Mahatma Gandhi is undoubtedly one of the key political and spiritual figures of the twentieth century. More than 70 years after his death in 1948, his teachings continue to resonate and inspire. To commemorate this iconic social and political activist, The Royal Mint is proud to introduce the Mahatma Gandhi 2021 UK Coin. Available in a range of editions, this is the first UK coin struck in honour of Gandhi. We spoke to the coin’s designer, Heena Glover, to find out more …
How did you first approach this design?
“The Royal Mint wanted a coin that would celebrate Gandhi’s life and that represented his Indian heritage as well as his links to Great Britain. Gandhi studied to become a lawyer in London and the coin release coincides with the 90th anniversary of his last visit to the UK. I researched his life and thought about the key elements of what I wanted the coin to portray. I wanted the design to be simple because Gandhi was such a frugal, selfless man and lived a simple life free from materialism. I looked at a lot of imagery and the objects that are often associated with Gandhi, such as his glasses, slippers and staff, and was inspired by some of Gandhi’s most famous quotes, such as, ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world’. I thought about how I could portray that gentleness, but also convey Gandhi’s strength of character and the power of his actions. My parents came from New Delhi to Britain, so I was also able to draw on their experiences.”
Why did you choose the lotus as the main focus of the design?
“The lotus is the national flower of India. It symbolises rejuvenation, strength, grace and purity. It also grows in the mud, which I thought was a nice analogy for Gandhi’s life – his strength of character overcame all the challenges thrown at him to thrive. He was peaceful and gentle but strong, just like the lotus, and I’ve tried to convey that in my imagery.”
What was your biggest challenge when designing the coin?
“There were many variations and redesigns along the way, but I’d say the most difficult part of creating the design was trying to encompass his goodness and all that he represented onto one coin. During the design process, I had to simplify all the key elements of his life whilst achieving the right look and feel.”
How do you feel about being chosen to design the coin that represents such an iconic leader?
“It’s amazing. Even being allowed to enter the competition to design the coin was an honour. This is the first time I have won a coin-designing competition – and what a coin to win! Like millions of others, I have long admired Gandhi and been inspired by his teachings. My grandparents lived in India during Gandhi’s lifetime, so that holds a special connection for me and it’s a great way for me to pay tribute to my own heritage.”
Why do you think Gandhi remains such a relevant and influential figure?
“I think he’s relevant because he showed that a small change can make a big difference. He showed what can be achieved by being humble, helping others and putting others first. I think that’s a very important message to remember, especially now when so many people are preoccupied with putting themselves and what they want first. For Gandhi, the truth and doing the right thing came first.”