Everybody has heard of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. His full name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was born at Porbandar on 2nd October 1869.
It is a strange fact that Gandhiji used the epithet “Mahatma” for the famous Indian politician, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, his political mentor but the same began actually to be used for himself.
It is well-known that Gandhiji was not very good at his studies. He was weak in almost all subjects. The story about his teacher had tried to guide him regarding the spelling of “kettle” during an inspector’s visit and Gandhiji’s having refused to hide the fact of his own ignorance is too well-known to be related in more detail. This simple incident highlights Gandhiji’s love for a high character, integrity, probity, sincerity, truthfulness, and high moral sense.
Gandhiji was married at the tender age of 12 years to a child, Kasturba who later became his devoted wife and consultant. He was fortunate also in having a great mother who molded his character most positively during the formative years of his life.
Gandhiji’s mother was a highly religious and devoted lady. She believed in a truthful, religious way of life and looked at the western culture with suspicious eyes. Hence when Gandhiji was to leave for England for higher studies, he had to give several promises including not to start drinking, smoking, meat-eating, and observing a life of chastity and celibacy.
Gandhiji’s father was an official at the durbar of Rajkot. Gandhiji studied law in England and when he returned to India, he started his practice at Raikot and Bombay. Ganan was a very shy man by nature and it was difficult for him to mince matters, to tell lies, and be cunning as his colleagues could manage. Hence, he could not be a very successful lawyer. But whichever cases came his way, he always pursued them on the basis of truth.
In 1893, Gandhiji had to go to South Africa in connection with a case. There he was appalled as he saw the miserable treatment of Indians. In that country, the policy of Apartheid was used and the whites treated Negroes and black Indians badly. Once Gandhiji himself was thrown out of a railway compartment.
Satyagraha and Non-cooperation Movement in India
Gandhiji started a non-violent peaceful agitation against the policy of discrimination and injustice. He started the famous Phoenix Ashram there. It was in South Africa that Gandhiji experimented with the idea of Satyagraha and noted its effects. He was satisfied with the results. This practice of Satyagraha came in handy to him, as it expressed not only his unflinching faith in truth and non-violence but also later became instrumental in bringing about a sort of political revolution and upheaval in the Indian politics on a much broader scale than that in Africa.
Gandhiji, on the advice of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, toured large parts of rural India to listen to the people regarding their problems and aspirations. He started the Non-cooperation Movement in pursuance of his policy to attain swaraj only by peaceful means. He was not an extremist and as such he could not lend support to violent views or movements.
As a part of his Non-cooperation Movement, he started the boycott of foreign goods and even picketing of shops and showrooms selling such goods. On his call, the Indians surrendered their titles, boycotted British courts and government institutions, and refused to attend the official functions and durbars.
Gandhiji was very particular about the pursuance of the policy of Non-violence in letter and spirit and once when he learned that an act of violence had been committed at Chauri Chaura, he suspended the movement.
Gandhiji was greatly impressed by the Russian writer and philosopher, Leo Tolstoy and it was from him that he got the idea of the Civil Disobedience Movement. Gandhiji started this movement on a large scale on 6th April 1930. On this day he along with his large number of devoted followers started his historic ‘Dandi March’ by violating the odious Salt Law.
Gandhiji started non-payment of taxes, wearing khadi and using swadeshi goods, and making a bonfire of foreign clothes. The movement was not approved by Rabindra Nath Tagore who refused to bless Gandhiji at the time of the start of the movement. Not only foreign goods but also shops selling liquor and opium were picketed and public servants absented themselves from the offices. The British Government let loose a region of terror, but the people became fearless and refused to be cowed down. However, Gandhiji called off the movement in 1934.
Quit India Movement
When Gandhiji saw that the Britishers were in no mood to grant independence to India, he started the famous Quit India Movement on 8th August 1942. Thousands of people went to jail cheerfully and accepted all forms of torture for the sake of freedom. It was the result of the inspiration of leaders who were truly patriotic and sincere in their vision. The stalwart among these leaders was Gandhiji himself.
Death – Godse
Finally, on 15th August 1947, India attained freedom. But, unfortunately, Gandhiji was shot dead by a fanatic Nathu Ram Godse, on 30th January 1948 at a prayer meeting in Birla House in Delhi.
Gandhiji is truly called “Bapuji” or the Father of the Nation. He was a lover of peace and mankind, children in particular. He was also very humorous by nature. He was a highly religious man. He led a semi-starved life. He remained half-naked all his life and didn’t own an inch of land. Rightly did Einstein say, “The future generations will wonder that such a man ever lived in flesh and blood?” Undoubtedly he was the greatest man of the twentieth century.