Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was, and still is, a remarkable and influential person in our world today. Gandhi was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the India independence movement. Gandhi developed a model to fight for civil rights through nonviolent protest. Through this he achieved political and social progress through total nonviolence for which he is internationally known for. Gandhi led India to its independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbander, India.
Porbander is a small town on the western coast of India. Gandhi was born in a middle class family of Vaishya caste. His grandfather had risen to be the Dewan or Prime Minister of Porbander and was succeeded by his son Karamchand, who was Gandhi’s father. (Mandal) Mohandas went to elementary school in his hometown, where he was born. It was said that Gandhi had trouble with simple things like multiplication tables. Many years later Gandhi stated, “My intellect must have been sluggish and my memory raw. ” (“Gandhi”) When Gandhi was a little bit older his family moved to Rajkot another town in India.
There he attended a primary school and later attended a high school. Through his schooling Gandhi was a mediocre student and excessively shy and timid. Gandhi’s grades showed no indication of his future accomplishments. He moved onto high school and at the age of thirteen he was married to a girl named Kasturba, who was fourteen. When Gandhi was fifteen years old, the couple’s first child was born but only survived a few days. After their first child passed away Gandhi and Kasturba had four more children who are all boys. (Vinay)
After high school, Gandhi joined the Samaldas College in Bhavnagar, where he found his studies to be very difficult. While struggling through all of this, his father died in 1885. After his father’s death a friend of the family suggested that if Gandhi wanted to take his father’s place in the state service he had better become a barrister, which he could do in England in three years. Gandhi thought that this was a great idea and jumped at the opportunity. (Mandal) His mother objected to the idea of going abroad but Gandhi vowed not to touch wine, women, or meat.
His caste people looked at crossing the ocean as contamination. They threatened to excommunicate him if he chose to go abroad. Gandhi was persistent in going abroad and in return was excommunicated by his caste. At the age of eighteen he sailed to England to study law at University College London and to train as a barrister. (Vinay) Gandhi described the first few days from his homeland as “miserable. ” He continually thought of his homeland and he found the people and their ways very strange. Although he found his new life very strange he tried to adapt to “English” customs.
Gandhi found it very hard to stay true to his vow of being a vegetarian because the food that he was allowed to eat was very bland and he found himself always hungry. Gandhi finally found one of London’s few vegetarian restaurants. After this Gandhi joined the Vegetarian Society which was founded in 1875 to further universal brotherhood, and it was devoted to the study of Buddhist and Hindu literature. Once joining the society, the other members encouraged Gandhi to join them in reading the Bhagavad Gita. (Vinay) Up until this point Gandhi never really showed an interest in religion, but that quickly changed.
Gandhi was called to the bar in June 1891 and left London to go back to India. Gandhi attempted to cultivate a law practice in Bombay, India but it failed because his shyness overcame him in court and he never spoke up. In 1893, he went to work for Dada Abdulla & Company which was an Indian firm in a part of South Africa that was then a part of the British Empire. (“Gandhi”) Moving to South Africa turned into a permanent home for Gandhi. Gandhi spent twenty one years in South Africa. Here he developed his political views, ethics, and political leadership skills.
Gandhi discovered in South Africa that he could bridge differences between individuals, especially regarding religion and he took this concept back to India with him. He realized the complexities of religious and cultural life in India, and from this experience he better understood India by leading other Indians in South Africa. Although Gandhi became better well rounded while he was in South Africa, but it was not an easy journey. While in South Africa he experienced a lot of discrimination including getting thrown off a train after refusing to move from first class and being barred from several hotels.
Although these events were hard for Gandhi it showed him the problems with social injustice and how some things in our world needed to be changed. In 1906, the government formulated a new act compelling registration of the colony’s Indian population. This was one of the first times Gandhi used his theory of non-violent protest. He urged Indians to go against the law but he also told them they were going to have to suffer the punishments for doing so. The people went along with Gandhi’s plan and engaged in non-violent protest.
The individuals that did this were in fact punished but other people complained of the harsh treatment of the peaceful Indian protesters. Because so many did this the South African government forced South African general, Jan Christiaan Smuts, to negotiate a promise with Gandhi. (Rosenberg) In 1915, Gandhi returned to India permanently. Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and was introduced to Indian issues and politics. A couple years later Gandhi used non-violence and peaceful resistance as his weapons in the fight against the British Raj.
The British troops killed many civilians at one point and it was known as the Amritsar Massacre. This event caused deep trauma to the nation which led to anger and many acts of violence throughout the nation. Gandhi expressed how wrong he thought the British Raj was and the violence of the Indians. Gandhi offered his condolences to British civilian victims and condemned the riots. Gandhi made a very emotional speech advocating his principle, that all forms of violence could never be justified.
After the massacre and violence Gandhi started to focus on winning complete self-government and control of all Indian government institutions which matured into “Swaraj” or complete individual, spiritual, and political independence. (“Gandhi”) In December 1921, Gandhi was invested with executive authority on behalf of the Indian National Congress. Under Gandhi’s leadership the Congress was reorganized with a new constitution with the goal of Swaraj. Gandhi expanded his non-violence ways to include the swadeshi policy which was the boycotting of foreign goods, especially British goods. He also wanted khadi, which was homespun cloth, to e worn boy all Indians instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi wanted individuals to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement. Gandhi supported this so much that he invented a small, portable spinning wheel that could be folded into the size of a small typewriter. Although Gandhi wanted individuals to boycott British products, he also urged people to boycott British educational institutions and law courts. Gandhi’s movement was very successful and appealed to a lot of individuals. Although all of these things were happening the movement ended because of a violent clash.
Fearing that the movement was about to turn bad, Gandhi called off the campaign of mass civil disobedience. Gandhi was arrested on March 10, 1922 and he was tried for sedition. He was sentenced to six years in prison. He served two years in prison but was released for an appendicitis operation. Without Gandhi’s leadership the Indian National Congress began to divide into two factions. During the height of the non-violence campaign Hindus and Muslims had strong cooperation and now it was staring to break down. Gandhi then attempted to fix these differences in many different ways but did not have much success. Mandal) For most of the 1920’s Gandhi stayed out of active politics. Instead he focused on resolving the problems between the Swaraj Party and the Indian National Congress, ignorance, and poverty. In later years World War II came about. Gandhi initially favored non-violent moral support to the British effort when World War II broke out. After Gandhi declared this leaders were offended by his decision. After Gandhi thought about it he declared that India could not be a party to a war being fought for democratic freedom while that freedom was being denied to the people of India.
As the war went on, Gandhi made his demand more clear for independence calling for the British to “Quit India” in one of his speeches. Gandhi and the people that were supporting him made it clear that they would not support the war efforts unless India received their independence. Gandhi even stated that this time the movement would not be stopped if individual acts of violence were committed. Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee were arrested in Bombay by the British in 1942. Gandhi was held for two years. Within these two years tragedy struck Gandhi.
His wife Kasturba died after eighteen months in jail and six weeks after that Gandhi suffered a severe malaria attack. Gandhi was released before the end of the war in 1944 because of his health. The “Quit India” movement had moderate success in what it was trying to accomplish. When the war ended the British gave clear indication that India would finally receive power. At this, Gandhi finally called off the struggle and around 100,000 political prisoners were released. In 1947 the Indian Independence Act was invoked. A half million people were killed in riots.
Because of Gandhi’s teachings, the efforts of his followers, and his own presence it was said that there would have been much more bloodshed during the partition. On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was shot and killed while he was walking to a platform where he was going to address a prayer meeting. Gandhi’s death was mourned by millions all over the world. Two million people joined in a five mile long funeral procession that took over five hours to reach Raj Ghat from Birla house where he was assassinated. (Rosenberg) Gandhi lived a life full of influencing other people, but Gandhi himself had influences of his own.
When Gandhi went to London it provided a base focused on truthfulness, temperance, chastity, and vegetarianism. When he returned to India he failed as a lawyer and moved on to living in South Africa. When moving to South Africa Gandhi developed his own philosophy. It was noted that Gandhi was probably influenced by the teachings of Swaminarayan because there are close comparisons that can be made in both of their works. Both of their works consisted of truth-telling, non-violence, and temperance. Gandhi’s ethical thinking was greatly influenced by a lot of books which he repeatedly read.
These books included Plato’s, Apology and William Slater’s, Ethical Religion. It was also said that Gandhi turned to Leo Tolstoy for advice and guidance. In 1908 Tolstoy wrote, A Letter to Hindu, which stated that only by using love as a weapon through passive resistance could the Indian people overthrow colonial rule. After seeing this Gandhi wrote a letter to Tolstoy asking for advice because their views were so similar. He also asked Tolstoy if he could republish A Letter to a Hindu in Gujarati. Tolstoy responded to Gandhi and the two stayed in touch until Tolstoy’s death in 1910.
While they communicated they discussed issues and ways to resolve them using non-violence. Gandhi saw himself as a follower of Tolstoy because they had similar ideas and agreed with each other on many different accounts. (Vinay) Although Gandhi was influenced by other people’s works and writing he had literature of his own. Gandhi was a very talented writer but most people do not know him for that. One of his earliest writings was Hind Swaraj and was said to be the blueprint of India’s freedom movement. The book was later translated into English. From then on he started to edit several newspapers in both Hindi and English.
In later years, Gandhi wrote several books and one of these books included his autobiography. The autobiography was called, An Autobiography of My experiments with Truth. All of Gandhi’s works were published by the Indian government under the name, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi in the 1960’s. All of his writings come to about 50,000 pages and are published in about a hundred volumes. (Rosenberg) Gandhi still influences and affects our world today. Ghandhism is a term that describes the ideas and principles that Gandhi promoted when he was alive. The most important principle that he promoted was nonviolent-resistance. Vinay) Although Gandhi was not the creator of the principle he was the first person to apply it in the world on a much larger scale. These views of nonviolence came into important play in Britain when it was under attack from Nazi Germany and when the Holocaust was later revealed. Although Gandhi continues to influence our entire world he also continues to impact India in unique and important ways. India no longer follows Gandhi’s economics but they still take into consideration his thoughts on politics. It is said that he was given credit for India’s political identity. Another way India still remembers Gandhi is on his birthday.
In India, October 2 is a national holiday because it is Gandhi’s birthday. India also remembers Gandhi on the date he passed away which is known as Martyrs’ Day in India. Gandhi’s image also appears on paper currency that is issued by India and there are also two temples in India that are dedicated to Gandhi. One is located at Sambalpur and the other one is in Nidaghatta village. Gandhi influenced common individuals throughout the world but he also influenced important leaders and political movements. He influenced leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, which included Martin Luther King and James Lawson.
Another person influenced by Gandhi was the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was a follower of the non-violent resistance philosophy that Gandhi demonstrated to the world. Gandhi inspired succeeding generations of South African activists seeking to end White rule. Some say in a sense, Mandela completed what Gandhi started. Along with his influences on the world that still stand today Gandhi won awards and was recognized for his accomplishments on many accounts. Time Magazine named Gandhi the “Man of the Year” in 1930 and he was also runner-up to Albert Einstein as “Person of the Century. When he was named “Man of the Year” the magazine stated that Gandhi’s life achievements were very unique in political history. They believed he had invented a new way of dealing with war and he had practiced it with great devotion. The magazine also deemed him as a role model for many years to come for people around the world. Gandhi was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but many people disagreed with this. Many people were upset that he never received it because they believed Gandhi was by far the most deserving candidate of the twentieth century.
Many winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, including the Dalai Lama, believed that Gandhi should have received the award before they ever received it. Gandhi was so influential that he was portrayed in film, literature, and theatre. He was portrayed by Ben Kingsley in 1982 in the film, Gandhi. The film won an Academy Award for Best Picture. He was also depicted in other films like Ghandi, My Father, which shows the relationship between Gandhi and his son, Harilal. The Making of the Mahatma was a film that documents Gandhi’s time in South Africa and how he turned into a recognized political leader. “Internet Movie Database”) Along with all the films that were made about him Gandhi also had books written about him including a biography called, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India.
This specific biograpgy contained controversial material speculating Gandhi’s sexual life so the book was banned in the Indian state of Gujarat, where he was born. (“Gandhi”) Gandhi believed in the unity of all mankind under one god, and preached Hindu, Muslim, and Christian ethics. Gandhi approached life as small steps toward the goal he was trying to achieve. When Gandhi passed away India was a free country, free of British rule. Vinay) Gandhi led India to independence and to what it is today. He proved that one man has the power to do what others consider unthinkable. Today, Gandhi is remembered not only for his political views, but as a moralist who appealed to the universals consicience of mankind. Gandhi has changed the world as we know it.
Vinay, L. “Mahatma Gandhi. ” History and politics. Manas, 2009. Web. 14 Mar 2012. <http://www. sscnet. ucla. edu/southasia/History/Gandhi/gandhi. html>. (Vinay) “Gandhi’s life in 5000 words. ” Gandhi. N. p. , 1954. Web. 14 Mar 2012. http://www. mkgandhi-sarvodaya. org/bio_5000/bio5. htm. (“Gandhi”) Mandal, B. S.. “Mind of Mahatma Gandhi. ” Mahatmas gandhi. Gandhi Research Foundation, 2011. Web. 14 Mar 2012. http://www. mkgandhi. org/. (Mandal) Feuerlicht, R.. “Concise Bibliography of Gandhi. ” The progress report. N. p. , 1965. Web. 14 Mar 2012. <http://www. progress. org/gandhi/>. “Gandhi (1982). ” The Internet Movie Database. The Internet Movie Database, n. d. Web. 14 Mar 2012. <http://www. imdb. com/title/tt0083987/>. (“Internet Movie Database”) Rosenberg, J.. “Gandhi – Biography of Mahatma Gandhi. ” about. com. The New York Times Company, 2010. Web. 14 Mar 2012. <http://history1900s. about. com/od/people/a/gandhi. htm>. (Rosenberg)