Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, India. He became one of the most respected spiritual and political leaders of the 1900’s. Gandhi helped free the Indian people from British rule through nonviolent resistance, and is honoured by Indians as the father of the Indian Nation. He was highly influenced by Thoreau, Tolstoy, Ruskin, and above all the life of Jesus Christ. The Bible, precisely the Sermon of the Mount and the Bagavad –Gita had a great influence on him. The Indian people called Gandhi ‘Mahatma’, meaning Great Soul. At the age of 13 Gandhi married Kasturba, a girl the same age. Their parents arranged the marriage. The Gandhis had four children. Gandhi studied law in London and returned to India in 1891 to practice. In 1893 he took on a one-year contract to do legal work in South Africa.
At the time the British controlled South
Africa (though South Africa as such did not exist at that time, and the
British did not control all of it by any means. In fact the Boer War
(1898-1900) established the supremacy of the British over the Dutch (Boers)
and eventually led to the Union of South Africa. Gandhi served as a medical
attendant in this war.). When he attempted to claim his rights as a British
subject he was abused, and soon saw that all Indians suffered similar
treatment. Gandhi stayed in South Africa for 21 years working to secure
rights for Indian people. He developed a method of action based upon the
principles of courage, non-violence and truth called Satyagraha. He believed
that the way people behave is more important than what they achieve.
Satyagraha promoted nonviolence and civil disobedience as the most
appropriate methods for obtaining political and social goals. In 1915 Gandhi
returned to India. Within 15 years he became the leader of the Indian
Using the principles of Satyagraha he led the
campaign for Indian independence from Britain. Gandhi was arrested many
times by the British for his activities in South Africa and India. He
believed it was honourable to go to jail for a just cause. More than once
Gandhi used fasting to impress upon others the need to be nonviolent. India
was granted independence in 1947, and partitioned into India and Pakistan.
Rioting between Hindus and Muslims followed. Gandhi had been an advocate for
a united India where Hindus and Muslims lived together in peace.
On January 13, 1948, at the age of 78, he
began a fast with the purpose of stopping the bloodshed. After 5 days the
opposing leaders pledged to stop the fighting and Gandhi broke his fast.
Twelve days later a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse who opposed his programme
of tolerance for all creeds and religion assassinated him.
There are five great contributions which
Mahatma Gandhi gave to the world as follows: (1)A New spirit and technique-
Satyagraha; (2) The Emphasis that the moral universe is one and that the
morals of individuals, groups, and nations must be the same. (3)His
insistence that the means and the ends must be consistent; (4) The fact that
he held no ideals he did not embody or was not in the process of embodying.
(5) A willingness to suffer and die for his principles. The greatest of
these is his Satyagraha.