established to Honor Gandhi's Legacy

Half a century after Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated, the foundation for a new endowment has been created at Yale University to ensure that the Mahatma’s legacy of non-violence and tolerance will continue to inspire research and discussion for many years to come.

Pravin N. Bhatt, a retired research scientist at Yale, has made a series of gifts to be used toward an endowment in the name of his parents, Nanabhai K. and Ajwaliben N. Bhatt. The endowment will support academic activities and initiatives that are inspired by or emulate the life of Gandhi, who believed that society can be changed through education of the masses and that each individual can participate in social change. This is thought to be the first endowment supporting Gandhi-related activities at a U.S. university.

Bhatt’s objective in making the gift is to inform students and others about Gandhi’s work and the relevance of his ideas today. To achieve that end, the endowment will provide continued support for the annual Gandhi Lecture at Yale, now in its 10th year; for exhibitions of Gandhi-related materials on campus; and for student summer travel fellowships in South Asia. The Bhatt endowment will be administered by the Yale Center for International and Area Studies and the South Asian Studies Committee.

Nanabhai Bhatt was one of the leading Indian intellectuals of his day. A member of Parliament, he published over 35 volumes on various topics, from stories about the characters Ramayana and Mahabharat which are still considered classics for teenagers, to books on education and Indian culture, textbooks on Sanskrit and travelogues about East Africa. He is perhaps best known, however, for his work as an educator. He established a group of educational institutions in western India that sparked a wave of reform. Later, he worked with Gandhi to replace the British educational system in India with one that better reflected the nation’s culture and needs.

“My father was a teacher 24 hours a day,” says Pravin Bhatt. “He believed that, apart from books, a teacher’s life should be an open book for students to learn about real-life issues.” Gandhi and Nanabhai Bhatt “liked and respected one another and each other’s work,” says the Yale researcher. “My father would have objected to having his name associated with an endowment if it were not for the fact that it is to support Gandhi-associated activities.”

Pravin Bhatt was senior research virologist at the School of Medicine, 1968-92. In 1995, he presented the University Library with a collection of books, photographs, correspondence and other documents relating to his father’s role in the movement for educational reform in India. Bhatt has also been one of the organizers of the annual Gandhi Lecture at Yale, which was first presented in 1988 in honor of a gift given to the University by Bhatt’s longtime friends, Manubhai R. and Vijayaben M. Pancholi. That donation included letters written by the Indian leader between 1935 and 1948 to Vijayaben M. Pancholi, who was his former pupil and ashram inmate for three years. At the time of this gift, Vijayaben M. Pancholi requested that Yale organize programs to inform students and others about Gandhi’s life and legacy.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325