Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi as he is popularly known, was a pioneering leader of the Indian Nationalism in India. Fondly remembered as "Bapu", Mahatma Gandhi led the principle of non violence and also inspired movements for civil rights, freedom and non violence across the globe. Born in Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest freedom fighters the world has ever seen.
"Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”
― Albert Einstein
The famous quote of Albert Einstein on Mahatma Gandhi is all sufficient to describe the greatness of a noble soul who inspired lives of millions. He played a vital role in our freedom struggle. Ahimsa (non-violence) and truth were his weapons. Fondly remembered as "Bapu", Mahatma Gandhi brought a great difference in everybody's life, sacrificing his own life to liberate India. Gandhiji still continues to inspire us and his teachings are relevant even today.
Early Life and Education
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi, as he is popularly known was born on October 2, 1869 at Porbandar (Gujarat). His father Karamchand was diwan of Rajkot while his mother Putlibai was a homemaker. As a child he was highly inspired by the life and tales of Shravana and king Harishchandra. The noble values of righteousness were indeed sown at his early childhood days. At the early age of 13 in May 1883 he was married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia. Recalling the day of their marriage, he once said, "As we didn't know much about marriage, for us it meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with relatives. The couple were blessed withm four children namely Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892; Ramdas, born in 1897; and Devdas, born in 1900.
Mahatma Gandhi passed regional matriculation exams in Ahmedabad with an overall average of 40 percent, ranking 404th of 823 successful matriculates. After that he enrolled at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar State but withdrew from the college at the end of the term, returning to Porbandar. Later on the advise of his family friend he went to London to study law and left the country in 1886.In London, Gandhi studied law and jurisprudence and enrolled at the Inner Temple with the intention of becoming a barrister. He returned to India in 1890, a few months after the death of his mother. After failing to establish himself in Bombay he moved to his hometown only to assist his brother in petty legal work. Not satisfied he left for South Africa, where his brother arranged for his job with a trading firm.
Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa (1893–1914)
Mahatma Gandhi arrival in South Africa is dubbed as turning point in his life. It was here that he came across the harsh realities of racism that he and other Indians faced at the hands of Europeans. Once he was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the first-class. Furthermore he was barred from several hotels. In another incident, the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do. His political involvement in South Africa began with the foundation of Natal Indian Congress in 1894. Writing of letters to newspapers, organising lectures and debates, making petitions and publishing pamphlets he was successful in drawing attention to the grievances of Indians in South Africa. Various arbitrary decisions were taken back and policies were enacted to being relief to the Indians living in South Africa.
Mahatma Gandhi Returns to India
After bringing much relief to the Indians in South Africa he returned India at the age of forty-five years in 1915. With a stature equal to that of the nationalist leaders Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishna Gokhale he joined the Congress and got involved in national movement. In 1918 he actively participated in Champaran and Kheda agitations of Bihar and Gujarat. In Champaran, Bihar he fought for the cause of local peasantry against British landlords who were backed by the local administration. The whole issue revolved around the uneconomic growth and cultivation of indigo. His active support to the cause forced the authorities to reconsider their stand. Similarly in Kheda he alongwith Vallabhbhai Patel initiated a signature campaign where peasants pledged non-payment of revenue even under the threat of confiscation of land. After five months of constant agitation the Government gave way on important provisions and relaxed the conditions of payment of revenue tax until the famine ended.
Non Cooperation Movement (September 1920–February 1922)
Mahatma Gandhi was deeply pained by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919. He criticised the action of the British Raj in clear words. His non cooperation movement of 1920 was one of the major campaigns of his life. The movement was supported by masses and aimed at boycott of goods manufactured in Britain. Not only this it also means to boycott of government educational institutions, the courts, government service, foreign goods, and elections; and the eventual refusal to pay taxes. The movement was called off in 1922 when angry mob attacked and killed police officers at Chauri Chaura (February 1922).
Civil Disobedience Movement
Civil Disobedience Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi is popular for Salt Satyagraha that began with Dandi March which began on 12 March 1930. Gandhiji with some of his followers left the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad and after travelling for twenty-five days and covering a distance of three hundred and eighty-five kms, the group reached Dandi on 6 April 1930. Here he broke the imperial law that prohibited people from making salts. This was hailed as signal to start Civil Disobedience movement which later spread to other parts of the country. Hartals , large-scale boycotts of schools, colleges, offices alongwith burning of foreign goods in bonfires became order of the day. This campaign was one of his most successful at upsetting British hold on India; Britain responded by imprisoning over 60,000 people.
Quit India Movement of 1942
The Indian National Congress at its Bombay session (August 1942) passed unanimously ‘Quit India Resolution' which created on 'electrifying atmosphere' in the country."Do or Die" was the mantra which Gandhiji gave to the people of India. However he alongwith other premiere leaders were arrested leading to the disturbances across the country.
Partition and Independence, 1947
Though Mahatma Gandhi was against partition but has to accept the hard fact due to uncompromising stand of Muhammad Ali Jinnah whose Muslim League passed a resolution for divide and quit, in 1943. The situation was further aggravated when he called for Direct Action, on 16 August 1946 that led to riot across various parts of the country. Gandhi on the day of independence on August 15, 1947 was in Calcutta on August 15, 1947 where he was on fast and along with with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy tried to stop the communal violence.
The life of this noble soul was cut shot when Nathuram Godse fired three bullets from a Beretta 9 mm pistol into his chest at point-blank range. He was shot at Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti) at 5:17 pm on 30 January 1948. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with chocked voice addressed the nation through radio:
“Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.”
In 1915 poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore bestowed the title of Mahatma on Gandhiji. Subhash Chandra Bose who himself was an iconic figure of Indian national movement called Gandhiji as "rashtrapita” through a radio address in 1944. Today numbers of awards are given on the name of Mahatma Gandhi. As a mark of respect United Nations General Assembly declared October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence. Time Magazine, named Mahatma Gandhi the Man of the Year in 1930. Henry Ford was one of the ardent admirers of Gandhiji. He even received an autographed charka from Gandhiji.
Ideals of Mahatma Gandhiji were not confined to India alone but were meant for entire humanity. Both Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela were highly influenced by his teachings. No doubt Gandhian ideals are still an important part of Indian culture. Affectionately referred to as “Bapu,” he dreamt of a world governed by peace, cooperation, justice, and harmony.
(FOLLOWER OF Shri MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI)
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