mahatma gandhi

October 2, 1869 saw the birth of a famous Indian personality, lovingly called, the Father of the Nation.  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born to the Diwan of Porbandar, in the state of Kathewar in Gujarat. His mother, Putlibai, was a very religious lady and brought up her son with stories from the scriptures and mythology. Little Gandhi grew up to be an honest, upright student.

At the tender age of 13 he was married to a beautiful damsel named Kasturba. At 19, much to his mother’s chagrin, he was sent to England to study law. He promised his mother that he would keep away from wine, women and non-vegetarianism – and he managed to stick to his word.

A Mission in South Africa

He returned to India as a barrister in 1891 and started his own practice at Bombay and Rajkot. In 1893 he went to S. Africa to fight a case. It was there that his life’s mission was determined – to fight against injustice. Gandhiji could not tolerate the oppression of the Indians by the whites. So he stayed on in Africa for 12 years and established the Natal Indian Congress to improve the conditions of the Indians there, through peaceful, non-violent methods.

Struggle for Swadeshi

In 1914, Gandhiji returned to India and established the Satyagraha Ashram near Ahmedabad.  Inspired by G.K.Gokhale and Lokmanya Tilak, Gandhiji toured the country listening to the woes of the common man. Gandhiji was touched by the plight of his countrymen and so entered the political arena.

He launched 3 significant movements with one goal – freedom from the British rule. The first one was the Non-Cooperation Movement, the objective of which was ‘the attainment of swaraj by peaceful and legitimate means’. The method was to boycott foreign goods and official durbars, British courts and schools, give up honours and titles and go back to the use of swadeshi goods.

The second was the Civil Disobedience Movement. Launched on April 6, 1930, it began with the historic Dandi March or the ‘Salt Satyagraha’. In order to oppose the British Salt Law, Gandhiji marched to Dandi along with his followers to make their own salt.

Quit India

The third one was the Quit India Movement of 1942, which resulted in the ‘Quit India’ resolution on August 8, 1942 urging the British to leave India. Finally India gained independence on 15th August 1947. Thanks to the efforts of Gandhiji.

On January 30, 1948, the Mahatma was shot dead by a misguided communalist.  As Pandit Nehru put it, ‘the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere’.



  1. Guru

    Gandhi’s Non Violence

    There is no doubt that non-violent means of fighting against justice are definitely more benign then forceful ways. But the question is – Was Gandhi’s non-violence more civilsed and benign than armed struggle? Gandhi preached a non-violent approach to be pursued under any circumstance. Did Gandhi follow non-violence under all circumstances as he preached? Was Gandhi’s non-violence impartial or had streaks of nepotism?

    To answer the question- Was Gandhi’s non-violence more benign than armed struggle we need to understand if Gandhi’s non-violence was inspired by a genuine sense of non-injury or if it was a blind fanatical adherence to a Hindu dictate ‘Ahimsa paramo dharma'(non-violence is the highest principle)? To gain better insight it would help to see what advice Gandhi had for the British when they were threatened by the German troops during WWII and had to defend themselves. Here is part of the letter Gandhi wrote to Winston Churchill on the 4th of July, 1940

    “I appeal for cessation of hostilities because war is bad in essence. You want to kill Nazism. Your soldiers are doing the same work of destruction as the Germans… I venture to present you with a nobler and a braver way worthy of the bravest soldiers. I want you to fight Nazism without arms or with non-violent arms. I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for having you or humanity. Invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. Let them take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings. You will give these but not your souls not your minds.”

    We can see from the above letter that Gandhi preferred non-violence to prevention of human suffering. It is logical to conclude that Gandhi preferred to follow non-violence even if it meant causing suffering. Perhaps Gandhi did not understand the suffering that Nazis would have perpetuated? Well in that case let us see Gandhi’s reaction when millions of Hindus were massacred, raped, maimed, tortured by Muslims during the creation of Pakistan. The Hindus who managed to escape from Pakistan were shocked to hear this speech from Gandhi on 23rd September 1947

    “I asked them why all they came here (in Delhi). Why they did not die there? I still hold on to the belief one should stick to the place where we happen to live even if we are cruelly treated and even killed. Let us die if the people kill us; but we should die bravely with the name of God on our tongue. Even if our men are killed, why should we feel angry with anybody, you should realise that even if they are killed they have had a good and proper end.”

    So it is evident that Gandhi wanted to follow non-violence even it caused harm. Non-injury was not his motto, but total and many times blind adherence to non-violence was his motto.

    As to the question of did Gandhi follow non-violence under every circumstance, we need to look at the events in South Africa during 1870s. Gandhi had participated in the crushing of the Bombatta rebellion in which more than four thousand Africans were killed and thousands were sentenced to whipping. Gandhi himself could not take part in actual warfare as he was not eligible for military service due to his physical condition. Gandhi was actively involved in the recruitment for the ‘Voluntary Indian Infantry’ regiment. Gandhi also ran an ambulance corps to help the wounded soldiers fighting the Africans. For his services, Gandhi eventually won the War Medal and was promoted to Sergeant Major . Gandhi later wrote in his autobiography