start typing and results will show

or press esc

We may be specks of dust on a soap-bubble universe, but that speck of dust contained something that was the mind and spirit of man.

Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘The Progress of Science’, Address to the National Academy of Sciences at their seventh annual meeting at Allahabad on March 5, 1938

This commemorative postage stamp was created to mark the 25th anniversary of Indian independence, depicting two of those most associated with it: Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharhal Nehru. As Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India and Nehru’s daughter, remarked on the stamp’s release, ‘in spite of all their external divergence’ the two men were ‘comrades in revolution and the remaking of man’. And in fact, both had connections to the organised humanist movement: Gandhi as an admirer of the Ethical movement, and Nehru as a self-described humanist who enshrined secularism and humanism in India’s constitution. Both saw the power of emphasising shared humanity across political, religious, and caste divisions, which is a message at the heart of the humanist approach, and was embodied in their own friendship.

Nehru was elected leader of the Indian National Congress in 1929, and became – alongside Gandhi – prominent in agitations for independence from Britain, imprisoned nine times during the 1930s and 1940s. After playing a significant part in the negotiations which led to India’s independence, he became its first Prime Minister in 1947. When Gandhi was assassinated the following year, Nehru noted his profound influence on the country and the world at large, saying: ‘all of us became somewhat of the stuff that he was made of’. 

Nehru was committed to a secular democracy, and the constitution of India makes it:

the duty of every citizen of India… to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities… to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.

Nehru saw the cultivation of these qualities as the way forward, and as part of the heritage of India. Elsewhere he had written of how Gandhi, and Rabindranath Tagore before him, ‘forced the people in some measure out of their narrow grooves of thought and made them think of broader issues affecting humanity’. In the image of Gandhi and Nehru on this stamp, we are reminded of a friendship which transcended difference to unite in action, and a longer history of Indian humanists’ national and international work for powerful social change, rooted in a rich tradition of rationalism and scepticism in India stretching back to the ancient world.

Made by Heritage Creative