October 8, 1904 to January 17, 1995
G. Ramachandran, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, served as the secretary of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (Gandhi National Memorial Fund), which co-sponsored Martin Luther King’s 1959 India trip. King thanked Ramachandran for his hospitality during his trip to India, writing that Ramachandran’s interpretations of Gandhi “left an indelible imprint on my thinking” (Papers 5:212).
Born in 1904, in Perumthanni, Kerala, India, Ramachandran graduated from the Visva-Bharati at Santiniketan in 1925. As a disciple of Gandhi, Ramachandran helped lead the salt march in Tamil Nadu and the movement against the treatment of untouchables. In 1947 Ramachandran founded the Gandhigram at Madurai, a rural college based on Gandhian principles.
On 27 December 1958 Ramachandran wrote King, inviting him and Coretta Scott King to spend a month in India. “We in India have watched with sympathy and admiration the nonviolent movements of the Negroes in America to achieve their full equality, in law and in spirit,” Ramachandran wrote. “It would be good if you could share with the Indian people your own experiences and thoughts,” and “study how Mahatma Gandhi evolved the techniques of peaceful action to solve innumerable social and national problems in India” (Papers 4:553). King accepted the invitation, visiting India in February and March 1959. King and his party dined with Ramachandran in New Delhi on 6 March.
King remained in contact with Ramachandran for several years after his trip to India. In 1961 Ramachandran asked King to write a statement on the application of Gandhian principles to nuclear disarmament for publication in Gandhi Marg, a quarterly journal of Gandhian thought. King complied and composed a bold statement, arguing that the “civilized world stands on the brink of nuclear annihilation. No longer can any sensible person talk glibly about preparation for war. The present crisis calls for sober thinking, reasonable negotiation and moral commitment.” Without this kind of nonviolent direct action, King wrote: “The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence, it is either nonviolence or nonexistence” (King, 23; 24).
Ramachandran remained committed to Gandhian ideals throughout his life, founding the Madhavi Mandiram Loka Seva Trust in 1980, by donating his property to support a self-sustaining village for women and children. He died on 17 January 1995 at the age of 91.
Introduction, in Papers 5:2–12.
King, “Gandhi and the World Crisis: A Symposium,” Gandhi Marg 6, no. 1 (January 1962): 23–24.
King to Ramachandran, 19 May 1959, in Papers 5:211–212.
Ramachandran to King, 27 December 1958, in Papers 4:552–553.
Ramachandran to King, 6 December 1961, MLKJP-GAMK.
Ramachandran, Gandhi, 1967.