A new £1million statue has been unveiled of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square where all the world’s great statesmen are honoured.

The unveiling of the 2.7m bronze statue marks 100 years since Gandhi returned to India from South Africa to begin his struggle for independence.

British sculptor Philip Jackson said he was inspired by photographs of the civil rights leader outside 10 Downing Street on a visit in 1931.

Amid the hats and umbrellas of a chilly September, Gandhi, in his simple loincloth, cut an exotic figure.

He shunned the luxury hospitality of the West End and instead stayed at Kingsley Hall in the old borough of Poplar, meeting with the impoverished people there.

The room where he stayed was preserved and featured in Richard Attenborough’s 1980 biopic.

The director also helped raise fund for its restoration.“Hey Gandhi, where’s your trousers?” some of the children shouted and the spiritual leader joined in their fun and games.

Among Gandhi's visitors at Kingsley Hall were silent movie star Charlie Chaplin and the Pearly King and Queen of east London.

One of the founders of the community hall Muriel Lester later wrote: “He visited the nursery school and all the children called him Uncle Gandhi.

At 6 o'clock each morning, after his prayers, he took his walk along the canal, talking to workmen on the way. There was something about him that always lives with the people.”

The hall, in Powis Street, in Bromley-by-Bow still operates as a community centre.

• Archive picture: 22nd September 1931: An admiring East End crowd gathers to witness the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi), in Canning Town, east London, as he calls upon Charlie Chaplin. Gandhi is in England in his capacity as leader of the Indian National Congress attending the London Round Table Conference on Indian constitutional reform