SUMMARY: Mahatma Gandhi (October 2, 1869–January 30, 1948) Indian political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement
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Mahatma Gandhi was known as an international symbol for a free India. Gandhi’s example of peace and freedom has being hailed by millions of people all over the world. He is recognized as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century.
History of Gandhi
Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in the town Porbandar on October 2, 1869, Gandhi was born a Hindu and born into the second highest cast. The Hindu religion believes that people are born into a cast that they stay in their whole life. If they are good, they will remain in this cast to their next life, however, if they are bad, they will be sent to a lower cast. There is also a sect known as the Untouchables, these are people without a cast. Many people treat untouchables poorly and they live in the biggest poverty.
During the time Gandhi was born, the British controlled India. India lived in extreme poverty since the British would seize all their riches. Gandhi was the youngest of six children and was married at the age of 13 and became a father at 16. He later described his marriage as a brother-sister relationship.
Gandhi moved to London and was educated at the University College in law. He returned to India in 1891 and established a law practice in Bombay. Two years later, he moved to South Africa and worked for an Indian law firm. Gandhi arrived in Durban, South Africa and was often treated poorly for being Indian. Gandhi was pushed out of a train for refusing to give up his seat to a white person. This was a turning point in his life and he began his fight for rights for Indians.
Peace and Freedom
For 20 years Gandhi lived in South Africa teaching passive resistance to authorities, this lead to his imprisonment several times. It has been said Gandhi was inspired by the writings of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy; he also was a firm believer in the teachings of Christ. In 1910, he founded a cooperative community for Indians near Durban. He was then influential in the government’s decision to allow recognition of Indian marriages and the abolition of the poll tax. Shortly after this success, he returned to India.
Gandhi traveled his country learning of his people and quickly was known for fasting and wearing a simple loin cloth and a shawl. One of Gandhi’s greatest successes for independence was when he asked the whole nation to strike for one day. Everything was closed and the British could not use the telegraph to communicate with their mother country. This was the first time the British truly recognized his power in India.
In 1930, Gandhi started a march over 140 miles to the Arabian Sea. The British had total control of India’s salt. Gandhi asked the people to refuse to pay taxes, particularly on the salt. He marched to the Sea and grabbed a handful of salt and encouraged others to do the same. The police escorted them from the beaches and Gandhi moved his people to the factories to claim the salt. They were severely beaten down by the British until they could walk no further. This revolt proved Gandhi’s peace and freedom, as not one Indian used physical contact to fight back.
Religious Freedom and Death
Gandhi fought for peace and understanding between religions. In 1932, he took a “fast unto death” vow to help the Hindu Untouchables. Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. He did not believe in violence and the constant battles between the Hindus and Moslems left him saddened and discouraged. Shortly after India was divided into Pakistan and India, Gandhi fasted to stop the religious violence. He was shot by a Hindu fanatic on January 30, 1948.
Mahatma Gandhi’s place in humanity has had a lasting effect on the world even to this day. His teachings inspired others to fight for freedom in a non-violent way, most notably, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.