Mahatma Gandhi, also known as Bapu or the Father of the Nation, was one of the greatest leaders of India and the world. He dedicated his life to the cause of freedom, justice, peace and harmony. He inspired millions of people with his principles of truth, non-violence, self-rule and service. On his 154th birth anniversary, let us remember his legacy and learn from his teachings.
Early Life and Education
Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat. His full name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. His father was the chief minister of Porbandar and his mother was a devout Hindu. He was married to Kasturba at the age of 13.
He studied law in London and returned to India in 1891. He practiced law in Bombay for a while but soon left for South Africa in 1893 to work as a legal adviser for an Indian firm.
Struggle Against Racial Discrimination in South Africa
In South Africa, Gandhi faced racial discrimination and injustice. He was thrown out of a train for travelling in a first-class compartment reserved for whites. He was beaten up by a mob for refusing to remove his turban. He was barred from entering hotels, courts and public places.
He decided to fight against these injustices by using the method of non-violent resistance or Satyagraha, which means holding on to truth. He organized protests, marches, strikes and boycotts against the oppressive laws and policies of the British colonial government. He also founded the Natal Indian Congress and the Indian Opinion newspaper to mobilize the Indian community.
He spent 21 years in South Africa and returned to India in 1915 as a transformed man. He had developed a new vision of life based on simplicity, spirituality and service.
Leadership of the Indian Freedom Movement
In India, Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and became its leader. He launched several mass movements against the British rule based on civil disobedience, non-cooperation and quit India. Some of his famous campaigns were:
- The Champaran Satyagraha (1917) to support the indigo farmers of Bihar who were exploited by the British planters.
- The Kheda Satyagraha (1918) to demand relief for the peasants of Gujarat who were suffering from famine and high taxes.
- The Khilafat Movement (1919-1920) to support the Muslim community’s demand for preserving the Ottoman Caliphate after World War I.
- The Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-1922) to boycott British goods, institutions, courts and titles and promote Swadeshi (indigenous) products, education and self-governance.
- The Salt March (1930) to defy the British monopoly on salt production and taxation by making salt from seawater at Dandi.
- The Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-1934) to demand complete independence or Purna Swaraj from Britain.
- The Quit India Movement (1942) to urge the British to leave India immediately during World War II.
Gandhi was arrested several times and spent many years in jail for his activities. He also faced opposition from some sections of the society who did not agree with his methods or goals. He faced violence from communal riots, assassinations attempts and even a bomb blast.
Contribution to Social Reforms and Nation Building
Gandhi was not only a political leader but also a social reformer and a nation builder. He worked for various causes such as:
- Eradication of untouchability and caste discrimination. He called the untouchables as Harijans or children of God and campaigned for their rights and dignity.
- Empowerment of women and promotion of gender equality. He encouraged women to participate in the freedom struggle and advocated for their education, health and freedom.
- Upliftment of the poor and the oppressed. He advocated for land reforms, village industries, cooperative societies and trusteeship.
- Promotion of communal harmony and religious tolerance. He respected all religions and tried to bridge the gap between Hindus and Muslims. He also supported the rights of minorities such as Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Jews.
- Revival of Indian culture and heritage. He promoted the use of Hindi as the national language and Khadi as the national cloth. He also practiced yoga, meditation and vegetarianism.
Legacy and Influence
Gandhi died on January 30, 1948 after being shot by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic who opposed his views on partition and Pakistan. His death shocked the nation and the world. His funeral was attended by millions of people who paid their last respects to him.
Gandhi’s legacy lives on in India and abroad. His birthday, October 2, is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti in India and as the International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations. His image, words and symbols are widely used in various fields such as politics, education, art, literature, media and social movements.
Gandhi’s influence can be seen in the lives and works of many leaders and personalities who followed his footsteps. Some of them are:
- Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader and the first president of South Africa.
- Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader and the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the United States.
- Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader and the Nobel Peace Prize winner of Tibet.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy activist and the Nobel Peace Prize winner of Myanmar.
- Malala Yousafzai, the education activist and the Nobel Peace Prize winner of Pakistan.
Quotes by Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi was a prolific writer and speaker. He wrote many books, articles, letters and speeches on various topics. He also gave many memorable quotes that reflect his wisdom and vision. Some of his famous quotes are:
- “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
- “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
- “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
- “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
- “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
- “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.”
- “A man is but the product of his thoughts and what he thinks he becomes.”
- “Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is a daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
- “The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.”
- “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
- “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
- “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
- “No one can hurt me without my permission.”
- “Where there is love there is life.”
- “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals, Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender.”
Mahatma Gandhi was a remarkable man who changed the course of history with his courage, conviction and compassion. He showed us how to live a life of truth and non-violence in a world full of violence and falsehood. He taught us how to be free and independent in our thoughts and actions. He inspired us how to serve humanity and create a better world for all.
He was not only a Mahatma or a great soul, but also a Mahaan or a great human being. He was not only an Indian or an Asian, but also a global citizen. He was not only a leader or a reformer, but also a teacher and a friend.
He was Mahatma Gandhi, the man who shook the world in a gentle way.