Something of Interest
In 1931, notable European physicist Albert Einstein exchanged written letters with Gandhi, and called him "a role model for the generations to come" in a letter writing about him. Einstein said of Gandhi:
Mahatma Gandhi's life achievement stands unique in political history. He has invented a completely new and humane means for the liberation war of an oppressed country, and practised it with greatest energy and devotion. The moral influence he had on the consciously thinking human being of the entire civilized world will probably be much more lasting than it seems in our time with its overestimation of brutal violent forces. Because lasting will only be the work of such statesmen who wake up and strengthen the moral power of their people through their example and educational works. We may all be happy and grateful that destiny gifted us with such an enlightened contemporary, a role model for the generations to come.
Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 – 1948) was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma (Sanskrit: "high-souled", "venerable")—applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa,—is now used worldwide. He is also called Bapu (Gujarati: endearment for "father", "papa") in India.
Born and raised in a Hindu, merchant caste, family in coastal Gujarat, western India, and trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community's struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.
Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi attempted to practise nonviolence and truth in all situations, 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 with yarn hand spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian food, and also undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and social protest.
The nonviolence teachings of Gandhi and the March to Dandi had a significant influence on American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fight for civil rights for blacks and other minority groups in the 1960s.
Gandhi's vision of a free India based on religious pluralism, however, was challenged in the early 1940s by a new Muslim nationalism which was demanding a separate Muslim homeland carved out of India. Eventually, in August 1947, Britain granted independence, but the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, a Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan. As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs made their way to their new lands, religious violence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal. Eschewing the official celebration of independence in Delhi, Gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to provide solace. In the months following, he undertook several fasts unto death to promote religious harmony. The last of these, undertaken on 12 January 1948 at age 78, also had the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some cash assets owed to Pakistan. Some Indians thought Gandhi was too accommodating. Among them was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest at point-blank range.
Gandhi is commonly considered the Father of the Nation of India. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Nonviolence.
In May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji in an arranged child marriage, according to the custom of the region. In 1885, when Gandhi was 15, the couple's first child was born, but survived only a few days. Mohandas and Kasturba had four more children, all sons.
At his middle school and high school, Gandhi was a mediocre student. He shone neither in the classroom nor on the playing field. One of the terminal reports rated him as "good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting." He passed the matriculation exam at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, with some difficulty. Gandhi's family wanted him to be a barrister, as it would increase the prospects of succeeding to his father's post.
In 1888, Gandhi travelled to London, England, to study law at University College London, where he studied Indian law and jurisprudence and trained as a barrister at the Inner Temple. Gandhi was called to the bar in June 1891 and then left London for India.
Gandhi was 24 when he arrived in South Africa to work as a legal representative for the Muslim Indian Traders based in the city of Pretoria. He spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his political views, ethics and political leadership skills - he became proficient at public speaking, fund-raising, negotiations, media relations, and self-promotion.
In South Africa, Gandhi faced the discrimination directed at all coloured people. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the first-class. He protested and was allowed on first class the next day. Travelling farther on by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for a European passenger. He suffered other hardships on the journey as well, including being barred from several hotels. In another incident, the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do.
Gandhi focused his attention on Indians while in South Africa and opposed the idea that Indians should be treated at the same level as native Africans while in South Africa. He also stated that he believed "that the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race." After several treatments he received from Whites in South Africa, Gandhi began to change his thinking and apparently increased his interest in politics.
In 1906, when the British declared war against the Zulu Kingdom in Natal, Gandhi encouraged the British to recruit Indians. He argued that Indians should support the war efforts to legitimise their claims to full citizenship. The British accepted Gandhi's offer to let a detachment of 20 Indians volunteer as a stretcher-bearer corps to treat wounded British soldiers. This corps was commanded by Gandhi and operated for less than two months. The experience taught him it was hopeless to directly challenge the overwhelming military power of the British army—he decided it could only be resisted in nonviolent fashion by the pure of heart.
The Non-Cooperation Movement was a significant phase of the Indian struggle for freedom from British rule. It was led by Mahatma Gandhi and was supported by the Indian National Congress. After the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Gandhi started the Non Cooperation movement. It aimed to resist British occupation in India through non-violent means. Protestors would refuse to buy British goods, adopt the use of local handicrafts and try to uphold the Indian values of honor and integrity. The ideals of Ahimsa or non-violence, and Gandhi's ability to rally hundreds of thousands of common citizens towards the cause of Indian independence, were first seen on a large scale in this movement through the summer 1920.
Gandhi strongly favoured the emancipation of women and he opposed purdah, child marriage, untouchability, and the extreme oppression of Hindu widows, up to and including sati. He especially recruited women to participate in the salt tax campaigns and the boycott of foreign products.
The Quit India Act was a civil disobedience movement launched in India in August 1942 in response to Mohandas Gandhi's call for Satyagraha (nonviolent resistance). The All-India Congress Committee proclaimed a mass protest demanding what Gandhi called "an orderly British withdrawal" from India. The call for determined, but passive resistance appears in his call to Do or Die, issued on 8 August, 1942 in Mumbai
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948, shot at point-blank range by Nathuram Godse. Gandhi was outside on the steps of a building where a prayer meeting was going to take place. He was surrounded by a part of his family and some followers when three gunshots killed him. Prior to his death, there had been five unsuccessful attempts to kill Gandhi, the first occurring in 1934.
Gandhi's death was mourned nationwide. Over two million people joined the five-mile long funeral procession that took over five hours to reach Raj Ghat from Birla house, where he was assassinated. Gandhi's body was transported on a weapons carrier, whose chassis was dismantled overnight to allow a high-floor to be installed so that people could catch a glimpse of his body. The engine of the vehicle was not used, instead four drag-ropes manned by 50 people each pulled the vehicle. All Indian-owned establishments in London remained closed in mourning as thousands of people from all faiths and denominations and Indians from all over Britain converged at India House in London.
By Hindu tradition the ashes were to be spread on a river. Gandhi's ashes were poured into urns which were sent across India for memorial services.
In 1908 Leo Tolstoy wrote A Letter to a Hindu, which said that only by using love as a weapon through passive resistance could the Indian people overthrow colonial rule. In 1909, Gandhi wrote to Tolstoy seeking advice. Tolstoy responded and the two continued a correspondence until Tolstoy's death in 1910 (Tolstoy's last letter was to Gandhi). The letters concern practical and theological applications of nonviolence. Gandhi saw himself a disciple of Tolstoy, for they agreed regarding opposition to state authority and colonialism; both hated violence and preached non-resistance.
In 1931, he suggested that while he could understand the desire of European Jews to emigrate to Palestine, he opposed any movement that supported British colonialism or violence. Muslims throughout India and the Middle East strongly opposed the Zionist plan for a Jewish state in Palestine, and Gandhi (and Congress) supported the Muslims in this regard. By the 1930s all major political groups in India opposed a Jewish state in Palestine.
Gandhian economics focused on the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level. His policy called for ending poverty through improved agriculture and small-scale cottage industries in every village. Gandhi challenged Nehru and the modernizers in the late 1930s who called for rapid industrialisation on the Soviet model; Gandhi denounced that as dehumanising and contrary to the needs of the villages where the great majority of the people lived. After Gandhi's death Nehru led India to large-scale planning that emphasised modernisation and heavy industry, while modernising agriculture through irrigation. Historian Kuruvilla Pandikattu says "it was Nehru's vision, not Gandhi's, that was eventually preferred by the Indian State." After Gandhi's death activists inspired by his vision promoted their opposition to industrialisation through the teachings of Gandhian economics.
Gandhi influenced important leaders and political movements. Leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, including Martin Luther King, James Lawson, and James Bevel, drew from the writings of Gandhi in the development of their own theories about nonviolence. King said "Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics." King sometimes referred to Gandhi as "the little brown saint." Anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was inspired also by Gandhi.
In 1906 Gandhi, although married and a father, vowed to abstain from sexual relations. In the 1940s, in his mid-seventies, he brought his grandniece Manubehn to sleep naked in his bed as part of a spiritual experiment in which Gandhi could test himself as a brahmachari (strict celibacy). Several other young women and girls also sometimes shared his bed as part of his experiments. Gandhi's behaviour was widely discussed and criticised by family members and leading politicians, including Nehru. Some members of his staff resigned, including two editors of his newspaper who left after refusing to print parts of Gandhi's sermons dealing with his sleeping arrangements. But Gandhi said that if he wouldn't let Manu sleep with him, it would be a sign of weakness.
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