Gandhi (October 2, 1869 - January 30, 1948), known popularly as Mahatma
Gandhi (Mahatma - Sanskrit: "great soul"), was one of the
founding fathers of the modern Indian state and an influential advocate
of Satyagraha (non-violent protest) as a means of revolution. (See also:
He helped bring about India's independence from British rule, inspiring
other colonial peoples to work for their own independence and ultimately
dismantle the British Empire and replace it with the Commonwealth. Gandhi's
principle of satyagraha, often roughly translated as "way of truth"
or "pursuit of truth," has inspired generations of democratic
and anti-racist activists including Martin Luther King, Jr and Nelson
Mandela. He often stated his values were simple, drawn from traditional
Hindu beliefs: truth (satya), and non-violence (ahimsa).
born on October
2, 1869, in Porbandar, Gujarat, India. He was the son of a Karamchand
Gandhi, the dewan (Chief Minister) of Porbander, and Putliba, Karamchand's
fourth wife. They were descendents of traders (The word "Gandhi"
means grocer). At the age of 13 Gandhi married Kasturbai, who was of
his same age. They had four children, all sons: Harilal Gandhi born
in 1888, Manilal Gandhi born in 1892, Ramdas Gandhi born in 1897 and
Devdas Gandhi born in 1900.
At the age of 19, Gandhi went to University College, in the University
of London to train as a lawyer. He went to Durban, South Africa to practice
law in 1893 and began his political career by lobbying against laws
discriminating against Indians in South Africa, inspired by an incident
in which he was physically thrown off a train in Pietermaritzburg, after
refusing to move to the third class coach, while travelling on a first
class ticket. Gandhi was arrested on November 6, 1913 while leading
a march of Indian miners in South Africa.
Gandhi drew inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita and the writings of Leo
Tolstoy, who in the 1880s had undergone a profound conversion to a personal
form of Christian anarchism. Gandhi translated Tolstoy's "Letter
to a Hindu"  which was written in 1908 in response to aggressive
Indian nationalists, and the two corresponded until Tolstoy's death
in 1910. The letter by Tolstoy uses Hindu philosophy taken from the
Vedas and sayings of the Hindu God Lord Krishna to present his view
of that state of growing Indian nationalism.
During World War I, Gandhi returned to India, where he campaigned for
Indians to join the British Indian Army.
Movement for Indian independence
After the war, he became involved with the Indian National Congress
and the movement for independence. He gained worldwide publicity through
his policy of civil disobedience and the use of fasting as a form of
protest, and was repeatedly imprisoned by the British authorities (for
example on March 18, 1922 he was sentenced to six years in prison for
civil disobedience but served only 2 years).
Gandhi's other successful strategies for the independence movement included
swadeshi policy - the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British
goods. Linked to this was his advocacy that all Indians should wear
khadi - homespun cloth, instead of relying on British-made textiles.
Gandhi advocated that Indian women, rich or poor, should spend time
each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement. This
was a strategy to include women in the independence movement at a time
when many thought that such activities were not 'respectable' for women
to engage in.
His pro-independence stance hardened after the Amritsar Massacre in
One of his most striking actions was the salt march known as the Dandi
March, that started on March 12, 1930 and ended on April 5, when he
led thousands of people to the sea to collect their own salt rather
than pay the salt tax. On May 8, 1933 Gandhi began a fast that would
last 21 days to protest British 'oppression' in India. In Bombay, on
March 3, 1939 Gandhi fasted again in protest of the autocratic rule
World War II
Gandhi became even more vocal in his demand for independence during
World War II, drafting a resolution calling for the British to Quit
India, which soon sparked the largest movement for Indian independence
ever, with mass arrests and violence on an unprecedented scale. Gandhi
and his supporters made clear that they would not support the war effort
unless India was granted immediate independence. During this time, he
even hinted an end for his otherwise unwavering support of non-violence,
saying that the 'ordered anarchy' around him was 'worse than real anarchy'.
He was then arrested in Bombay by British forces on August 9, 1942 and
was held for two years.
Partition of India and Assassination
Gandhi had great influence among the Hindu and Muslim communities of
India. It is said that he ended communal riots through his mere presence.
Gandhi was vehemently opposed to any plan which partitioned India into
two separate countries (the plan was eventually adopted, creating a
Hindu-dominated India, and a Muslim-dominated Pakistan). On the day
of the power transfer, Gandhi did not celebrate independence with the
rest of India, but mourned partition alone in Calcutta instead. He was
assassinated in New Delhi on January 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu
radical who held him responsible for weakening the new government by
insisting on a payment to Pakistan. Godse was later tried, convicted,
It is indicative of Gandhi's long struggle and search for God that his
dying words were a popular two-word mantra to the Hindu conception of
God as Rama: "Hai Ram!" It is seen as an inspiring signal
of his spirituality as well as his idealism regarding the possibility
of unificatory peace. While there are some who are skeptical about this,
the vast majority of evidence and witnesses, as well as popular opinion,
support this utterance as truly having occurred. (External links)
Gandhi's philosophies and his ideas of satya and ahinsa had been influenced
by the Bhagavad Gita and Hindu beliefs as well as practiced Jain religion.
The concept of 'nonviolence' (ahimsa) was a long-standing one in Indian
religious thought and saw many revivals with Hindu, Buddhist and Jain
contexts. Gandhi explains his philosophy and way of life in his autobiography
The Story of my Experiments with Truth.
He was a strict vegetarian and had written books on the subject while
studying law in London (where he met vegetarian campaigner Henry Salt
at meetings of the Vegetarian Society). It might be added that the idea
of vegetarianism was a deeply ingrained one in Hindu and Jain society
in India, and that in his native land of Gujarat most Hindus were vegetarian.
He experimented with different diets and believed that a diet should
be enough to satisfy the minimum requirements of the body. He also abstained
from taking food for periods of time, and he used this practice of fasting
also as a political weapon.
Gandhi gave up sexual intercourse at the age of 36 and became totally
celibate while still married, a course deeply influenced by the Hindu
idea of brahmacharya, or spiritual and practical purity, largely associated
Gandhi spent a day of the week in silence. He would abstain from speaking
and he believed it brought him inner peace. These were drawn from such
Hindu understandings of the power of 'mouna' and 'shanti'. On such days
he communicated with others by writing on paper.
After returning to India from a successful lawyer career in South Africa,
he gave up his clothing that represented wealth and success. His idea
was to adopt a kind of clothing whereby he can be accepted by even the
poorest person in India. He advocated use of home-spun cloth (khadi).
Gandhi and his followers followed the practice of weaving their own
cloth using a spinning-wheel and wearing a dress made of that. He also
advocated others use spinning wheels to spin clothes. This was a threat
to the British establishment - while Indian workers were often idle
due to unemployment, they bought their clothing from foreign English
industrial manufacturers - if Indians spun their own clothes, this would
leave British industry idle. The spinning wheel was later incorporated
into the flag of the Indian National Congress.
Gandhi was against conventional education as taught in schools and believed
that children learn best from parents and from the society. While in
South Africa, Gandhi along with other elders formed a group of teachers
and directly imparted education to the children.
The most famous artistic depiction of his life is the film Gandhi, directed
by Richard Attenborough and starring Ben Kingsley (interestingly half-Gujarati)
in the title role. Another film that deals with Gandhi's 21 years of
life in South Africa is The Making of the Mahatma directed by Shyam
Benegal and starring Rajit Kapur.
In the United States, there are statues of Gandhi outside the Ferry
Building in San Francisco, in Union Square Park in New York City and
near the Indian Embassy in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington,
Nobel Peace Prize nominations
M.K.Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize, though he was nominated
five times for the same between 1937 and 1948. Decades later however,
the omission was publicly regretted by the Nobel Committee. When the
Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of the
committee said that this was "in part a tribute to the memory of
his lifetime, Gandhi's activities attracted a wide range of comment
and opinion. For example, as a subject of the British Empire, Winston
Churchill once referred to Gandhi as a "brown fakir." Conversely,
Albert Einstein said of Gandhi, "Generations to come, it may be,
will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood
walked upon this earth."
Leader / Activist
• Born: 2 October 1869
• Birthplace: Porbandar, India
• Death: 30 January 1948 (assassination)
• Best Known As: Non-violent leader of Indian independence
Mohandas K. Gandhi studied law in England, then spent 20 years defending
the rights of immigrants in South Africa. In 1914 he returned to India
and became the leader of the Indian National Congress. Gandhi urged
non-violence and civil disobedience as a means to independence from
Great Britain, with public acts of defiance that landed him in jail
several times. In 1947 he participated in the postwar negotiations that
led to Indian independence. He was shot to death by a Hindu fanatic
Gandhi is sometimes compared with fellow humanitarians Mother Teresa,
Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Karamchand (mohän'd?s ku'r?mchund' gän'de) , 1869–1948,
Indian political and spiritual leader, b. Porbandar.
In South Africa
Educated in India and in London, he was admitted to the English bar
in 1889 and practiced law unsuccessfully in India for two years. In
1893 he went to South Africa, where he was later joined by his wife
and children. There he became a successful lawyer and leader of the
Indian community and involved himself in the fight to end discrimination
against the country's Indian minority. In South Africa he read widely,
drawing inspiration from such sources as the Bhagavad-Gita, John Ruskin,
Leo Tolstoy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau, and his personal
philosophy underwent significant changes. He abandoned (c.1905) Western
ways and thereafter lived abstemiously (including celibacy); this became
symbolized in his eschewal of material possessions and his dress of
loincloth and shawl. While in South Africa he organized (1907) his first
satyagraha [holding to the truth], a campaign of civil disobedience
expressed in nonviolent resistance to what he regarded as unjust laws.
So successful were his activities that he secured (1914) an agreement
from the South African government that promised the alleviation of anti-Indian
Return to India
He returned (1915) to India with a stature equal to that of the nationalist
leaders Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Gandhi actively
supported the British in World War I in the hope of hastening India's
freedom, but he also led agrarian and labor reform demonstrations that
embarrassed the British. The Amritsar massacre of 1919 stirred Indian
nationalist consciousness, and Gandhi organized several satyagraha campaigns.
He discontinued them when, against his wishes, violent disorder ensued.
His program included a free, united India; the revival of cottage industries,
especially of spinning and the production of handwoven cloth (khaddar);
and the abolition of untouchability (see caste). These ideas were widely
and vigorously espoused, although they also met considerable opposition
from some Indians. The title Mahatma [great soul] reflected personal
prestige so high that he could unify the diverse elements of the organization
of the nationalist movement, the Indian National Congress, which he
dominated from the early 1920s.
In 1930, in protest against the government's salt tax, he led the famous
200-mi (320-km) march to extract salt from the sea. For this he was
imprisoned but was released in 1931 to attend the London Round Table
Conference on India as the sole representative of the Indian National
Congress. When the Congress refused to embrace his program in its entirety,
Gandhi withdrew (1934), but his influence was such that Jawaharlal Nehru,
his protégé, was named leader of the organization.
In 1942, after rejection of his offer to cooperate with Great Britain
in World War II if the British would grant immediate independence to
India, Gandhi called for satyagraha and launched the Quit India movement.
He was then interned until 1944. Gandhi was a major figure in the postwar
conferences with the viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, and Muslim League leader
Muhammad Ali Jinnah that led to India's independence and the carving
out of a separate Muslim state (Pakistan), although Gandhi vigorously
opposed the partition.
When violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims, Gandhi resorted
to fasts and tours of disturbed areas to check it. On Jan. 30, 1948,
while holding a prayer and pacification meeting at New Delhi, he was
fatally shot by a Hindu fanatic who was angered by Gandhi's solicitude
for the Muslims. After his death his methods of nonviolent civil disobedience
were adopted by protagonists of civil rights in the United States and
by many protest movements throughout the world.
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
"Father of the nation" —Mahatma Gandhi
Born October 2, 1869, Porbandar, Gujarat, India Died January 30, 1948,
New Delhi, IndiaGandhi redirects here. For other uses, see Gandhi (disambiguation).
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948)
(Devanagari: ??????? ??????? ?????), called Mahatma Gandhi, was the
charismatic leader who brought the cause of India's independence from
British colonial rule to world attention. His philosophy of non-violence,
for which he coined the term satyagraha has influenced both nationalist
and international movements for peaceful change.
By means of non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi helped bring about
India's independence from British rule, inspiring other colonial peoples
to work for their own independence, ultimately dismantling the British
Empire to replace it with the Commonwealth of Nations. Gandhi's principle
of satyagraha (from Sanskrit satya: truth, and graha: grasp/hold), often
translated as "way of truth" or "pursuit of truth",
has inspired other democratic activists, including Martin Luther King,
Jr., John Lennon and the 14th Dalai Lama. He often said that his values
were simple; drawn from traditional Hindu beliefs: truth (satya), and
non-violence (ahimsa). His auto-biography, "The story of my experiments
with truth" reveals his inner persona and reflections on his early
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born into a Hindu family in Porbandar,
Gujarat, India. They were descendants of traders (the word "Gandhi"
means grocer). He was the son of Karamchand Gandhi, the dewan (Chief
Minister) of Porbandar, and Putlibai, Karamchand's fourth wife, a Hindu
of the Vaishnava sect. Growing up with a devout Vaishnava mother and
surrounded by the Jain influences of Gujarat, Gandhi learned from an
early age the tenets of non-injury to living beings, vegetarianism,
fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance between members
of various creeds and sects. At the age of 13 Gandhi married Kasturba
Makharji, who was the same age as he. They had four sons: Harilal Gandhi,
born in 1888; Manilal Gandhi, born in 1892; Ramdas Gandhi, born in 1897;
and Devdas Gandhi, born in 1900.
Gandhi was a mediocre student in his youth at Porbandar and later Rajkot,
barely passing the matriculation exam for the University of Bombay in
1887, and joining Samaldas College. He did not stay there long, however,
as his family felt he must become a barrister if he were to continue
the family tradition of holding high office in Gujarat. Unhappy at Samaldas
College, he leapt at the opportunity to study in England, which he viewed
as "a land of philosophers and poets, the very centre of civilization."
At the age of 19, Gandhi went to University College, of the University
of London, to train as a barrister. His time in London, the Imperial
capital, was influenced by a vow he had made to his mother upon leaving
India to observe the Hindu precepts of abstinence from meat and alcohol.
Although Gandhi experimented with becoming "English", taking
dancing lessons for example, he could not stomach his landlady's mutton
and cabbage. She pointed him towards one of London's vegetarian restaurants.
Rather than simply go along with his mother's wishes, he read about,
and intellectually converted to vegetarianism. He joined the Vegetarian
Society, was elected to its Executive Committee, and founded a local
chapter. He later credited this with giving him valuable experience
in organising and running institutions. Some of the vegetarians he met
were members of the Theosophical Society, which had been founded in
1875 by H.P. Blavatsky to further universal brotherhood. The Theosophists
were devoted to the study of Buddhist and Hindu Brahmanistic literature.
They encouraged Gandhi to read the Bhagavad Gita. Although he had not
shown a particular interest in religion before, he began to read works
of and about Hinduism, Christianity, and other religions.
He returned to India after being admitted to the British bar. Trying
to establish a law practice in Bombay, he had limited success. By this
time, the legal profession was overcrowded in India, and Gandhi was
not a dynamic figure in a courtroom. He applied for a part-time job
as a teacher at a Bombay high school but was turned down. He ended up
returning to Rajkot to make a modest living drafting petitions for litigants
but was forced to close down that business as well when he ran afoul
of a British officer. In his autobiography, he describes this incident
as a kind of unsuccessful lobbying attempt on behalf of his older brother.
It was in this climate that he accepted a year-long contract from an
Indian firm to a post in Natal, South Africa.
Civil rights movement in South Africa
At this point in his life, Gandhi was a mild-mannered, diffident, politically
indifferent individual. He had read his first newspaper at age 18 and
was prone to horrible stage fright when speaking in court. South Africa
changed him dramatically as he faced the humiliation and oppression
that was commonly directed at Indians in that country. One day in court
in the city of Durban, the magistrate asked him to remove his turban,
which he refused to do, and then stormed out of the courtroom. Several
days later, he began a journey to Pretoria that would serve as the catalyst
for his activism. First, he was literally thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg
after refusing to move from first class to third class while travelling
on a first class ticket. Later, travelling by stagecoach, he was beaten
by a driver for refusing to travel on the footboard to make room for
a European passenger. He suffered other hardships on the journey as
well, including being barred from many hotels on account of his race.
This experience led him to more closely examine the hardships his people
suffered in South Africa during his time in Pretoria.
When Gandhi's contract was up, he prepared to return to India. However,
at a farewell party in his honor in Durban, he happened to glance at
a newspaper and learned that a bill was being considered by the Natal
Legislative Assembly to deny the vote to Indians. When he brought this
up with his hosts, they lamented that they did not have the expertise
necessary to oppose the bill and implored Gandhi to stay and help them.
He circulated several petitions to both the Natal Legislature and the
British government in opposition to the bill. Though unable to halt
the bill's passage, his campaign was successful in drawing attention
to the grievances of Indians in South Africa. Supporters convinced him
to remain in Durban to continue fighting against the injustices levied
against Indians in South Africa. He founded the Natal Indian Congress
in 1894 with himself as secretary. Through this organization, he formed
the Indian community of South Africa into a heterogeneous political
force, inundating government and press alike with statements of Indian
grievances and evidence of British discrimination in South Africa. Gandhi
returned briefly to India in 1896 to bring his wife and children to
live with him in South Africa. When he returned in January 1897, a white
mob attacked and tried to lynch him. In an early indication of the personal
values that would shape his later campaigns, he refused to press charges
on any member of the mob, stating it was one of his principles not to
seek redress for a personal wrong in a court of law.
At the onset of the South African War, Gandhi argued that Indians must
support the war effort in order to legitimize their claims to full citizenship,
organising a volunteer ambulance corps of 300 free Indians and 800 indentured
laborers. At the conclusion of the war, however, the situation for the
Indians did not improve, but continued to deteriorate. In 1906, the
Transvaal government promulgated a new act compelling registration of
the colony's Indian population. At a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg
that September, Gandhi adopted his platform of satyagraha (devotion
to the truth), or non-violent protest, for the first time, calling on
his fellow Indians to defy the new law and suffer the punishments for
doing so rather than resist through violent means. This plan was adopted,
leading to a seven-year struggle in which thousands of Indians were
jailed (including Gandhi himself on many occasions), flogged, or even
shot, for striking, refusing to register, or engaging in other forms
of non-violent resistance. While the government was successful in repressing
the Indian protesters, the public outcry stemming from the harsh methods
employed by the South African government in the face of peaceful Indian
protesters finally forced South African General Jan Christian Smuts
to negotiate a compromise with Gandhi.
During his years in South Africa, Gandhi drew inspiration from the Bhagavad
Gita and the writings of Leo Tolstoy, who in the 1880s had undergone
a profound conversion to a personal form of Christian anarchism. Gandhi
translated Tolstoy's "Letter to a Hindu,"  (http://sources.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_to_a_Hindu_-_Leo_Tolstoy)
written in 1908 in response to aggressive Indian nationalists. The two
corresponded until Tolstoy's death in 1910. The letter by Tolstoy applies
Hindu philosophy from the Vedas and the sayings of Krishna to the growing
Indian nationalism. Gandhi was also inspired by the American writer
Henry David Thoreau's famous essay on “Civil Disobedience."
Gandhi's years in South Africa as a socio-political activist were when
the concepts and techniques of civil disobedience and non-violent resistance
were developed. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Gandhi decided to
return to India, bringing all that he had learned from his experiences
in South Africa with him.
Movement for Indian independence
As he had done in the South African War, Gandhi urged support of the
British War effort in World War I and was active in recruiting Indians
to serve in the military. He did speak out against specific incidents
of British oppression and supported the peasantry of Bihar and Gujarat,
but he did not entirely break with the British, remaining on the periphery
of the Indian nationalist movement. This changed in February 1919, when
the Rowlatt Bills, empowering the government to imprison those accused
of sedition without trial, were passed. Gandhi called for a satyagraha
that soon led to violent outbreaks across the country, most notably
the massacre of 400 Indians by the British army in the town of Amritsar,
and martial law. The violence led Gandhi to end the struggle, but he
had succeeded in placing himself at the center of the Indian national
In April 1920, Gandhi was elected president of the All-India Home Rule
League. He was invested with executive authority on behalf of the Indian
National Congress in December 1921. Under Gandhi's leadership, the Congress
was reorganized and given a new constitution, with the goal of swaraj
(independence). Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared
to pay a token fee. A hierarchy of committees was set up to improve
discipline and control over a hitherto amorphous and diffuse movement,
transforming the party from an elite organization to one of mass national
appeal. Gandhi expanded his non-violence platform to include the swadeshi
policy – the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British
goods. Linked to this was his advocacy that khadi (homespun cloth) be
worn by all Indians instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi exhorted
Indian women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in
support of the independence movement. This was a strategy to include
women in the movement at a time when many thought that such activities
were not 'respectable' for women. In addition to boycotting British
products, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British educational institutions
and law courts, to resign from government employment, to refuse to pay
taxes, and to forsake British titles and honours. This new program enjoyed
wide-spread appeal and success, empowering the Indian people as never
before, yet just as the movement reached its apex, it ended abruptly
as a result of a violent clash in the town of Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh,
in February 1922. Fearing that the movement was about to take a turn
towards violence, and convinced that this would be the undoing of all
his work, Gandhi called off the campaign of mass civil disobedience.
Now vulnerable, Gandhi was arrested on March 10, 1922, tried for sedition,
and sentenced to six years. This was not the first time he had been
jailed, but it was to be his longest term of imprisonment. Beginning
on March 18, 1922, he only served about two years of the sentence, being
released in February 1924 after an operation for appendicitis.
Without Gandhi's forceful personality to keep his colleagues in check,
the Indian National Congress began to splinter during his years in prison,
splitting into two factions, one led by Chitta Ranjan Das and Motilal
Nehru favoring party participation in the legislatures, and the other
led by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, opposing
this move. Furthermore, cooperation among Hindus and Muslims, which
had been strong at the height of the nonviolence campaign, was breaking
down. Gandhi attempted to bridge these differences through many means,
including a three-week fast in the autumn of 1924, but with limited
Gandhi stayed out of the limelight for most of the 1920s, taking little
interest in politics, but returned to the fore in 1928. The year before,
the British government appointed a new constitutional reform commission
under Sir John Simon numbering not a single Indian in its ranks. The
result was a boycott of the commission by Indian political parties.
Gandhi pushed through a resolution at the Calcutta Congress in December
1928 calling on the British government to grant India dominion status
within a year or face a new campaign of non-violence with complete independence
for the country as its goal. Making good on his word in March 1930,
he launched a new satyagraha against the tax on salt, highlighted by
the famous Dandi March from March 21 to April 6, 1930, marching 400
kilometres (248 miles) from Ahmedabad to Dandi to make his own salt.
Thousands of Indians joined him on this march to the sea. This campaign
was one of his most successful, resulting in the imprisonment of over
60,000 people. The government, represented by Lord Irwin, decided to
negotiate with Gandhi. The Gandhi-Irwin pact was signed in March 1931.
In it, the British Government agreed to set all political prisoners
free in return for the suspension of the civil disobedience movement.
Furthermore, Gandhi was invited to attend the Round Table Conference
in London as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress.
The conference was a disappointment to Gandhi and the nationalists as
it focused on Indian minorities rather than the transfer of power. Furthermore,
Lord Irwin's successor, Lord Willingdon, embarked on a new campaign
of repression against the nationalists. Gandhi was again arrested, and
the government attempted to destroy his influence by completely isolating
him from his followers. This tactic was not successful. When the government
decided to segregate the untouchables by placing them in separate electorates
under the new constitution, Gandhi embarked on a fast in September 1932,
successfully forcing the government to adopt a more equitable arrangement.
This began a new campaign by Gandhi to improve the lives of the untouchables,
whom he named Harijans, the children of God. On May 8, 1933 Gandhi began
a 21-day fast to protest British oppression in India. In the summer
of 1934, three unsuccessful attempts were made on his life.
By 1934, Gandhi had become discouraged with his collegues in the Indian
National Congress, believing that they only saw non-violence as an expediency
rather than a way of life. Therefore, he resigned as party leader and
left the party entirely. His chosen successor in Congress was Jawaharlal
Nehru, who was to become Prime Minister. They disagreed openly over
the path to an independent India, yet Gandhi trusted Nehru over his
authoritarian rival Sardar Patel to build the institutions to guarantee
the liberty of India's citizens. Gandhi devoted his efforts in these
years to a new program to educate rural India. He continued his fight
against untouchability, promoted handspinning and other cottage industries,
and attempted to create a new system of education suited to the rural
areas. He lived simply during these years at a village in central India
called Sevagram. He staged another fast at the end of the decade in
Bombay on March 3, 1939.
World War II
World War II broke out in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Gandhi
was fully sympathetic with the victims of fascist aggression. After
lengthy deliberations with colleagues in the Congress, he declared that
India could not be party to a war ostensibly being fought for democratic
freedom while that freedom was denied in India herself. He said he would
support the British if they could show him how the war's aims would
be implemented in India after the war. The British government's response
was entirely negative. They began fomenting tension between Hindus and
Muslims. As the war progressed, Gandhi increased his demands for independence,
drafting a resolution calling for the British to Quit India. This sparked
the largest movement for Indian independence to date, with mass arrests
and violence on an unprecedented scale. Gandhi and his supporters made
it clear they would not support the war effort unless India were granted
immediate independence. He even hinted at an end for his otherwise unwavering
support for non-violence, saying that the "ordered anarchy"
around him was "worse than real anarchy". Following this,
he was arrested in Bombay by British forces on August 9, 1942, and held
for two years.
Partition of India and assassination
Gandhi had great influence among the Hindu and Muslim communities of
India. It is said that he ended riots through his mere presence. He
was vehemently opposed to any plan that partitioned India into two separate
countries. Nevertheless, partition was eventually adopted, creating,
in 1947, a secular but Hindu-majority India, and an Islamic Pakistan.
On the day of the power transfer, Gandhi did not celebrate independence
with the rest of India, but was alone in Calcutta, mourning partition.
He was assassinated in Birla house, New Delhi, on January 30, 1948 by
Nathuram Godse, a Hindu radical who held him responsible for weakening
the new government by insisting upon a payment to Pakistan. Godse was
later tried, convicted, and executed.
It is indicative of Gandhi's long struggle and search for God that his
dying words were said to have been an homage to the Hindu conception
of God, Rama: "He Ram!" (Oh God!). This is seen as an inspiring
signal of his spirituality as well as his idealism regarding the possibility
of a unifying peace. While some are sceptical of this, evidence from
a number of witnesses supports the claim that he made this utterance
(see External links).
Gandhi's philosophy and his ideas of satya and ahimsa were influenced
by the Bhagavad Gita and Hindu beliefs, the Jain religion and the pacifist
Christian teachings of Leo Tolstoy. The concept of 'non-violence' (ahimsa)
has a long history in Indian religious thought and has had many revivals
in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain contexts. Gandhi explains his philosophy
and way of life in his autobiography The Story of my Experiments with
Truth. In applying these principles, Gandhi did not balk from taking
them to their most logical extremes. In 1940, when invasion of the British
Isles by the armed forces of Nazi Germany looked imminent, Gandhi offered
the following advice to the British people:
I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for
saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini
to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions....
If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them.
If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves,
man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe
allegiance to them. (Non-Violence in Peace and War)
Although he experimented with eating meat upon first leaving India,
he later became a strict vegetarian. He wrote books on the subject while
in London, having met vegetarian campaigner Henry Salt at gatherings
of the Vegetarian Society. The idea of vegetarianism is deeply ingrained
in Hindu and Jain traditions in India, and, in his native land of Gujarat,
most Hindus were vegetarian. He experimented with various diets and
concluded that a vegetarian diet should be enough to satisfy the minimum
requirements of the body. He abstained from eating for long periods,
using fasting as a political weapon.
Gandhi gave up sexual intercourse at the age of 36, becoming totally
celibate while still married. This decision was deeply influenced by
the Hindu idea of brahmacharya—spiritual and practical purity—largely
associated with celibacy. He announced this to his wife, rather than
discussing it with her.
Gandhi spent one day of each week in silence. He believed that abstaining
from speaking brought him inner peace. This influence was drawn from
the Hindu principles of mouna (silence) and shanti (peace). On such
days he communicated with others by writing on paper. For three and
a half years, from the age of 37, Gandhi refused to read newspapers,
claiming that the tumultuous state of world affairs caused him more
confusion than his own inner unrest.
Returning to India from South Africa, where he had enjoyed a successful
legal practice, he gave up wearing Western-style clothing, which he
associated with wealth and success. He dressed to be accepted by the
poorest person in India. He advocated the use of homespun cloth (khadi).
Gandhi and his followers adopted the practice of weaving their own clothes
from thread they themselves spun, and encouraged others to do so. This
was a threat to the British establishment. While Indian workers were
often idle due to unemployment, they had always bought their clothing
from English industrial manufacturers. If Indians made their own clothes,
it would deal a harsh blow to British industry. The spinning wheel was
later incorporated into the flag of the Indian National Congress.
The honorific title Mahatma
The word "Mahatma," while often mistaken for Gandhi's given
name, is taken from the Sanskrit term of reverence "mahatman,"
meaning “great souled.” The title "Mahatma" was
accorded Gandhi in 1915 by his admirer Rabindranath Tagore (the first
Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature). It was given in response
to Gandhi conferring the title of "Gurudev" (great teacher)
upon Tagore. As stated in his autobiography, Gandhi never accepted the
title because he found himself unworthy of it.
The wide acceptance of this title outside India may in part reflect
the complexities of the relationship between India and Britain during
Gandhi's lifetime. Such acceptance is consistent with the widespread
perception of his deeply held religious beliefs and commitment to non-violence.
The best-known artistic depiction of his life is the film Gandhi, directed
by Richard Attenborough and starring Ben Kingsley (who, interestingly,
is himself half-Gujarati) in the title role. The Making of the Mahatma,
directed by Shyam Benegal and starring Rajat Kapur, is a film about
Gandhi's 21 years of life in South Africa. However, the film has since
been criticised by post-colonial scholars who argue that it depicts
Gandhi as single-handedly bringing India to Independence, and ignores
other prominent figures (both elite and subaltern) in the anti-colonial
In the United Kingdom, there are several prominent statues of Gandhi,
most notably in Tavistock Gardens, London, near University College London,
where he studied law.
In the United States, there are statues of Gandhi outside the Ferry
Building in San Francisco, in Herman Park, Houston Garden Center in
Houston, in Union Square Park in New York City, at the Martin Luther
King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, and near the Indian Embassy
in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood of Washington, DC.
There are statues in honour of Gandhi in other cities such as Paris,
Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon and San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago.
The government of India donated a statue to the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba,
Canada, to signify their support for the future Canadian Museum for
Human Rights.  (http://www.mbchamber.mb.ca/news/News%2004/mccattendsunveilingofgandhistatue.htm)
Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize, though he was nominated
for it five times between 1937 and 1948. Decades later however, the
Nobel Committee publicly declared its regret for the omission. When
the Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of
the committee said that this was "in part a tribute to the memory
of Mahatma Gandhi". The official Nobel e-museum has an article
discussing the issue. (http://www.nobel.se/peace/articles/gandhi/index.html)
Throughout his lifetime, Gandhi's activities attracted a wide range
of comment and opinion. For example, as a subject of the British Empire,
Winston Churchill once stated "It is...nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi,
a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well-known
in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal Palace."
Conversely, Albert Einstein said of Gandhi: "Generations to come,
it may be, will scarcely believe that such a one as this, ever in flesh
and blood, walked upon this earth." Nobel Laureate and former Israel
Premier Shimon Peres once commented that Mahatma Gandhi "belonged
to the future not to the past."
Mahatma Gandhi's work is not forgotten by his descendants. His grandsons,
Arun Gandhi and Rajmohan Gandhi, and his great grandson, Tushar Gandhi,
are also socio-political activists, promoting non-violence around the
Mahatma Gandhi is not related to the Gandhi political family who adopted
the Gandhi surname when Indira Gandhi married Feroze Gandhi.