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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Gujarati: મોહનદાસ કરમચંદ ગાંધી; (Devnagari मोहनदास करमचंद गांधी 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was a pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during theIndian independence movement. He pioneered satyagraha, resistance to tyranny through mass civil resistance. His philosophy was firmly founded upon ahimsa (nonviolence). His philosophy and leadership helped India gain independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is often referred to as Mahatma ; Sanskrit: महात्मा mahātmā or "Great Soul" (magnanimous), an honorific first applied to him by Rabindranath Tagore). In India, he is also called Bapu (Gujarati: બાપુ, bāpu or "Father") and officially honoured in India as the Father of the Nation. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse.

Gandhi first employed civil disobedience while an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, during the resident Indian community's struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he organised protests by peasants, farmers, and urban labourers concerning excessive land-tax and discrimination. After assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women's rights, build religious and ethnic amity, end untouchability, and increase economic self-reliance. Above all, he aimed to achieveSwaraj or the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi famously led his followers in the Non-cooperation movement that protested the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (240 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930. He launched the Quit India Movement in 1942, demanding immediate independence for India. Gandhi spent a number of years in jail in both South Africa and India.

As a practitioner of ahimsa, Gandhi swore to speak the truth and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven from yarn that he had spun by hand himself. He ate simple vegetarian food, experimented for a time with a fruitarian diet, and undertook long fasts as a means of both self-purification and social protest.

 

 

 

Early life and background

 

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, a coastal town which was then part of the Bombay Presidency, British India. His father, Karamchand Gandhi (1822–1885), who belonged to the Hindu Modh community, served as the diwan (a high official) of Porbander state, a small princely state in the Kathiawar Agency of British India. His grandfather was Uttamchand Gandhi, fondly called Utta Gandhi. His mother, Putlibai, who came from the Hindu Pranami Vaishnava community, was Karamchand's fourth wife, the first three wives having apparently died in childbirth. Growing up with a devout mother and the Jain traditions of the region, the young Mohandas absorbed early the influences that would play an important role in his adult life; these included compassion for sentient beings, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance among individuals of different creeds.

The Indian classics, especially the stories of Shravana and Maharaja Harishchandra, had a great impact on Gandhi in his childhood. Gandhi, in his autobiography, admits that it left an indelible impression on his mind. He writes: "It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number." Gandhi's early self-identification with Truth and Love as supreme values is traceable to these epic characters.

In May 1883, the 13-year old Mohandas was married to 14-year old Kasturbai Makhanji (her first name was usually shortened to "Kasturba", and affectionately to "Ba") in an arranged child marriage, according to the custom of the region 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." However, as was also the custom of the region, the adolescent bride was to spend much time at her parents' house, and away from her husband. In 1885, when Gandhi was 15, the couple's first child was born, but survived only a few days, and Gandhi's father, Karamchand Gandhi, had died earlier that year. Mohandas and Kasturba had four more children, all sons: Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892; Ramdas, born in 1897; and Devdas, born in 1900. At his middle school in Porbandar and high school in Rajkot, Gandhi remained an average student. He passed the matriculation exam for Samaldas College atBhavnagar, Gujarat with some difficulty. While there, he was unhappy, in part because his family wanted him to become a barrister.

On 4 September 1888, Gandhi travelled to London, England, to study law at University College London and to train as a barrister. His time in London, the Imperial capital, was influenced by a vow he had made to his mother in the presence of the Jain monk Becharji, upon leaving India, to observe the Hindu precepts of abstinence from meat, alcohol, and promiscuity. Although Gandhi experimented with adopting "English" customs—taking dancing lessons for example—he could not stomach the bland vegetarian food offered by his landlady, and he was always hungry until he found one of London's few vegetarian restaurants. Influenced by Salt's book, he joined theVegetarian Society, was elected to its executive committee, and started a local Bayswater chapter. Some of the vegetarians he met were members of the Theosophical Society, which had been founded in 1875 to further universal brotherhood, and which was devoted to the study ofBuddhist and Hindu literature. They encouraged Gandhi to join them in reading the Bhagavad Gita both in translation as well as in the original. Not having shown interest in religion before, he became interested in religious thought and began to read both Hindu and Christian scriptures.

Gandhi was called to the bar on 10 June 1891. Two days later, he left London for India, where he learned that his mother had died while he was in London and that his family had kept the news from him His attempts at establishing a law practice in Bombay failed and, later, after applying and being turned down for a part-time job as a high school teacher, he ended up returning to Rajkot to make a modest living drafting petitions for litigants, a business he was forced to close when he ran foul of a British officer. In his autobiography, Gandhi refers to this incident as an unsuccessful attempt to lobby on behalf of his older brother. It was in this climate that, in April 1893, he accepted a year-long contract from Dada Abdulla & Co., an Indian firm, to a post in the Colony of Natal, South Africa, then part of the British Empire.

 

 

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