The birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi Jayanti) is celebrated on October 2 as a national event across India. This day is observed across the entire world as the International Day of Non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi contributed tirelessly and selflessly in India’s freedom struggle for Independence. Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals were satya (truth) and ahimsa (non violence). Through his philosophy of truth and non-violence, he paved the way for India’s Independence from Britishers. For this reason, Mahatma Gandhi was called the Father of the Nation. He was the harbinger of hope for not only for India but the world.
Not only did Mahatma Gandhi contribute significantly in India’s freedom struggle against the Britishers, but through his profound vision inspired people across the world to raise their voice against any kind of discrimination – be it on the basis of caste, color, religion, to name a few. Mahatma Gandhi’s profound quote, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” aptly sums up his significant selfless contribution for India.
An iconoclastic selfless man, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 to Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi and Putlibai, in a Hindu merchant caste family in Porbandar, Gujarat.
He pursued law for one year at the University of Bombay and later he moved to University College London from where he graduated in 1891. Mahatma Gandhi was admitted to the Bar Council of England. He practiced law in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) for a year and later went to South Africa, where he experienced racism. Mahatma Gandhi first employed non-violent civil disobedience in South Africa, in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. His non-violence and satyagraha were the tools through which he was able to lead India to achieve Independence without shedding a drop of blood.
Mahatma Gandhi inspired people with his famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”He did practice non-violence, truth and self restraint. While he was in London, he became more committed towards a vegetarian diet and motivated others to adopt vegetarian diet as well. The Father of the Nation believed in simple living and high thinking. He lived simply, used to wear traditional Indian dhoti and a shawl, woven with yarn hand-spun on a ‘charkha’. He abstained from meat, alcohol and promiscuity. Mahatma Gandhi undertook long fasts as a mark of political protest as well as self-restraint.
In 1916, Mahatma Gandhi was arrested for organizing civil resistance of tens of thousands of landless farmers and serfs in the Champaran district of Bihar, India. Through the Champaran Satyagraha of 1916, Mahatma Gandhi along with the farmers and serfs opposed the increasing tax levied on farmers by the British during the devastating famine. With his steely determination, Gandhi startled Britishers in 1930 with his 440 km long walk on foot to the ocean. It was primarily to oppose the British salt monopoly and lead Indians to challenge the British imposed salt tax. Dandi Salt March is laid down in history, where approximately 60,000 people were imprisoned an an outcome of the protest march.
Gandhi believed that all human beings are God’s special people and must be treated equally irrespective of their caste, color, language, creed, region, religion and ethnicity. Mahatma Gandhi believed in religious pluralism and campaigned for the empowerment of Untouchables- whom he called Harijans (the children of God). In 1942, Gandhi urged Indians to stop cooperating with the British and called for Quit India movement.
However, the story and the span of India’s struggle for Independence was very long and many people sacrificed their lives during the process. Finally, India achieved freedom in August, 1947. But Independence was accompanied by the horrific Partition. Following the partition and witnessing religious violence pertaining to the liberation of India and Pakistan after India’s Independence in 1947, Gandhi undertook innumerable fasts unto death to terminate religious violence. The Father of the Nation was assassinated on January 30, 1948, after Nathuram Godse fired three bullets at him at the Birla House, New Delhi.
The Father of the Nation was a well read man and an avid writer. His philosophy of ahimsa, satyagraha and civil disobedience still remains a potent guiding force in people’s lives and has helped people across the world to garner courage to oppose discrimination. He wrote several books during his lifetime: An Autobiography- The Story of My Experiments with Truth; Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule; Key to Health are some of the books penned by him. Mahatma Gandhi’s life was one of selfless love for one’s country, and through his hard work, self restraint, truth and non violence, he ignited hope among fellow Indians to achieve what they aspire for and protest against discrimination at various levels.