Mohandas Gandhi – Indian Religious leader
Mohandas Gandhi was the leader of the campaign for Indian independence from Britain. A Hindu and a religious man, he didn’t believe in violence. He just told people not to obey certain laws. Many times he stopped eating (‘fasted’) as a protest and twice he went to prison. His supporters called him Mahatma, which means ‘great love’. Gandhi’s beliefs have influenced many political movements throughout the world, including the civil rights movement in the United States. Through ahimsa (nonviolence) and satyagraha (true force, nonviolent protest), he led one of the largest mass movements in world history. Gandhi dedicated his life to the quest for truth and justice.
During the Second World War (1939-1945) he told Indians not to fight for Britain. In 1947, the British government finally gave India independence but the country was divided into India and Pakistan.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, India. His wealthy family was of a Modh Bania subcaste. He was the fourth child. Mohandas was a small, quiet boy who disliked sports and was only an average student. At the age of 13 he was married to a girl of his own age, Kasturbai.
In his childhood Mohandas wanted to study medicine, but his parents wanted him to study law.
In 1888 Gandhi went to England. For a brief period he served as lawyer for the prince of Porbandar.
In 1896 Gandhi took his wife and sons to Africa. Gandhi’s 20-year stay in South Africa was instrumental in the blossoming of his philosophy and his course of action against injustice.
In 1907 Gandhi urged all Indians in South Africa to defy a law requiring registration and fingerprinting of all Indians. For this activity Gandhi was imprisoned for 2 months but released when he agreed to voluntary registration.
Gandhi was deeply influenced by the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita, Jainism, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the literature of U.S. author Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), English writer John Ruskin (1819-1900), and Russian Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910).
In 1910 he established cooperative colony (Tolstoy Farm) for Indians near Durban.
Gandhi returned to India in 1915. Within a few years he became India’s most powerful political leader. He led several major protests against the British.
In March of 1930, a 61-year-old Mohandas started out on a long walk to the ocean. Thousands joined him in a trip that lasted a month and became known as the Salt March. Most Indians could not afford to buy expensive British salt, but it was against the law for them to make their own. So Gandhi walked 200 miles to the ocean to make salt from seawater. After the Salt March, the British put Gandhi in jail. When he came out, he went back to teaching Indians how to get back control of their country by peaceful actions.
He believed it was immoral to kill animals for food and advocated vegetarianism.
India won its independence in 1947. It was a great victory for Gandhi.
Mohandas Gandhi was shot by a Hindu fanatic in New Delhi in 1948.
Sir Winston Churchill called Gandhi “half-naked fakir”, and the British recognized him “a man of the Millennium” in 2000.
In 2007, the UN established the International Day of Non-Violence, which is celebrated on the day of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.