BiographyMahatma Gandhi Biography

Mahatma Gandhi Biography

Mahatma Gandhi, originally named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was a prominent figure in Indian history. He was born in Porbandar, India, on October 2, 1869, he departed this world on January 30, 1948, in Delhi. Gandhi was a lawyer, politician, social activist, and writer, best known for leading the nationalist movement against British rule in India. He is often referred to as the “father of the nation” for his significant role in India’s struggle for independence. Gandhi’s most notable contribution was his advocacy of nonviolent protest, known as satyagraha, as a means to achieve political and social change.

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    Gandhi’s influence extended beyond India, earning him the title of Mahatma, meaning “Great Soul.” However, his immense popularity came with challenges, as he faced large crowds wherever he went, making it difficult for him to work during the day and rest at night. He once wrote, “The woes of the Mahatmas are known only to the Mahatmas.” Gandhi’s reputation continued to grow even after his death, and today, his name is widely recognized and respected worldwide.

    Mahatma Gandhi & Youth

    Mohandas Gandhi, known as Mahatma Gandhi, was born as the youngest child of his father’s fourth wife in Porbandar, a small principality in western India under British rule. Karamchand Gandhi, his father, held the position of Chief Minister in Porbandar. Despite limited formal education, his father was a skilled administrator who navigated the complex dynamics between local princes, their subjects, and the British officials.

    Gandhi’s mother, Putlibai, was deeply devoted to religion and led a simple life focused on her faith. She followed Vaishnavism and Jainism, emphasising nonviolence, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and tolerance among different religious beliefs.

    Educational opportunities in Porbandar were basic, with children learning the alphabet in the dust with their fingers. Fortunately, Gandhi’s father became the dewan of Rajkot, another princely state, which provided better educational prospects. Although Gandhi received some prizes and scholarships, his overall academic performance was average. He got married at the age of 13, which interrupted his schooling. Gandhi was a reserved child who neither excelled in academics nor sports. He preferred long solitary walks and helping his ailing father and mother.

    During his youth, Gandhi went through a phase of rebellion, experimenting with secret atheism, minor thefts, smoking, and even eating meat, which was against his family’s Vaishnava beliefs. However, he made a strong commitment to change, vowing, “Never again” after each transgression. His determination to improve himself led him to admire figures from Hindu mythology known for their truthfulness and sacrifice.

    In 1887, Gandhi passed his matriculation examination at the University of Bombay and enrolled in Samaldas College in Bhavnagar. Switching from his native language, Gujarati, to English for his studies was challenging. Meanwhile, his family debated his future. Although he initially aspired to become a doctor, family tradition and expectations required him to qualify as a barrister in England.

    Overcoming financial obstacles and his mother’s concerns, Gandhi embarked on a journey to England in 1888 to study law. He perceived England as a center of civilization and was eager to explore it. Despite opposition from some within his community, he sailed to England, where he joined the Inner Temple, one of London’s prestigious law colleges.

    Gandhi’s early life and journey to England set the stage for his later transformative role in India’s struggle for independence and his commitment to principles of nonviolence and truthfulness.

    Mahatma Gandhi’s Journey in England and His Return to India

    During his time in England, Mahatma Gandhi took his studies seriously, even though his main focus shifted towards personal and moral matters rather than academic pursuits. Adapting from the rural life of Rajkot to the bustling city of London was challenging for him. He struggled with Western food, clothing, and customs. Gandhi’s commitment to vegetarianism caused him some embarrassment, with friends fearing it would harm his studies and health. Fortunately, he discovered a vegetarian restaurant and a book defending vegetarianism, which solidified his conviction in the lifestyle.

    His passion for vegetarianism helped him overcome his shyness and find a new sense of confidence. Gandhi became involved with the London Vegetarian Society, attending meetings and contributing articles to its journal. During his stay in England, he encountered various individuals who introduced him to the Bible and, more importantly, the Bhagavad Gita, an essential text in Hinduism. These encounters played a pivotal role in shaping his beliefs.

    Among the English vegetarians, Gandhi encountered a diverse group of people, including socialists, humanitarians, Fabians, and Theosophists, who rejected mainstream Victorian values. They advocated for a simpler way of life, moral values over materialism, and cooperation over conflict. These ideas significantly influenced Gandhi’s personality and later, his political ideologies.

    Mahatma Gandhi’s Transformative Journey in South Africa: Years of Challenges and Opportunities

    In South Africa, Gandhi encountered a set of challenges and opportunities that were beyond his initial expectations. He ended up spending over two decades in the country, with a short return to India in 1896–97. During his time in South Africa, his two youngest children were born.

    Mahatma Gandhi Fight for Justice: The South African Chapter

    Gandhi’s transformation into a political activist began in South Africa when he faced racial discrimination. He refused to remove his turban in a Durban court and was kicked out of a first-class train compartment. These incidents, along with being barred from European-only hotels, changed him. He decided to fight against injustice.

    While in Pretoria, Gandhi studied the living conditions of South Asians and tried to educate them about their rights. Initially planning to return to India, he changed his mind when he learned about a bill in Natal to strip Indians of voting rights. He became a political campaigner, drafting petitions and founding the Natal Indian Congress. He gained attention for Indian grievances locally and internationally.

    In 1896, he went to India to fetch his family and seek support. However, his activities were misrepresented in Natal, leading to an assault on his return. Gandhi refused to seek legal redress for personal harm as a matter of principle.

    Mahatma Gandhi’s Spiritual Journey and Influence

    Gandhi’s religious journey began in his childhood and gained momentum during his time in South Africa. While his Quaker friends in Pretoria couldn’t convert him to Christianity, they sparked his interest in religious studies. He explored various faiths, including Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, and concluded that all religions had truth but were imperfect due to human interpretations.

    Shrimad Rajchandra, a Jain philosopher, influenced him to embrace Hinduism, and the Bhagavadgita became his spiritual guide. Two Sanskrit words from the Gita, “aparigraha” (non-possession) and “samabhava” (equability), deeply resonated with him, emphasising the importance of letting go of materialism and remaining unruffled by life’s ups and downs.

    Gandhi’s legal career in South Africa was marked by a commitment to resolving disputes and helping people in need, not just for financial gain. He valued simplicity, labor, and community, establishing farms and later ashrams as examples of his dedication to these principles.

    In South Africa, Gandhi developed a unique approach to political action and emerged as a fearless leader who was unbound by conventional constraints. Gilbert Murray foresaw his leadership potential in 1918.

    Mahatma Gandhi Return to India

    In the summer of 1914, Mahatma Gandhi made a significant decision to leave South Africa just before the outbreak of World War I. Accompanied by his family, they embarked on a journey that took them to London, where they stayed for a few months. In December of the same year, they left England and arrived in Bombay in early January 1915. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of a new chapter in Gandhi’s life and his continued efforts towards India’s independence. Explore the remarkable journey of Gandhi and his role in shaping history during this period.

    Mahatma Gandhi Return to Party leadership

    In the mid-1920s, Mahatma Gandhi briefly stepped back from active politics, which led many to perceive a decline in his influence. However, in 1927, the British government appointed a commission without Indian representation, triggering tensions. At a Congress session in 1928, Gandhi demanded dominion status for India within a year or face a nationwide nonviolent campaign for complete independence. This marked his return as a prominent Congress leader. In 1930, he initiated the successful Salt March protest against the British-imposed salt tax. After negotiations and the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, he went to the Round Table Conference in London. Disappointment arose when the conference focused on Indian minorities instead of power transfer. Back in India, under Lord Willingdon’s crackdown, Gandhi was imprisoned. While in custody in 1932, he undertook a hunger strike to protest the segregation of “untouchables.” This led to a new electoral arrangement endorsed by the British government, beginning the fight against Dalit disenfranchisement. In 1934, Gandhi left the Congress Party, focusing on his “constructive programme” to uplift rural India and combat untouchability through education, cottage industries, and a unique system of education, living in Sevagram village in central India.

    Mahatma Gandhi’s Final Chapter of India’s Struggle for Independence

    In the final phase of India’s struggle for independence during World War II, Mahatma Gandhi played a pivotal role despite his aversion to war. While Gandhi abhorred fascism and war, the Indian National Congress was willing to support the British war effort in exchange for self-government assurances. However, when British offers fell short, Gandhi initiated the Quit India Movement in 1942, demanding immediate British withdrawal from India. This move led to the imprisonment of Congress leaders and violent confrontations. Gandhi and other leaders were held at the Aga Khan Palace, where his wife Kasturba passed away. With the Labour Party’s victory in Britain in 1945, negotiations involving Congress, the Muslim League, and the British government resulted in the Mountbatten Plan, leading to the formation of India and Pakistan as independent dominions in 1947. Gandhi’s disappointment lay in the fact that freedom came without unity, with Muslim separatism on the rise. He tirelessly worked to heal communal rifts but faced challenges due to the prevailing mistrust and hatred. Gandhi’s efforts, including fasting, did achieve some success in calming tensions, but tragically, he was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse, in January 1948. Gandhi’s legacy remains a testament to his unwavering commitment to peace and justice in the pursuit of India’s independence.


    Frequently Asked Questions on Mahatma Gandhi

    Who was Mahatma Gandhi?

    Mahatma Gandhi, originally named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was a prominent Indian leader known for his role in the struggle for India's independence from British rule. He is also famous for his advocacy of nonviolent protest, or satyagraha, as a means of achieving social and political change.

    What is Mahatma Gandhi's significance in Indian history?

    Mahatma Gandhi is often referred to as the father of the nation in India due to his pivotal role in the country's fight for independence. His philosophy of nonviolence and civil disobedience had a profound impact on India's struggle for freedom and inspired similar movements worldwide.

    When and where was Mahatma Gandhi born and when did he pass away?

    Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India, and he passed away on January 30, 1948, in Delhi, India.

    What was Mahatma Gandhi's early life and educational background like?

    Gandhi had limited formal education but came from a family with a strong background in administration. He studied law in England and became a barrister, which eventually led him to South Africa.

    What was Gandhi's transformative journey in England and South Africa?

    Gandhi's time in England exposed him to various ideologies and religions, and he became deeply influenced by ideas of simplicity, morality, and nonviolence. In South Africa, he experienced racial discrimination and began his journey as a political activist, fighting for the rights of Indians.

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