Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement. Pioneering the use of non-violent resistance to tyrannical colonial rule through mass civil disobedience, saying, "I shall resist organized tyranny to the uttermost."
Gandhi had many messages, some ignored, some misunderstood, some as relevant today as when first enunciated. Most Americans — many middle-class Indians, for that matter — know what they know about the Mahatma from Ben Kingsley’s Academy Award-winning screen portrayal. His was a mesmerizing performance, but the script barely hinted at the bewildering complexity of the real man, who was at the same time an earnest pilgrim and a wily politician, an advocate of celibacy and the architect of satyagraha (truth force), a revivalist, a revolutionary and a social reformer.
Gandhi developed satyagraha into a national movement, stressing passive resistance, nonviolent disobedience, boycotts and, on occasion, hunger strikes. He became so well-known and respected, that he gained influence with both the general public and the British rulers. For example, in 1939, by a combination of fasting and satyagraha, Gandhi was able to compel several states, that were ruled by princes, to grant democratic reforms. Not only could he unify the many diverse elements of the Indian National Congress, he was able to force political concessions from the British by threatening to fast until death.
The anti-Gandhi nationalists have never tried honestly to face the fact that it was he and not they who had stirred the minds and hearts of Hindu masses. It was he and not they who had mobilized Hindu society to make sacrifices in the service of the motherland. Nor have the denunciations of anti-Gandhi nationalists succeeded in doing the slightest damage to his stature. In fact, his stature has risen higher with the passing of time. He continues to be cherished by Hindu masses as one of the greatest in their history. Reverence for him in the world at large has also continued to grow. He is now regarded as a profound thinker on problems created by an industrial civilisation and a hedonistic culture. Hinduism has gained abroad because Gandhi is known as a great Hindu.
Gandhi spent the next twenty years working to better Indians' rights in South Africa. During the first three years, Gandhi learned more about Indian grievances, studied the law, wrote letters to officials, and organized petitions. On May 22, 1894, Gandhi established the Natal Indian Congress (NIC). Although the NIC began as an organization for wealthy Indians, Gandhi worked diligently to expand its membership to all classes and castes. Gandhi became well-known for his activism and his acts were even covered by newspapers in England and India. In a few short years, Gandhi had become a leader of the Indian community in South Africa.
Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 on the grounds of Birla house, New Delhi. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, who had links to the extremist Hindu group Hindu Mahasabha shot him dead because he was against Gandhi’s sympathy for Pakistan. Godse and his co-conspirator Narayan Apte were tried and executed on 15 November 1949. Gandhi’s memorial on rajghat, New Delhi bears his last words He Ram!
What Gandhi was looking for was what he called swaraj and swadeshi. These two terms taken together represent the type of society that Gandhi was looking for. Swaraj, very badly translates as independence/autonomy/home rule/self rule. Swadeshi can be translated as self-sufficiency or self-reliance.
Swaraj for Gandhi was not simply a question of ousting the British from India and declaring independence. What it implied was a wholly different type of society. He did not want the British to be replaced by Indians doing exactly the same. If that was all they achieved, they would not have achieved true freedom but merely the same type of government run by a different set of men.
Mohandas Karamchand – known as Mahatma or "Great-Souled" – Gandhi was born in Porbandar, the capital of a small principality in what is today the state of Gujarat in Western India, where his father was prime minister. His mother was a profoundly religious Hindu. She and the rest of the Gandhi family belonged to a branch of Hinduism in which non-violence and tolerance between religious groups were considered very important. His family background has later been seen as a very important explanation of why Mohandas Gandhi was able to achieve the position he held in Indian society. In the second half of the 1880s, Mohandas went to London where he studied law. After having finished his studies, he first went back to India to work as a barrister, and then, in 1893, to Natal in South Africa, where he was employed by an Indian trading company.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 - 1948) most reverently known as Mahatma Gandhi was born in Gujarat. He was called by the people ‘Mahatma’ which means great soul. The people also called him ‘Bapu’ the father. Gandhi belonged to the business community of Gujarat. He studied law in England. Towards the end of the 19th century he arrived in South Africa to represent an Indian client. In South Africa, Gandhi, once traveling in the first class compartment reserved for whites only was thrown out of a train because he was not white. He started a movement for civil rights in South Africa and succeeded in changing some rules there. He left South Africa in 1915 and returned to India. His actions in South Africa already made him famous in India and on his arrival in India he was welcomed by the Indians as a hero. After his arrival in India, he was introduced to the leader of Indian National Congress, Gopal Gokhale, whom Gandhi considered as his political guru.
Gandhi encouraged Indians to boycott British goods and buy Indian goods instead. This helped to revitalise local economies in India and it also hit home at the British by undermining their economy in the country. Gandhi preached passive resistance, believing that acts of violence against the British only provoked a negative reaction whereas passive resistance provoked the British into doing something which invariably pushed more people into supporting the Indian National Congress movement.
Gandhi was imprisoned in 1922, 1930, 1933 and in 1942. While in prison, he went on hunger strike. His fame was such that his death in prison would make international headlines and greatly embarrass the British at a time when Britain was condemning dictators in Europe.
Non Co-operation Movement
One of the first series of non violent protests nationwide was the non cooperation movement started by Mahatma Gandhi. This movement officially started the Gandhian era in India. In this freedom struggle, the non cooperation movement was basically aimed at making the Indians aware of the fact that the British government can be opposed and if done actively, it will keep a check on them. Thus, educational institutions were boycotted, foreign goods were boycotted, and people let go off their nominated seats in government institutions. Though the movement failed, Indians awakened to the concept of going against the British.
Civil Disobedience Movement
Gandhi again took off with another non violent movement known as the civil disobedience movement. This movement was more active than the non cooperation movement and brought about a revolution of sorts. This movement aimed at bringing the British administration to a stop by withdrawing support from everything. There was agitation against land revenue, abolition of salt tax, cutting down military expenditure, levying duty on foreign cloth, etc. A very important movement was that of Salt Satyagraha where Gandhi undertook the Dandi march as a protest against the Salt tax.
Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement was launched under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi in August 1942. The main aim for launching this movement was to bring the British to negotiate with the Indian leaders. It was a call for immediate independence of India and the slogan of "Do or Die" was adopted for the same. However the leaders were arrested soon after Gandhi's speech and were put in jail by British officials. Gandhi went on a fast for 21 days demanding the release of the leaders despite his failing health. The British had to secure the release of the leaders.
After the Quit India Movement the freedom struggle got even more intense and passionate. Entire India was united together in the movement for freedom. Everyone contributed what they could in the freedom struggle. The cry of Purna Swaraj or complete independence was raised. After much sacrifices and efforts, India gained its independence on the 15th August, 1947.