The Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat. His father’s name was Karamchand Gandhi and mother’s name was Putlibai.
Mahatma Gandhi’s real name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and he was the youngest of his three brothers. Gandhi’s simple life was inspired by his mother. He was brought up in a Vaishnavite family, and Indian Jainism had a profound influence on his life, due to which he firmly believed in truth and non-violence and followed it throughout his life.
Gandhi’s early education took place in Porbandar. He got education from Porbandar till middle school, after which he completed his remaining education from Rajkot due to his father’s transfer.
In the year 1887, he passed the matriculation examination from Rajkot High School and got admission in Samaldas College, Bhavnagar for further studies, but due to being away from home, he could not concentrate and returned to Porbandar after being unwell. He left for England on 4 September 1888. Gandhiji joined the London Vegetarian Society in London and became its executive member. He started participating in the conferences of the London Vegetarian Society and writing articles in the magazine. He completed his barrister studies (1888-1891) and returned to India in 1891.
On the occasion of the 152nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, let us take a look at some of his most memorable speeches:
- Banaras Hindu University Speech (February 04, 1916)
“If we are to receive self-government, we shall have to take it… freedom loving as it (British Empire) is, it will not be a party to give freedom to a people who will not take it themselves.”
In February 1916, Mahatma Gandhi was invited by Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya to speak at the inauguration of the Benaras Hindu University. The speech came as a shock to one and all present. The royal kings and princes, Annie Besant, and everyone else had come to expect the condescending tone adopted by Indian leaders towards the British. Gandhiji’s sharp criticism of the English language and demand for self-government jolted the audience and for the first time, the Mahatma showed signs of taking on the leadership of the country’s freedom struggle. This was the very first speech that would grow into a wildfire culminating in India’s freedom from British rule.
- Dandi March Speech (March 11, 1930)
“We have resolved to utilize all our resources in the pursuit of an exclusively non-violent struggle. Let no one commit a wrong in anger.”
It was on the eve of this historic Salt March to Dandi that Mahatma Gandhi outlined a well-thought-out programme for non-cooperation. Setting out to manufacture salt from seawater with his followers, he called upon fellow Indians to defy the taxes imposed by the British. He asked Indians to give up foreign liquor and clothes, resist taxes, and avoid (British) courts and government offices. Not only did this speech compel Indians to join the freedom struggle and challenge the colonial rule but also influenced the Civil Rights Movement in the US decades later. It was instrumental in the introduction of the “satyagraha” into the Indian psyche.
- Round Table Conference Speech, (November 30, 1931)
“I dare to say, it (the strife between Hindus and Muslims in India) is coeval with the British Advent, and immediately this relationship, the unfortunate, artificial, unnatural relationship between Great Britain and India is transformed into a natural relationship, when it becomes if it does become, a voluntary partnership to be given up, to be dissolved at the will of either party, when it becomes that you will find that Hindus, Mussalmans, Sikhs, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Christians, Untouchable, will all live together as one man.”
This is the speech that Gandhi delivered at the very first Round Table Conference. It is here that the British tried to convince Indian leaders to accept Dominion status citing communal disharmony and strife. A bold Mahatma Gandhi clearly called the British bluff and showcased India’s unity and secular spirit. Our nation’s history has been altered by British historians, he said, and once again we shall sing our song of love and brotherhood in unison.
- The ‘Quit India’ Speech (August 08, 1942)
“I believe that in the history of the world, there has not been a more genuinely democratic struggle for freedom than ours.”
Smithsonian refers to this address as the “speech that brought India to the brink of independence”. Gandhiji’s address to the nation on the eve of the historic Quit India movement enshrines our ideals of Ahimsa (non-violence) and freedom. Calling upon the British to leave India voluntarily, Mahatma Gandhi inspired millions of Indians to seek out freedom from bondage and slavery. The novelty of his approach and the call to use non-violent means singled him out as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.
- Speech before His Final Fast (January 12, 1948)
“I yearn for heart friendship between the Hindus, the Sikhs, and the Muslims. It subsisted between them the other day. Today it is non-existent. It is a state that no Indian patriot worthy of the name can contemplate with equanimity.”
India had gained its independence but this came with a terrible price. A painful and violent partition had led to a complete breakdown of communal harmony – a camaraderie that had existed for hundreds of years. Pained, the Mahatma took to fasting once more – another stand, another non-violent struggle, another sacrifice for the sake of our beloved nation and the well-being of all Indians. This speech of his, delivered days before his death, should be our religion, our inspiration in building a peaceful, more tolerant India.
Gandhiji was shot dead by Nathuram Godse and his associate Gopaldas at Birla House on 30 January 1948 at 5:17 pm. The bravest soul was shot three times, at the last moment ‘Hey Ram’ came out of his mouth. After his death, his tomb was built at Raj Ghat in New Delhi.