From Gandhi to Bapu: Iconography Through the Ages

M K Gandhi is one of the few nationalist leaders in India who can truly be called iconic. His image can be reduced to one or two attributes, and it can also be expanded to encompass broad ideological narratives. 

The early representations of Gandhi portrayed him as a divine figure, which contributed to his deification. His immortalisation as a divine figure began much before his martyrdom. Gandhi’s iconography represented his austere politics. Many of the objects that we associate him with today evoke a sense of purity. The “visual Gandhi” is at once, a national leader, a gentle and compassionate paternal figure, and a spinnerall of which embody certain aspects of Gandhi’s philosophy. However, this image has not remained static.

Scroll through this timeline to see the representations of Gandhi in works of art over the course of a century.

This timeline has been constructed from Seema Bawa’s article, “Power and Politics of Portraits: Icons and Hagiographic Images of Gandhi,” which discusses how the official and popular iconography of Gandhi has lived on, and how it came to be imagined.


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