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Mahatma

Gandhi
Life, teachings, and works
A man is but the product
of his thoughts; what he
thinks, he becomes.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Story
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, more commonly known as
‘Mahatma’ (meaning ‘Great Soul’) was born in Porbandar, Gujarat, in
North West India, on 2nd October 1869, into a Hindu Modh family.
His father was the Chief Minister of Porbandar, and his mother’s
religious devotion meant that his upbringing was infused with the
Born into a privileged caste, Gandhi was fortunate to receive a comprehensive
Jain pacifist teachings of mutual tolerance, non-injury to living
education, but proved a mediocre student. In May 1883, aged 13, Gandhi was
beings and vegetarianism.
married to Kasturba Makhanji, a girl also aged 13, through the arrangement of
their respective parents, as is customary in India. Following his entry into
Samaldas College, at the University of Bombay, she bore him the first of four sons,
in 1888. Gandhi was unhappy at college, following his parent’s wishes to take the
bar, and when he was offered the opportunity of furthering his studies overseas, at
University College London, aged 18, he accepted with alacrity, starting there in
September 1888.
Gandhi
Determined to adhere to Hindu principles, which included vegetarianism as well as alcohol and
sexual abstinence, he found London restrictive initially, but once he had found kindred spirits he
On his return
flourished, to India
and in 1916,
pursued Gandhi developed
the philosophical studyhisofpractice of non-violent
religions, civic disobedience
including Hinduism, still
Christianity,
further,
Buddhism raising awareness
and others, of oppressive
having professed practices in Bihar,
no particular in 1918,
interest whichupsaw
in religion thethen.
until localFollowing
populace
oppressed
admission by theirEnglish
to the largely Bar,
British
andmasters. He to
his return also encouraged
India, he foundoppressed villagers
work difficult to improve
to come their
by and, in
own accepted a year’s
1893,circumstances, contract
leading to work
peaceful for anand
strikes Indian firm in
protests. HisNatal,
fameSouth Africa.
spread, and he became widely
referred to as ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Great Soul’.
As his fame spread, so his political influence increased: by 1921 he was leading the Indian National
Congress, and reorganising the party’s constitution around the principle of ‘Swaraj’, or complete
political independence from the British. He also instigated a boycott of British goods and
institutions, and his encouragement of mass civil disobedience led to his arrest, on 10th March 1922,
and trial on sedition charges, for which he served 2 years, of a 6-year prison sentence.
Gandhi
During the first years of the Second World War, Gandhi’s mission to
achieve independence from Britain reached its zenith: he saw no reason
why Indians should fight for British sovereignty, in other parts of the
world, when they were subjugated at home, which led to the worst
instances of civil uprising under his direction, through his ‘Quit India’
movement. As a result, he was arrested on 9th August 1942, and held
for two years at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. In February 1944, 3
months before his release, his wife Kasturbai died in the same prison.
Gandhi suffered six known assassination attempts during the course of his life. The first attempt came on
25th June 1934, when he was in Pune delivering a speech, together with his wife, Kasturba. Travelling in a
motorcade of two cars, they were in the second car, which was delayed by the appearance of a train at a
railway level crossing, causing the two vehicles to separate. When the first vehicle arrived at the speech
venue, a bomb was thrown at the car, which exploded and injured several people. No investigations were
carried out at the time, and no arrests were made, although many attribute the attack to Nathuram Godse, a
Hindu fundamentalist implacably opposed to Gandhi’s non-violent acceptance and tolerance of all
religions, which he felt compromised the supremacy of the Hindu religion. Godse was the person
responsible for the eventual assassination of Gandhi in January 1948, 14 years later.
Gandhi
May 1944, the time of his release from prison, saw the second attempt
made on his life, this time certainly led by Nathuram Godse, although the
attempt was fairly half-hearted. When word reached Godse that Gandhi
was staying in a hill station near Pune, recovering from his prison ordeal,
he organised a group of like-minded individuals who descended on the
area, and mounted a vocal anti-Gandhi protest. When invited to speak to
Gandhi, Godse declined, but he attended a prayer meeting later that day,
where he rushed towards Gandhi, brandishing a dagger and shouting anti-
Gandhi slogans. He was overpowered swiftly by fellow worshippers, and
came nowhere near achieving his goal. Godse was not prosecuted at the
time.
Four months later, in September 1944, Godse led a group of Hindu activist demonstrators who accosted
Gandhi at a train station, on his return from political talks. Godse was again found to be in possession of a
dagger that, although not drawn, was assumed to be the means by which he would again seek to assassinate
Gandhi. It was officially regarded as the third assassination attempt, by the commission set up to
investigate Gandhi’s death in 1948.
Gandhi
The fourth attempt on Gandhi’s life took the form of a planned train derailment. On 29th June
1946, a train called the ‘Gandhi Special’, carrying him and his entourage, was derailed near
Bombay, by means of boulders, which had been piled up on the tracks. Since the train was the
only one scheduled at that time, it seems likely that the intended target of derailment was
Gandhi himself. He was not injured in the accident. At a prayer meeting after the event Gandhi
Independence
is Day on 15th August 1947. Keenly recognising the need for political unity, Gandhi
quoted as saying:
spent the next few months working tirelessly for Hindu-Muslim peace, fearing the build-up of
“I have not hurt anybody nor do I consider anybody to be my enemy, I can’t understand why
animosity between the two fledgling states, showing remarkable prescience, given the turbulence
there are so many attempts on my life. Yesterday’s attempt on my life has failed. I will not die
of their relationship over the following half-century.
just yet; I aim to live till the age of 125.”
Unfortunately, his efforts to unite the opposing forces proved his undoing. He championed the
paying of restitution to Pakistan for lost territories, as outlined in the Partition agreement, which
parties in India, fearing that Pakistan would use the payment as a means to build a war arsenal,
had opposed. He began a fast in support of the payment, which Hindu radicals, Nathuram Godse
among them, viewed as traitorous. When the political effect of his fast secured the payment to
Pakistan, it secured with it the fifth attempt on his life.
Gandhi
After
Godse,the failed
who
Apte, returned
Apte,
had attempt
made no at
were bothtoimprisoned
Birla to
attempt
Pune, viauntil
House, Nathuram
flee following
their trial
Bombay, whereon 8th
theGodse
theyNovember
purchased
and another
assassination,
1949.
ofco-conspirator,
and his
They were
a Beretta
the seven, Narayan
convicted
automatic
Narayan
of Gandhi’s
pistol, before
killing, and
returning bothmore
once were to
executed,
Delhi. a week later, at Ambala Jail, on 15th November 1949. The supposed
architect of the plot, a Hindu extremist named Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was acquitted due to lack of
On 30th January 1948, whilst Gandhi was on his way to a prayer meeting at Birla House in
evidence.
Delhi, Nathuram Godse managed to get close enough to him in the crowd to be able to shoot him
Gandhi was cremated as per Hindu custom, and his ashes are interred at the Aga Khan’s palace in Pune,
three times in the chest, at point-blank range. Gandhi’s dying words were claimed to be “Hé
the site of his incarceration in 1942, and the place his wife had also died.
Rām”, which translates as “Oh God”, although some witnesses claim he spoke no words at all.
Gandhi's memorial bears the epigraph “Hé Rām” (“Oh God”) although there is no conclusive proof that
When news
he uttered of Gandhi’s
these death
words before reached the various strongholds of Hindu radicalism, in Pune and
death.
other areas throughout India, there was reputedly celebration in the streets. Sweets were
Although Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times, he never received it. In the year
distributed publicly, as at a festival. The rest of the world was horrified by the death of a man
of his death, 1948, the Prize was not awarded, the stated reason being that “there was no suitable living
nominated fiveyear.
candidate” that times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Gandhi's life and teachings have inspired many liberationists of the 20th Century, including Dr. Martin
Luther King in the United States, Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko in South Africa, and Aung San Suu
Kyi in Myanmar.
His birthday, 2nd October, is celebrated as a National Holiday in India every year
Teachings
Mahatma Gandhi, a world-renowned peace
activist, has affected the modern world through
his teachings of non-violence and social equality.
To this day, his legacy and what he has
contributed can be found in all walks of life.
From speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. to
educational curriculums in higher institutions,
elements from the teachings of Gandhi have
integrated into almost every realm of society
today. Out of all his teachings and legacies that
are remembered, there is no doubt that his
mentality towards civil disobedience through
nonviolence means is the most prominent. The
effects of what he has taught has sprouted many
more movements and ideologies that have
transgressed past his lifetime and into the lives of
future generations.
Mahatma Gandhi
Prior to discussing the effects of his teachings, nonviolence in its true essence, must be discussed. The
concept of nonviolence can be captured in the meaning of ahimsa, which is a philosophy of causing no
injury or harm through means of words, thoughts, or deeds (Mayton 713). This word dates back to
ancient Indian and Asian religious traditions that deem it as a way of life that one should uphold (Arapura
392). Although the existence of ahisma dates long before the time of Gandhi, he was the first to apply it
on such a large scale during times of political upheaval in 20th Century India (Asirvatham). Molloy
defines ahisma as, “nonharm” or “nonviolence” (Molloy). Walker claims that it is impossible for men to
completely act in accordance with ahisma because men constantly engage in acts of violence with other
men, animals, or even plants (Bajpai 148). Unintentional or not, because all men engage in acts of
violence, man can only agree with it in principle while striving to achieve it in practice. Walker makes an
interesting point when she claims that gunpowder, in its mere existence, totally defies everything that
ahisma stands for because the primary utility of gunpowder is to engage in violence (150). Although man
cannot practice ahisma fully, there are those who act in accordance with the principle more than others.
Mahatma Gandhi
In Gandhi’s weekly journal, the Harijan, he described non-violence as being, “the greatest force at the
disposal of mankind” (Harijan 2). Gandhi added that it is the strongest weapon to utilize when change is
desired; it is stronger than actual destruction of property or violent acts toward others (Harijan 1). In
addition, man is defined as, “living freely by his willingness to die” (Harijan 2). This quote in the Harijan
is especially important because it displays the type of mentality that a society must have in order for
change to be enacted.
Man must want something so much that he is willing to get hurt, go to prison, or to even die at the cost of his
goals. Gandhi outlines the repercussions of violent acts and how they plant seeds of hatred in future
generations when he says, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only
temporary; the evil it does is permanent” (Gandhi).
In other words, violence is the wrong way to enact change because an infliction of violence on a person will
cause a seed to hatred to be planted and an on-going chain of violence, stemming from vengeance, will ensue.
Bose says that nonviolence requires courage whereas acts of violence are simply loud (Bose 161). He adds that
nonviolence is very difficult to practice because it requires man to be forgiving; forgiving of the disservices
committed to him and to relinquish any kind of animosity (161). Furthermore, Bose says that, “self suffering is
the chosen substitute for violence to others” (161).
Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi and his teachings rooted from influences that dated back long before his birth. Influences such as
Jesus, Thoreau, and Buddha played significant roles in shaping his teachings and they way he applied it
during the Indian Independence Movement. Jesus in particular, played an enormous role in defining
Gandhi’s morals as he was growing up. As a child, he would read the Christian Bible, specifically the
New Testament, and found the content resonating (Bose 160). In his book, Gandhi on Christianity,
Gandhi spoke on how the Sermon on the Mount message impacted him so heavily (Gandhi 34). What
struck him the most in the Sermon on the Mount was Christ’s teaching on non-retaliation and how one
should return good when evil is performed.
Another vital influence that shaped Gandhi’s teachings would be his parents. Gandhi always spoke
highly of his mother and how devoutly religious she was (Dalton 2). During his childhood, Gandhi’s
mother would practice fasting whenever the sun was not shining; she would claim that “God did not
want her to eat today” (Dalton 2). In return, Gandhi and his brother would always run outside to check if
the sun was out that day so their mother could finally eat (Dalton 2).
Although never said explicitly, Gandhi would learn principles such as loyalty, self-control, and self-
deprivation by daily examples from his mother (Dalton). With any child, the values they hold when they
are adults are largely dependent on the values that are instilled in them as child by the parents. It is
thanks to an accumulation of multiple influences that has allowed Gandhi to be the influential political
and social activist that he is today.
Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi is most known for being a political reformer and activist through his actions during the Indian
Independence Movement. A common misconception that arises from Gandhi’s actions in India is that he
wanted independence for India. This is wrong; Gandhi wanted something known as swaraj, which
Two powerful weapons that he utilized during the
translates into self-rule (Dalton 2). The concept of swaraj exists on two plains, the first being a political
independence movement (Gerry 1). The power of nonviolent
realm while the second being on a spiritual realm.
forces the opposition to look at themselves and the problems
Independence was freedom to do anything, which carries a negative connotation whereas swaraj means
between the oppressed and the suppressors in a different
disciplined rule from within which carries a positive connotation (Dalton 2). In a political sense, having
swaraj for India wouldlight (Gerry).
mean India A principle
would be freethat Gandhi
from Britishinstilled and and have complete sovereignty
imperialism
emphasized
over itself. In a spiritual sense, thetoidea
his of
followers
swaraj can was
bethe factinthat
found Theonly love could
Bagavad-Gita where it teaches
driveofout
people to regain control thehate
‘self’and stop 4).
(Dalton the chain of animosity (Gerry 3).
Specifically in his active role during the Independence movement for India, Gandhi taught people the
correct way to fight injustice. Instead of retaliating with acts of violence, Gandhi implored his followers
to only oppose an unfair act and never a person (Gerry 1). An element from Christianity that runs strong
with Gandhi’s ideals is the principle of unconditional love. That is, to love your neighbor despite any
injustices that he may have caused you.
Mahatma
Gandhi
A specific instance of Gandhi’s practice can be seen during the Salt Protest in India in
1930 where salt was heavily taxed so Gandhi and his followers marched peacefully to
the beach to pick up salt (Gerry 4). In doing so, Gandhi was arrested and put into prison.
As a result, over 60,000 people, abiding by Gandhian principles, ‘turned the other
cheek’ while the British attempted to stop their march (Gerry 4). This prime example of
how 60,000 people followed the footsteps and practices of one man is a testament to
amount of people Gandhi touched with his teachings.
Mahatma Gandhi is the cultivation of past iconic influences and will be seed of future
leaders that will come and enact change in all realms of society. Through his teachings of
nonviolent protest and unconditional love, Gandhi has touched the lives of many and
because of this, society today and societies to come will still reap the benefits of the change
he has enacted and the process by which one should combat injustice. His teachings have not
only freed India from the British, but African-Americans have more civil rights because of
Martin Luther King Jr., South Africans have been liberated from apartheid because of
Nelson Mandela, along with many more leaders to come.
Works
Gandhi was a prolific writer. One of Gandhi's
earliest publications, Hind Swaraj, published in
Gujarati in 1909, became "the intellectual
blueprint" for India's independence movement.
The book was translated into English the next
year, with a copyright legend that read "No
Rights Reserved". For decades he edited several
newspapers including Harijan in Gujarati, in
Hindi and in the English language; Indian
Opinion while in South Africa and, Young India,
in English, and Navajivan, a Gujarati monthly, on
his return to India. Later, Navajivan was also
published in Hindi. In addition, he wrote letters
almost every day to individuals and newspapers.
Hind Swaraj
Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi also wrote several books including his
autobiography, The Story of My Experiments
with Truth (Gujarātī "સત્યના પ્રયોગો અથવા
આત્મકથા"), of which he bought the entire first
edition to make sure it was reprinted.[323] His
other autobiographies included: Satyagraha in
South Africa about his struggle there, Hind
Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, a political
pamphlet, and a paraphrase in Gujarati of John
Ruskin's Unto This Last.[362] This last essay
can be considered his programme on
economics. He also wrote extensively on
vegetarianism, diet and health, religion, social
reforms, etc. Gandhi usually wrote in Gujarati,
though he also revised the Hindi and English
translations of his books
Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi's complete works were published by the Indian
government under the name The Collected Works of
Mahatma Gandhi in the 1960s. The writings comprise
about 50,000 pages published in about a hundred
volumes. In 2000, a revised edition of the complete
works sparked a controversy, as it contained a large
number of errors and omissions.[364] The Indian
government later withdrew the revised edition.
Freedom is not worth
having if it does not
include the freedom to
- Mahatma Gandhi
make mistakes.
Fin…
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