Being the carrier of the principles of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi was called the father of the nation. His motto of ‘simple living and high thinking’ could be very well seen in his lifestyle.
He was a lawyer, a nationalist, and a political ethicist. He wanted to bring about that political and social reform through his non-violent principles and was the main driving force behind India’s freedom struggle.
Born as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Bapu was born on October 2, 1869, to Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi and Putlibai, in Porbandar, Gujarat. His father worked as the Dewan (Chief Minister) of Porbandar.
Gandhi’s father, Karamchand got married four times, wherein his first two wives couldn’t survive while giving birth to his daughters, and in his third marriage, his wife was born with no child.
It was after his third marriage that he asked his third wife for remarriage and it was then that he got married to Putlibai who belonged to a Pranami Vaishnava family. Gandhi had two brothers, Lakshmidas Karamchand Gandhi, and Karsandas Gandhi, and a sister, Raliatbehn Gandhi. His sister, Raliatbehn describes him as a restless child who always wanted to roam around or play.
He was inspired by the works of Shravana and Harishchandra and he had also mentioned his interest in his autobiography when he said, “it haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number”.
Gandhi was very influenced by his mother’s religious beliefs. She came from the Pranami tradition, which had religious texts from the Bhagavad Gita, the Bhagavad Purana, and 14 texts that believed in the Vedas, the Quran, and the Bible.
In 1876, his father Karamchand became the dewan of Rajkot, followed by his father’s brother Tulsidas becoming the dewan of Porbandar.
Gandhi got enrolled at a local school in Rajkot at the age of 9. There he studies Gujarati, arithmetics, history, and geography. At the age of 11, he enrolled at Alfred High School. He was a very shy and average student who had no interest in games and won a few prizes. He only loved his books and enjoyed his school lessons.
As soon as he turned 13, he got married to Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia. He lost one year of his school during this while he was able to make up later on. His wedding was a joint affair, with his brother and cousin also getting married at the same time.
It was in the year 1885 that Gandhi’s father died. He was only 16 then. He and his wife welcomed their first child the same year who survived only a few years. They had four boys: Hiralal(1888), Manilal (1892), Ramdas(1897), and Devdas(1900).
Gandhi graduated from high school in November 1887 and in January 1888, he went to Samaldas College in Bhavnagar state where he didn’t continue, and returned to his family in Porbandar.
At the age of 18, Gandhi left Porbandar and went to Mumbai. When he reached there, he stayed with the Modh Bania community, where he was warned of the various compromises that he would have to do if he left for London. He was told that he would be asked to eat and drink things he never would otherwise but despite all this, he was motivated to leave India. He finally sailed off to London on September 4 and attended the University College, London.
He studied law at University College, London, and later on was enrolled at Inner Temple to become a barrister later on. He was always a shy person so he joined a public speaking practice group to overcome this shyness.
Called To the Bar
In June 1891, Gandhi was only 22, when he was called to the bar, which is a technical term used in order to become a barrister, and later on, left London for India, and came to know that his mother had died while he was in London. He failed to practice law in Bombay so he went to Rajkot to make a living but was forced to stop by a British officer.
It was in 1893 that he met a merchant in Kathiawar who had a successful shipping business in South Africa and his cousin in Johannesberg required a lawyer to which Gandhi agreed and was offered a salary of 105 sterling pounds including the travel expenses. He accepted the offer and in April 1893, sailed off to South Africa to become a lawyer, where he spent 21 years of his life.
South Africa Civil Rights Activist
As soon as he reached South Africa, Gandhi faced discrimination because of his skin color and the cultural heritage that he shared. He was not allowed to sit on the seats of train coaches along with the European travelers and was asked to sit on the floor beside the driver. People used to beat him up if he denied it. There were many instances where he had to face discrimination, like when he was thrown out of a train or pushed into a gutter but in all of this, he never quit and continued to protest.
In 1900, Gandhi volunteered in the Boer war and formed a group. He formed 1100 Indian volunteers to support the British against the Boers. Also at the Battle of Spion Kop, Gandhi and his group helped the injured and carried them for miles to a nearby hospital because it was not possible for ambulances to move in that terrain. He and his 37 fellow members received the Queen’s South Africa Medal.
It was on September 11, 1906, that Gandhi adopted his principle of Satyagraha for the first time at a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg.
Return to India
It was in the year 1915 that Gandhi returned to India at Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s request. He joined the Indian National Congress and was addressed with the ongoing political and social issues in the country.
Gandhi became leader of the Indian National Congress in 1920 and demanded independence in 1942. To this, the British responded by arresting him and many others. The Muslims supported the British and voiced their idea of having a separate Muslim nation, Pakistan. It was in August 1947 that both the countries parted ways achieving Independence becoming India and Pakistan.
Role in World War I
Gandhi was invited to a war conference in Delhi during World War I by the Viceroy in April 1918. He agreed to recruit his men for the war and recruited them for the Ambulance Corps. His principles of non-violence were questioned over this.
Gandhi achieved huge success in 1917 with Champaran agitation in Bihar. The farmers were forced to grow and sell indigo at a fixed price. The farmers approached Gandhi and he managed to gain concessions by his protests.
Agitations at Kheda
while Kheda was hit by a famine in 1918, the peasants wanted relaxation from taxes and Gandhi was able to achieve that by involving volunteers like Vallabhbahi Patel for the same. The British were forced to release all the prisoners and provide relaxation in taxes.
On September 5, 1920, the non-cooperation movement was led by the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi in a Congress session in Calcutta. It reigned from September 1920-February 1922. It was marked in order to stop the British rule from signing the Rowlatt Act, which led to a series of events including the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and ending with the Chauri Chaura incident in 1922.
Gandhi’s 388 km long march from Ahmedabad to Dandi is considered to be the world’s one of biggest events so far. On March 12, Gandhi started his salt march on foot and reached Dandi on April 6 with 78 volunteers. The salt march took 78 days to complete. Gandhi’s sole motive behind this was to break the salt laws.
Negotiations with the government
The government in order to negotiate with Gandhi decided to sign the Gandhi-Irwin pact under the leadership of Lord Irwin in March 1931. They agreed to free all the prisoners in return for stopping the civil disobedience movement, where later on Gandhi also attended the round table conference in London as a representative of the Indian National Congress.
Resignation from Indian National Congress
In 1934, Gandhi resigned from the Indian National Congress. But he returned to politics again in 1936.
Quit India Movement and WWII
Gandhi did not support WWII only because he felt India could not fight a war when the country itself was fighting for its freedom. He was opposed by many leaders including Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad.
During the war, Gandhi demanded the British to leave India by promoting the Quit India Movement in 1942 during a speech in Mumbai. The British replied to him back at the earliest by arresting him and other fellow volunteers. He was arrested for two years and it was during this time that his wife died in 1944. He was released on May 6, 1944.
It was finally in 1947 that India achieved independence after much struggle. Mahatma Gandhi was surely the greatest freedom fighter and tireless leader. Under his principles of non-violence and swaraj, he could lead the country to independence.
On January 30, 1948, at 5:17 pm, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist, Nathuram Godse. He was fired with three bullets on his chest and the nation lost its father.