Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule, and in turn, inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahātmā (Sanskrit: “great-souled”, “venerable”), first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa, is now used throughout the world.
Born and raised in a Hindu family in coastal Gujarat, western India, Gandhi trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, and was called to the bar at age 22 in June 1891. After two uncertain years in India, during which he was unable to start a successful law practice, he moved to South Africa in 1893 (to represent an Indian merchant in a lawsuit), where he stayed for 21 years. It was in South Africa that Gandhi raised a family and first employed nonviolent resistance in a campaign for civil rights. In 1915, aged 45, he returned to India. He set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, and above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.
The same year Gandhi adopted the Indian loincloth, or short dhoti and, in the winter, a shawl, both woven with yarn hand-spun on a traditional Indian spinning wheel, or charkha, as a mark of identification with India’s rural poor. Thereafter, he lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community, ate simple vegetarian food, and undertook long fasts as a means of self-purification and political protest. Bringing anti-colonial nationalism to the common Indians, Gandhi led them in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930 and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India.
Gandhi’s vision of an independent India based on religious pluralism was challenged in the early 1940s by a new Muslim nationalism which was demanding a separate Muslim homeland carved out of India. In August 1947, Britain granted independence, but the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, a Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs made their way to their new lands, religious violence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal. Eschewing the official celebration of independence in Delhi, Gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to provide solace. In the months following, he undertook several fasts unto death to stop religious violence. The last of these, undertaken on 12 January 1948 when he was 78, also had the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some cash assets owed to Pakistan. Some Indians thought Gandhi was too accommodating. Among them was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest.
Gandhi’s birthday, 2 October, is commemorated in India as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Nonviolence. Gandhi is common, though not formally, considered the Father of the Nation in India, and was commonly called Bapu (Gujarati: endearment for father, papa
At a Glance
• Mahatma Gandhi was born as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2, 1869, at Porbandar, located in the present-day state of Gujarat.
• His father Karamchand Gandhi was the Diwan (Prime Minister) of Porbandar and mother Putlibai was a pious lady and under her tutelage Gandhi imbibed various principles of Hinduism at an early age.
• After completing his college education Gandhi left for England on September 4, 1888 to study law at University College, London.
• In 1893, went to South Africa as a legal adviser to an Indian firm in South Africa.
• As he descended in South Africa, Gandhi was left appalled at the rampant racial discrimination against Indians and blacks by the European whites.
• Soon Gandhi found himself at the receiving end of such abuse (thrown away from first class bogie of the train) and he vowed to take up the cudgels on behalf of the Indian community.
• He organized the expatriate Indians and protested against the injustices meted out by the African government.
• After years of disobedience and non-violent protests, the South African government finally conceded to Gandhi’s demands and an agreement to this effect was signed in 1914.
• Later, Gandhi realized the war that was to be waged against the British awaits his arrival in India and he returned to India in 1915.
• After reaching India, Gandhi traveled across the length and breadth of the country to witness the atrocities of the British regime.
• He founded the Satyagraha Ashram and successfully employed the principles of Satyagraha in uniting the peasants of Kheda and Champaran against the government. After this victory Gandhi was bestowed the title of Bapu and Mahatma and his fame spread far and wide.
• In 1921, Mahatma Gandhi called for the non-cooperation movement against the British Government with the sole object of attaining Swaraj or independence for India.
• Even though the movement achieved roaring success all over the country, the incident of mob violence in Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh forced Gandhi to call off the mass disobedience movement. Consequent to this, Mahatma Gandhi took a hiatus from active politics and instead indulged in social reforms.
• The year 1930 saw Gandhi’s return to the fore of Indian freedom movement and on March 12, 1930 he launched the historic Dandi March to protest against the tax on salt.
• The Dandi March soon metamorphosed into a huge civil disobedience movement.
• The Second World War broke out in 1939 and as the British might began to wane, Gandhi called for the Quit India movement on August 8, 1942.
• Post World War, the Labour Party came to power in England and the new government assured the Indian leadership of imminent independence. The Cabinet Mission sent by the British government proposed for the bifurcation of India along communal lines which Gandhi vehemently protested.
• Eventually Gandhi had to relent and on the eve of independence thousands lost their lives in communal riots.
• Gandhi urged for communal harmony and worked tirelessly to promote unity among the Hindus and Muslims.
• But Mahatma’s act of benevolence angered Hindu fundamentalists and on January 13, 1948 he was assassinated by Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse.
Some of the Philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi, :- Truth: Gandhi strictly maintained that the concept of truth is above and beyond of all other considerations and one must unfailingly embrace truth throughout one’s life. Satyagraha: In the context of the Indian freedom movement, Satyagraha meant the resistance to the British oppression through mass civil obedience. Nonviolence: The principle of nonviolence or Ahimsa has been integral to many Indian religions and Mahatma Gandhi espoused for total nonviolence in the Indian freedom struggle. Khadi: Mahatma used the adoption of Khadi as a subtle economic tool against the British industrial might and also as a means of generating rural employment in India.