Mahatma Gandhi 1869-1915

Original name of Mahatma Gandhi is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He is hailed by Indians as Bapu and Jati Pita, Father of the Nation. He was born to Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi and Putlibai on 2 October 1869 at Porbandar (of the present day Gujarat State). His father and his uncle served as Diwans of Porbandar and Rajkot at various stages. Gandhiji went to London to study Law when he was 18 years old. He finished his Barrister (Lawyer) course at Inner Temple, University College of London and returned to India in 1892. Earlier he got married to Kasturba ji when he was 13 years old.

Father of the Nation

Mahatma Gandhi is revered by people of India as Father of the Nation, that is, Jaati Pita of Modern India. In fact it was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who first called Gandhi as ‘Father of the Nation’ in his Radio address to Indians from Singapore on 6 th July 1944. At that time Bose was on his march towards India along with his Indian National Army.And Mahatma Gandhi is revered all over the world for his simple living and also for successfully fighting against the then British might without taking to arms. It may be noted that between 1857 and 1947 about 3,50,000 sacrificed their lives to drive out Britishers from India. Shri Balagangadhar Tilak, from Pune, was first to proclaim swaraj (freedom) as his birth right. Tilak invoked unity among Hindus by initiating Ganapathi festivals. And Shri Arabindo Ghosh acted in the same manner by initiating Dasserah festivals in Bengal. These tactics worked well with Indian Hindu masses and thus people were geared to take part in National struggle after Tilak.
 
But Gandhi used Satyagraha as a peaceful means to fight against the evil British. Albert Einstein expressed his opinion on Gandhi like this, “We may all be happy and grateful that destiny gifted us with such an enlightened contemporary (Mahatma Gandhi), a role model for the generations to come. And Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this man walked the earth in flesh and blood.”

Human rights activist Martin Luther King of the USA praised Gandhi like this, “Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics”.

But we know that a the majestic beauty of a peacock that inspires a poet does not bring the same feeling in a Big cat. Churchill ridiculed Gandhi, in 1931 like this after round table conference failed:

‘It is alarming and also 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 Vice-regal palace….to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.

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Churchill

And Churchill called Gandhi ‘a dictator’, a “Hindu Mussolini“, fomenting a race war, trying to replace the Raj with Brahmin cronies, playing on the ignorance of Indian masses, all for selfish gains. Churchill caricatured Gandhi as a “cunning huckster” seeking selfish gain, an “aspiring dictator”, and an “atavistic spokesman of a pagan Hinduism”.
And lastly in 1944 fearing death of fasting Gandhi in jail, Churchill telegraphed to jail authorities like this, “that half naked fakir should not die in jails through him out”.
British banned photos of Ganghi taken during Gandhi’s fasting days in jails lest it evokes sympathy in England and Europe. In fact Gandhi was literally worshipped by his contemporaneous people in India and abroad.
Time Magazine named Dalai Lama, Lech Wałesa, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Aung San Suu Kyi, Benigno Aquino, Jr., Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela as Children of Gandhi and his spiritual heirs to nonviolence. 

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Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama in a 2010 address to the Parliament of India said that:
‘I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as President of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world’

Let us see why Gandhi is revered by the world like this, why Churchill like people become frustrated looking at Gandhi.

Let us know that so many of his companions during freedom struggle including Rajendra Prasad, Tez Bahadur Sapru, Patel, Nehru, Bose differed with Gandhi’s policies at times but (except Bose) they could not leave Gandhi.

Bose had to resign as President of Indian National Congress after winning second time in 1938 against the wishes of Gandhi. Bose differed with Gandhi on the issue of tactics to be adopted in freedom struggle. But this did not stop Netaji calling Gandhi as Father of the Nation in 1944. Patel was leader of Congress bigwigs. Whereas Nehru was a good orator and mass puller. Gandhi made both of them to work together. Patel during his last days asked his friends to follow Nehru and not to oppose Nehru at any cost in the interest of the infant Nation. Gandhi and Nehru differed on so many occasions. Nehru and Bose criticized Gandhi when Non-cooperation movement was suspended after Chauri Chaura incident in 1922. Actually popular will is for continuation of the agitation. But the agitation dwindled down at a single word from Gandhi. When Patel was suggested for contesting as President of Indian National Congress in 1946 by all most all Pradesh congress committees, Gandhi rejected the mandate given to Patel and suggested Nehru’s name instead. Patel happily withdrew from the contest. Wherefrom Gandhi got such a power ? I think Gandhi could do this because of people trusted him. People trusted his character.

Gandhi family’s Vaishnavaite Advaita vedantic traditions and Jaina religious environment would have had a great bearing on his personality. Vaishnavism preaches devotion and belief in God and oneness with God. So he must have kept up his dignity high to serve God. Jaina religion preaches Nonviolence. I think He used this Jaina concept of nonviolence as a potent weapon against the oppressor but without carrying any weapons in hand.

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My Experiments with Truth

In his book, The Story of My Experiments with Truth (originally wrote in Gujarātī as Satyana Prayogo Athava Aatmakatha ), Gandhi says that a Quaker mission in South Africa attempted to convert him to Christianity. Gandhi joined them in their prayers and debated Christian theology with them, but he did not accept their argument that Christ was the only son of God. Gandhi believed that God lives in every human being. So all human beings are sons of God including Jesus. This is called Advaita philosophy, non-duality, in which it is perceived that God pervades in each and every person and in all living things. 
And Gandhi says that he started reading Hindu scriptures to learn what is there in them in order to equip himself to counter criticism of Hindu ritual practices by Christians.

Gandhi read Bible and Quran also. He praised the personality of Prophet Mohammad. However, he cautioned against wrong interpretations of Islam.
Gandhi says he himself was a timid person during his childhood. But community activity is inherent in Gandhi’s life style. He joined London Vegetarian Society while doing Law course there when he was 20 years old. He imbibed fighting spirit in South Africa through his own experiences. He lived in South Africa for 21 years against odds. He was arrested several times and served jail terms there. But never budged an inch and never apologized for what he spoke or what he did. He lived up to his convictions.

IN SOUTH AFRICA

When Gandhi was set sail for South Africa in April 1893, his age was 23 years. He worked for Khan and Co. there for some time and later he lead his practice individually. He lived 21 years in South Africa.
He refused to obey the orders of fellow European passengers in the stagecoach to sit on the floor near the driver. Then he was beaten.  In another incident he was kicked into a gutter for walking near a house. Once he was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to leave the first-class compartment. He sat in the train station, shivering all night and pondering if he should return to India or protest for his rights. However, He chose to protest. And he was allowed to board the train the next day. In another incident, the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do. 
In January 1897, when Gandhi landed in Durban, a mob of white settlers attacked him. Like that Gandhi suffered mentally and physically in South Africa. Just like Gandhi every Indian would have suffered there. But Gandhi fought against the injustice in foreign land without using arms and without compromising his principles.
Europeans in South Africa called him a “parasite”, “semi-barbarous”, “canker”, “squalid coolie”, “yellow man”, and with other epithets.

Gandhi fought against passage of a bill intended to disenfranchise Indians. Even though he did not succeed in it, the work was successful in drawing attention to the grievances of Indians living in South Africa. He was instrumental in founding of Natal Indian Congress in 1894.
In 1910, Gandhi established “Tolstoy Farm” near Johannesburg, with the help of his friend Hermann Kallenbach. There he nurtured his policy of peaceful resistance.
It is heartening to note that after black South Africans gained the right to vote in South Africa (1994), Gandhi was proclaimed a national hero with numerous monuments.
 
Gandhi returned to India in 1915 at the request of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, conveyed to him by C. F. Andrews. A list of Gandhi’s arrests and sentences in South Africa are given hereunder,
 
10 January, 1908 – He was Arrested and sentenced to two months simple imprisonment for failing to register or to leave Transvaal. And was released on 30 Jan.
07 October, 1908 – While returning from Natal, as he was unable to show his registration, which he had burnt, he was sentenced with imprisonment with hard labour.
25 February, 1909 –  Arrested, sentenced for 3 months imprisonment at Transvaal for not producing registration certificate.
06 November, 1913 – After the ‘great march’ he was arrested at Palm Ford, released on 7th on bail furnished by Kallenbach.
08 November, 1913 – Again arrested and released on bail.
09 November, 1913 – Arrested and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. At Volkhurst sentenced for further three months. But released on 18 December, 1913.
Gandhi wrote Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule in Gujarati and published it in 1909. In his book he argued that throwing out Englishman from India is not enough but we have to reject Western culture. Failing to do so India would be left as Englisthan instead of Hindusthan. In this book he argued that India can gain independence through Passive resistance only, not by taking to arms.
Gandhi was called with the honorific term Mahātmā (“high-souled”) in 1914 in South Africa, and it is now used to refer to Gandhi ji throughout the world.