Mahatma Gandhi was a freedom fighter, a nationalist, a visionary and mass leader. His followers cut across the demographic divisions of caste, religion or culture. They came and still are from different classes of society, from poor to the affluent. Every word of Gandhiji was followed devotedly as a command by millions of Indians. His biography isn’t only a biography but also a rule book of morality and conduct, teaching us how to deal with adversities in the strongest way possible, yet at the same time clinging to our principles.
Facts about Mahatma Gandhi
Full Name: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Date of Birth: October 2, 1869
Place of Birth: Porbandar, British India (now Gujarat)
Date of Death: January 30, 1948 (aged 78)
Place of Death: Delhi, India
Cause of Death: Assassination by Nathuram Godse
Professions: Lawyer, politician, freedom activist, writer
Spouse: Kasturba Gandhi (m: 1883; died: 1944)
Children: Harilal Gandhi (1888-1948), Manilal Gandhi (1892-1956), Ramdas Gandhi (1897-1969) and Devdas Gandhi (1900-1957)
Father: Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi (1822-1885)
Mother: Putlibai Gandhi (1839-1891)
Schooling: Primary School in Rajkot
Law Degree: From University College London (1888-1891)
In South Africa: As a Civil Rights Activist (1893-1914)
Indian Independence Struggle: 1915-1947
Political Party: Indian National Congress
Childhood, Early Life and Adolescent
Gandhiji was born on 2nd October 1869 at Porbandar Gujarat in a Gujarati modh baniya family. He was the youngest of the four children of Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibai. Though his father was the Diwan of Porbandar, Gandhi’s weren’t rich, yet they ate and lived well.
As a child Gandhi is known to a restless kid, who wouldn’t spare an opportunity to play or roam around. He wasn’t easy to be found at home and often was playing outside.
As Gandhiji aged he started manifesting his principles and values in the influence of his devotedly religious mother. As an adolescent Gandhiji avoided bad company and spend most of his time either playing with his kin or reading books.
Gandhiji’s elementary education up to matriculation was completed in a school at Rajkot. At school he was a shy student who didn’t interact much with other students. He was also average in studies and had no interest in sports and other activities. After school, he would directly rush to home to eat meal and play.
Gandhi enrolled for Higher Education in Samaldas College in January 1888, Bhavnagar but dropped out a session later as he couldn’t understand the lectures.
On the advice of a family friend Gandhiji made up his mind to pursue law at London. Initially facing resistance from his mother, Gandhiji somehow managed to convince her and set sail for London on 4th October 1888.
He completed his law degree from the University College London, and return to India in 1891 at the age of 22.
His Principles, Practices, Religion and Beliefs
Truth and non-violence were the two fundamental principles of Gandhiji’s life and his philosophy. He was also deeply religious and a staunch Hindu, in his own words.
Gandhiji’s religious beliefs stem from his mother’s life and her everyday conduct. She would never ever take a meal before completing her ritualistic prayer. She was the one who introduced Gandhiji to one of Hindu’s revered epics – Bhagavad Gita.
He had said on many occasions that when in distress and confusion he refers to a relevant verse of Bhagavad Gita and instantly found relief. The influence of his religiously pious mother has helped Gandhiji to delve into religion and understand it.
His religious beliefs also marked the foundation of his philosophy of truth and non violence, which he started practicing as a civil rights activist in South Africa. Gandhiji was wise enough to realize that the opponents are formidable and an act of violence will be dealt with double blow, leading to fatal consequences.
Therefore, Gandhiji used non violent protests to fight against injustice. This way the enemy wouldn’t be offended and will gradually concede to the demands.
Three Years of His Life in London
While studying law in London, Gandhi was as shy as he was in India and usually would only limit himself to lectures. Understanding the fact that audacity is essential for his career as a lawyer, he joined public speaking group in London.
In London, Gandhi stuck to the promise he made to his mother and abstained from consuming liquor and consuming meat. During initial days he remained constantly hungry until he found a suitable vegetarian restaurant.
He joined London Vegetarian Society under the President ship of Arnold Hills. Gandhi also joined the Theosophical society and read Bhagavad Gita for the society.
Gandhi left London in June 1981 when he was called for the Bar in India.
His Struggle in South Africa
Circumstances that Gandhiji faced in South Africa played a critical role in setting the path for his struggle in South Africa as well as later in India and transforming him into the world leader as we see him today.
He was called to South Africa to work as a lawyer for an Indian merchant there. Upon his arrival he had hands on experience of the oppression faced by the Indian community there. He was thrown out of a train’s first class compartment despite having a valid ticket, just because he was an Indian. He could have stopped his South African journey then and there, but he rather chose to fight against the oppression. Gandhiji’s first non violent, non cooperation movement was in South Africa.
During his struggle in South Africa, Gandhi had limited himself towards fighting for the rights of Indian community there. He kept native black Africans initially out of his political agenda; though, later he went on to provide them medical aid during war with the British Empire.
His Struggle for Indian Independence/Indian Independence Movements
Gandhiji came back to India in 1915 and remained politically active until his assassination on 30th January 1948. Gandhiji’s principles that he applied into the Independence Movement had already proven their mettle in South Africa.
His struggle for Civil Rights in Africa had made him a popular figure in India and Britain as well; therefore, he was readily accepted as a leader by Indian political clout and the masses.
Gandhi’s political conduct was quite different from other politicians. He wouldn’t spare any chance to criticize them for misuse of power or for other immoral acts. For him, morality came before to any political gain.
Role of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian National Movements for Independence
He spearheaded many movements and undergo fast unto death three times in his lifetime. A bulleted list of all the independence movements of Mahatma Gandhi is listed below.
- Champaran Satyagraha
- Kheda Agitation
- Khilafat Movement
- Non co-operation Movement
- Salt Satyagraha (Salt March)
- Quit India Movement
- Civil Disobedience
- Boycott Mission
His movements initially were against the oppressive policies of the British Empire. He rallied from villages to villages throughout the length and breadth of the country to understand the real condition of farmers and poor Indians. He wanted to know the exact effects of unjust taxation and other laws on the Indian marginalized sections.
His Followers and International Influence
Due to his huge mass appeal Gandhi was instantly recognized and respected in Indian political circles. He was at the centre stage of national politics and presided over all the meetings of Indian National Congress. Despite of being closely linked to Congress, his image was more like a nonpolitical social reformer. Some of the influential political followers of Mahatma Gandhi were – Pt. Nehru, J. B. Kriplani, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Jai Prakash Narayan, Maulana Abdul Kalam Ajad, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay, J. C. Kumarappa, Meera Ben, Mridula Sarabhai, and C Rajgopalachari).
Awards in His Life
No number of awards can equate Gandhiji’s contribution in the Indian freedom struggle. Awards are too small in comparison to his personality and leadership qualities. Some of the most acclaimed awards and honor received by Gandhiji are listed below-
- Time Magazine Man of the Year in 1930.
- Doctorate level academic degree in Law by the Nagpur University in 1937.
- In 2011 named by the Time magazine among the top 25 political icons of all times.
- Inducted into the vegetarian hall of fame by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1995.
Gandhi was also nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 1948, but was assassinated before the name could be finalized.
Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was carried out by Nathuram Godse on 30th January 1948 at Birla House, New Delhi.
Gandhi was heading for his evening prayer flanked by his female caretakers on both side and surrounded by followers. Evening prayers were a routine for Gandhiji and he would perform it in presence of hundreds of disciples.
But that evening the prayer was never delivered. While on his way to the dais Gandhi at around 5:17 P.M. Gandhi was stopped by Godse, who pretended to bend down for touching Gandhi’s feet. Gandhiji was a highly respected figure and he was accustomed to this respectful gesture.
One of the nieces of Gandhiji accompanying him is known to have told Nathuram – “Brother, Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) is getting late”. It was at the end of her sentence, that Nathuram pushed her away and pumped three bullets in chest of Mahatma Gandhi with his Beretta M1934 pistol. He was immediately apprehended by the policemen present there and taken into custody.
Gandhiji was taken to a bedroom in Birla House where he died 20 to 30 minutes later.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Legacy
Mahatma Gandhi had left an infinite legacy in terms of principles, methods and the values he professed. Thousands of streets in India and some even in foreign countries are named after him. Almost every city in India has at least one statue of Gandhiji at a road crossing or a public park. But, he can do without all his statues and the streets named after him; such big is the legacy of principles and morality that he left behind.
Speaking of the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, there are two of its main constituents – truth and non violence. No one else could have better explained truth and non violence, through his/her deeds as Gandhiji did it. His whole life was nothing but the application of these two basic foundation blocks of humanity.
He left behind a legacy that would inspire millions for ages to come and continue providing strength to the weak and suppressed.
Current Impact of Bapu in India and Abroad
Mahatma Gandhi is still a highly revered figure in India, yet not all of his principles are practiced either by the people or the political parties.
His policy of economic liberation through villages by making them self sustainable, was deserted in a rush to modernization. His principles of non violence became irrelevant over time with external threats and a need to safeguard the nation with larger military power.
Though, time to time his views on communal harmony and casteism are presented in order to promote peace and unity.
An image of Gandhiji also appears on currency notes of all the denominations. His birthday on 2nd October is celebrated as a national holiday with much enthusiasm.
At least three temples in India are dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi – one at Sambalpur in Orissa, another in Chikmagalur in Karnataka and the third and last in Nalgonda District, Telangana.
Gandhiji is also a highly revered figure in South Africa and he is credited to spark the protests that finally culminated in the black’s right to vote.
There are also Gandhiji’s statues at prominent locations in Brazil, Spain and United Kingdom.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the greatest leader ever born in India or in the world. So great was his command over his countrymen that millions gathered in just a matter of hours on his one call. He knew the religions, cultures, people and the land of his country much better than any of his political counterparts. He was indeed an epitome of morality and always stuck to his principles of truth and non-violence, come what may. His teachings and principles have led us to freedom and still show us the way to live in harmony and be progressive. Gandhiji and his legacy will remain deeply engraved in Indian culture and into every Indian’s heart.
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