Gandhi

Shehzad HusnaniPeriod 504/09/05GANDHIMohandas Gandhi was born in Porbandar, a small coastal town in the western region of British ruled India on October 2, 1867. Gandhi’s father was a politician and served as Prime Minister to a number of local Indian Princes. His mother, Putilibai, was Gandhi’s father’s fourth wife.

His parents were not well educated but his mother was literate. Despite their educational problems they were well off and owned several houses in Porbandar, and in nearby villages. Because of this they were able to pay for good education for Mohandas .

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At age 13, Gandhi was married to a girl of the same age named Kasturbai. After the death of his father, Mohandas’s family sent him to England to study law but he became interested in the philosophy of non violence. He returned to India in 1891, but he did not succeed in the practice of law and he went to South Africa. There he became involved in efforts to end discrimination against the Indian minority.

He developed his creed of passive resistance against injustice, “Satyagraha,” meaning truth force, and was frequently jailed as a result of the protests that he led. Soon after launching his monumental Satyagraha “Hold fast to the Truth” movement, he gave up his pleasures vowing to focus all the heat of his passion towards helping India’s emigree and indentured community, win freedom from racial prejudice and discrimination. Gandhis’s passion turned each prison cell he occupied into a self proclaimed “temple” or “palace” even as he taught his self sacrificing yogic spirit to relish the “delicious taste” of fasting, taking pleasure in every pain he suffered for the “common good.” He founded the Natal Indian Congress which commanded an Indian medical corps that fought in the Boer War. Their willingness to endure punishment and jail earned the admiration of people in Gandhi’s native India, and eventually won concessions from the Boer and British rulers. By 1914, when Gandhi left South Africa and returned to India, he was known as a holy man: people called him a “Mahatma” or “great soul.” Thus his passion to help people thrust him in becoming a leader.

Gandhi’s greatest achievement was to unify India by making himself the symbol of unity. It was Gandhi’s person more than the slogans of nationalism and liberation, that united Hindus and Muslims against the British. His personal determination served as a beacon to all – soon after his release from prison, he commanded a three week fast requesting peace between the warring religious factions. His “soul force” may have been the only thing that could bring all Indians together and he used it to an amazing effect. British was a liberal empire and they kind of liked Gandhi’s teachings. In 1920’s British kind of vaguely agreed for the India’s independence. In 1924, Gandhi devoted himself to “swaraj from within” working to prepare India morally for its independence. He strongly urged that people wore homespun “khadi” when he became President of National Congress in 1925.

In 1928 Gandhi made a big decision and returned to his plan for large scale civil disobedience which was drastically inspired by the author Henry David Thoreau. For almost twelve years, the natives of Barodli refused to accept an increase in taxes and held firm despite imprisonment. Government finally gave in and repealed a tax increase.

Gandhi came up with a Declaration of Independence in 1930, and then led the Salt March in protest against the British monopoly on salt. This touched off acts of civil disobedience across India, and the British were forced to invite Gandhi to London for a Round-Table Conference. After the failure of Round Table Conference, Gandhi again traveled through India and started his preaching of cleanliness, harmony and love. Gandhi’s slogan was to unify India but to his despair in 1942, British came to a conclusion that they would give independence to India with an option of Muslim minority with their own state. Congress decided on a campaign of civil disobedience, Gandhi and other Congress members were imprisoned. India exploded into violence, Gandhi began a fast for three weeks, and the British were scared that he might die.

Instead his wife passed away and he was released in 1944. In August, 1947 India was partitioned in two countries – India and Pakistan and the British left the sub-continent. Hindus and Muslims killed each other and a large number of people migrated from India to Pakistan.

Gandhi tried to calm the country but to no avail. He was assassinated by a Hindu on January 30, 1948 and thus India lost its great leader.Mahatma Gandhi was a living symbol, great moral leader and a man of considerable political creativity, whose background and beliefs suited him for the role of popularizing a new Indian identity, Gandhi helped the Indians to rekindle a proper pride and a new courage deeply embedded in Indian culture. Gandhi’s great contribution to India’s national movement was his technique of non violent protest. Non-co-operation also played a significant educative role in the development of Indian nationalism. Gandhi’s passion for order and organization, his vision of a disciplined body of national servants and his eye for minute detail also played a part in binding together a national Congress.

No one did more than Gandhi to improve the lot of poor Indians, and if his dreams fell short of reality, it was not because the dreams were flawed, but because the human race, which he loved so much, could not rise to the standard he set. It is true that India split after independence, but without Gandhi’s labor, without the power of his person, there would have been no India at all. It was Gandhi, the Mahatma who made the people of the subcontinent believe in the idea of an Indian nation; indeed, it was he, the frail, bespectacled figure with the simple clothes and the ready smile, who embodied this idea throughout the long decades of struggle. To the Indian people, Gandhi gave a nation. To the world, he gave satyagraha, arguably the most revolutionary idea of a long and ravaged century.

He showed that political change could be affected by renouncing violence; that unjust laws could be defied peacefully and with a readiness to accept punishment; that “soul-force,” as much as armed force, could bring down an empire. He drew this lesson from his readings of the Bible and Tolstoy and the Bhagavad-Gita, and he taught it to Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and countless other political protestors who would follow his example in the years to come.

In some sense, Gandhi’s greatest achievement lay in his legacy; for his ideals, and the example he provided in living them out, inspired, and continue to inspire, people of all nations to take up the peaceful struggle for freedom from oppression.