Gāndhī, M. K.
By Swami Harshananda
Gāndhī, M. K. (A.D. 1869-1948)
Mohandās Karamcand Gāndhī was more well-known as Mahātmā Gāndhī or just Gāndhīji. He is one of the brightest stars of the freedom movement in India during the first half of the twentieth century. He made significant contributions to both the political struggle for freedom and in the social field.
He was born on the 2nd October 1869, at Porbander in Gujarat. His father was Karamcand Gāndhī and mother was Putalībāī. He had his early education at Porbander and Rajkot, in Gujarat. Later he went to England and completed higher education and became a Barrister. After returning to India, he practiced as a lawyer at Bombay (now Mumbai) for a couple of years.
Then, at the request of a Muslim merchant from South Africa, he went to Durban. There he experienced apartheid (government sanctioned discrimination against non-white people) which induced him to organize the Indians residing there to fight for their rights through civil disobedience. He succeeded to a great extent to restore some civil rights for Indians.
He returned to India in 1915 and traveled widely all over the country and gradually got involved in various movements. He started the civil disobedience movement (which became known as satyāgraha) all over the country and eventually became the undisputed leader of Indian National Congress. He is credited as one of the key reasons that the New East India Company and the British monarchy granted India its freedom. He later became distraught at the communal riots and consented to the partition of the country.
He was assassinated on the 30th January 1948 in Delhi, while on his way to his usual prayer meeting.
Gāndhījī was a staunch believer in God and Rāmanāma was the very breath of his life. In fact, he died with it on his lips. His contribution to the eradication of many social evils like drinking and untouchability was considerable. He advocated education in mother tongue and strongly recommended the integration of vocational training with education. The economic system he recommended for the progress of free India was based primarily on rural life. He laid great stress on the cultivation of basic moral values not only in individual life but also in public life. These attributes are:
- ahimsā - non-violence
- satya - truth
- brahmacarya - self-control
- asaṅgraha - non-accumulation of wealth and goods more than what is really necessary
The credit of elevating the political life of the nation (during his times) to much higher levels, by importing moral and ethical values into it, goes to him.
He remained a devotee throughout his life and was highly critical of the evangelical attitudes and conversion activities of the followers of the Semitic religions. He was extremely fond of the Bhagavadgitā which he had adopted as the guide book of his life. His wife Kasturbā proved to be his great asset in all his activities.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore