by Prachi Mahima
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, famously known as Mahatma Gandhi, is a name revered by every Indian even today. Born on 2nd October, 1869 in a Hindu merchant caste family in Gujarat, India, the Father of our Nation paved the path for ‘Swaraj’ or self-rule in India, when she was bound by the chains of British rule. Gandhi was a man of high ideals and led a spiritual life, respected by all and affecting revolutionary changes wherever he went.
Although Gandhi’s childhood was quite ordinary, the events happening around him as he grew up made him see the world and its ways in a different light. This is what inspired him to campaign for changes in the society using his sublime ideals of Non-violence and Truth. These eventually helped him to gain freedom for his country from foreign domination, and establish self-governance.
Indians were dominated for 200 years if it was not for great men like Gandhi who bore the Indian flag and hoisted it high with patriotism and determination until we became independent in the complete sense. At first, Gandhi took interest in social issues only when he experienced it himself for the first time in South Africa, while working as a barrister.
He had gone to study law at Inner Temple, London at the age of 18 leaving his family behind with promises of not indulging in meat or alcohol, and of living a life unaffected by the Western Culture. It so happened that living there only made his ethics stronger. He joined a vegetarian society whose members were also part of the Theosophical Society. This laid the foundation for what would later be recognized as the famous Gandhian ideals and ethics.
His time in South Africa
M.K. Gandhi got his first taste of discrimination and racism when he went to South Africa as a lawyer to assist a client. The client was the cousin of a man named Dada Abdullah, a Muslim merchant in Kathiawar. Upon reaching South Africa, he noticed the plight of Indians in South Africa who were being treated like second-class citizens. This is when Gandhi decided to fight for the rights of his people, even while facing several hardships along the way. Extending the period of stay in South Africa, Gandhi took steps like founding the local chapter of the National Indian Congress in South Africa to alleviate the troubles of his Indian fellows and make them politically stronger. It was his efforts as an activist in Africa that brought Gandhi the recognition as a man of power not only in Africa but in India as well. Gandhi’s ideals and ethics started taking shape during this time.
Already famous because of the work he did in Africa, Gandhi returned as a small but powerful celebrity to India in 1915 after spending 21 years in Africa. He was reputed as an Indian nationalist and a man of ideals known to achieve his goals with uncommon means.
Gandhi enters the Indian revolution
After being introduced to the Indian political situation by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, he joined the Indian National Congress which gained power over time only to succeed in the end. Gandhi’s first move as a leader was witnessed in 1917 when he protested for the rights of peasants in Champaran, Bihar and succeeded in making negotiations with the administration with his famous non-violent protest method. Following this, Gandhi led several other political movements and protests like the Kheda agitation for peasant rights again and the Khilafat movement which united the Hindu and Muslim communities in India, though for a short time. Besides these, the most important movements which ultimately led to independence were the Non-cooperation movement, the Dandi march opposing the salt tax and the Quit India Movement of 1942. Focusing on the sole motive of Swaraj, Gandhi led all Indians to fight against the Britishers using non-violence and civil disobedience.
Being the most influential person at the time, Mahatma Gandhi was able to lead the huge Indian crowd to fight and win for Independence which they eventually did in 1947. A partition of Hindu and Muslim state followed which was not acceptable to Gandhi but he eventually gave in.
Gandhi’s beliefs and principles have been defining of his personality for over a century now. While some believe he led a pure and ideal life since the beginning, others hold the view that the evolution of his ideals came with time, inspired by the circumstances and environment he was a part of. Nevertheless, the sublime principles of Non-violence, Satyagraha and truth, and the ideal of Civil disobedience in getting desired results made him an influential spiritual figure across the world.
He was inspired by various religious texts of Hinduism and Buddhism and by established writers like Leo Tolstoy and Henry David Thoreau. He leveraged their writings to establish the power of these principles. In the 21st century, when countries and communities around us are in a constant state of quarrel and disagreement with an impending sense of war, these Gandhian principles are key to bring in peace and harmony. The world has already seen too many gory wars and forceful dominations of one race over another. And now in a very novel scenario, when the political, social, economic and cultural aspects of nations have changed, these ideals still hold the power to bring change if practiced religiously.
One witnesses religious wars and massacres in the name of religion frequently, but if Gandhi’s religious tolerance was attempted at by these communities, we would be able to survive in a safer world. Being humans, we should not define ourselves on the basis of religion and race but only as members of the human race, which Gandhi preached through practice. And therefore, even today, though the great leader found death because of his beliefs, he lights the path for us towards global peace and harmony and it is our duty to walk on that path. If such simple ideals can achieve independence from a 200-year domination, then these futile quarrels can be easily stopped if each and every one follows the Gandhian path. Great leaders like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela followed Gandhi’s path, and we bear witness to the changes they successfully affected. That is the true legacy that the Father of the Nation has left behind for us. No wonder he was a great soul, a Mahatma.
Prachi Mahima is a writing analyst at Qrius.
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