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Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday - Gandhi Jayanti - Father of the Nation

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, more famously known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the leading light in India's freedom struggle against the British rule. The uniqueness of this freedom struggle was that it was essentially based on Ahimsa (Non-Violence) & Satya (Truth).

Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2nd 1869, in Porbandar in the Gujarat state of India. His father was a Diwan, a high official, in the princely state of Porbandar.

He was assassinated on January 30th 1948, by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, who thought Gandhi was sympathetic to the Muslims.

  • Mahatma Gandhi's birthday on October 2, is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday.
  • January 30, the day he was assassinated, is celebrated as Martyr's day in India.

The Formative Years

Three people had a lasting impression in moulding the thoughts and character of the young Gandhi.

  • The 1st was his mother Putlibai who was a deeply religious woman. Though unlettered, her qualities of love, sacrifice and service for her children and others, deeply influenced the impressionable mind of the young Gandhi.
  • The other two were Shravana & Raja (King) Harishchandra, two very famous historical characters. From Shravana, he imbibed the quality of love & from King Harishchandra, he imbibed the value of truth.
    Gandhi himself admits this in his autobiography.

Early Life Of Gandhi

Gandhi was married at the tender age of 13 to Kasturbai, who incidentally was a year older to him. Child marriages were common in those days.

As a student, Gandhi was average as also shy and reticent in nature. His father, Karamchand Gandhi, died when he was only 15. His family wanted him to become a barrister so that he could secure a good job in the state.

After he passed out of high school, he was sent to London in 1888 to study law.

His mother had made him take a vow before he left for London that he would not touch meat, alcohol and women. Finding vegetarian food was difficult initially but he found it ultimately. He started living in cheaper accommodation to save money and also walked to his college for the same reason.

It was in England that Gandhi read the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu scripture, for the first time. And the first time he read the Bible too.

The sacred texts of Hindus and Christians sowed the seeds for a life of renunciation and non-violence.

After passing his law exams, Gandhi came back to India but since he was not a man of many words he could not adjust to the demands of his profession.

He was not able to find any fruitful employment and wanted to move away from this atmosphere. Sometime later an Indian businessman in South Africa offered Gandhi an offer to join him as a legal adviser in South Africa. He took up the offer as it paid him well.

So in April 1893, Gandhi left for South Africa. It was here that Gandhi was to find his real calling and the stay that was to last a year continued for over 20 years.

Life In South Africa

South Africa then was inhabited mostly by non-whites. The white people who though a minority, looked down upon the non-whites as inferiors and abused them too. They referred to Indians as coolies.

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Gandhi also experienced racial discrimination personally. These events made a deep impression on Gandhi and he resolved firmly to fight this injustice by making the oppressed rise.

He founded the Natal Indian Congress emerging as its leader but only resorting to fighting injustice by peaceful demonstrations.

He also founded a weekly newspaper called Indian Opinion, in which he expressed his views on both political and social issues.

In between he founded the Indian Ambulance Corps that nursed the injured and wounded in the Boer war in 1899 and the Zulu war in 1906, earning admiration from the British.

When the government proposed an ordinance, called the Black Act, requiring all Indians to register and carry an ID at all times, Gandhi sought to fight this by holding the first satyagraha, a peaceful demonstration.

when the ordinance was passed, Gandhi called the Indians to desist from registering.

Finally, in 1914, Gandhi managed to secure a victory and the satyagraha was stopped. He decided it was time to move to India.

So, on January 9, 1915, Gandhi arrived in India to a rousing welcome. By this time, he was referred to as Mahatma, for the exemplary service done by him in South Africa.

As he had been out of the country for over 20 years, he set up an ashram at Sabarmati, near Ahmedabad city. He stayed here for 12 years.

Today, the ashram is a national monument, signifying one of the freedom movements starting from here - The Dandi March in 1930.

Satyagraha

The first satyagraha of non-violent protest in India was lead by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918 - the Champaran & Kheda agitations. The satyagraha worked in favour of the farmers by way of relief in taxes, concessions for farmers in the form of not being forced to sell their crops for a price determined by the British landlords and also allowing them to grow the crops of their choice.

In 1919 Gandhi, by solidly backing the khilafat movement - a protest by the Muslims against the falling standards of the Caliph, their religious leader - got a lot of Muslim support and backing and in 1920, Mahatma Gandhi became the leader of the Congress Party.

With the Mahatma's mass appeal growing and armed now with the weapons of truth and non-violent, peaceful resistance, Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement.

He called upon the people to boycott foreign goods, advised them to wear khadi (homespun cloth), boycott all things British.

His appeal was widely acclaimed and successful but the movement had to be withdrawn in 1922, because of violent clashes in the town of Chauri Chaura.

The famous Charkha (spinning-wheel) was invented by Gandhi for the sole purpose that people could make khadi at home.

Staying low & away from active politics for the most part of the 1920s, Mahatma Gandhi worked for the eradication of the evils of untouchability, alcoholism, ignorance and poverty.

The salt march was launched because of a tax being levied on salt. Organising a salt march to Dandi, a distance of 241 miles by foot, he proceeded to make salt himself. With the support of thousands, this was a major victory for him and the people of India.

When the round table conference talks in London failed, Gandhi launched the Quit India movement in 1942.

This was a time of a lot of turmoil and hardships. The leaders were arrested and jailed indefinitely. There ensued a lot of violence.

Partition And Independence

Though Mahatma Gandhi was opposed to the partition of India, the Muslim League party headed by Jinnah feared that Muslim rights will be curbed in a country that had a majority Hindu population. Inspite of Gandhi's assurances he demanded a separate state of Pakistan for the Muslims.

During the partition process, severe communal violence broke out between the Hindus & Muslims. It is believed more than 5,00,000 people died in the communal frenzy during this time.