Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ( Hindustani: ( listen); 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma (Sanskrit: “high-souled”, “venerable”)—applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa,is now used worldwide. He is also called Bapu (Gujarati: endearment for “father” “papa”) in India. In common parlance in India he is often called Gandhiji. He is unofficially called the Father of the Nation.
Born and raised in a Hindu merchant caste family in coastal Gujarat, western India, and trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.
Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi attempted to practise nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn hand-spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian food, and also undertook long fasts as a means of both self-purification and social protest.
Gandhi’s vision of an independent India based on religious pluralism, however, was challenged in the early 1940s by a new Muslim nationalism which was demanding a separate Muslim homeland carved out of India.Eventually, in August 1947, Britain granted independence, but the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, a Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan.As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs made their way to their new lands, religious violence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal. Eschewing the official celebration of independence in Delhi, Gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to provide solace. In the months following, he undertook several fasts unto death to promote religious harmony. The last of these, undertaken on 12 January 1948 at age 78, also had the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some cash assets owed to Pakistan Some Indians thought Gandhi was too accommodating. Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest at point-blank range.
His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Nonviolence.Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 to a Hindu Modh Baniya family in Porbandar (also known as Sudamapuri), a coastal town on the Kathiawar Peninsula and then part of the small princely state of Porbandar in the Kathiawar Agency of the Indian Empire. His father, Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi (1822–1885), served as the diwan (chief minister) of Porbandar state.
The Gandhi family originated from the village of Kutiana in what was then Junagadh State.In the late 17th or early 18th century, one Lalji Gandhi moved to Porbandar and entered the service of its ruler, the Rana. Successive generations of the family served as civil servants in the state administration before Uttamchand, Mohandas’s grandfather, became diwan in the early 19th century under the then Rana of Porbandar, Khimojiraji. In 1831, Rana Khimojiraji died suddenly and was succeeded by his 12-year-old only son, Vikmatji. As a result, Rana Khimojirajji’s widow, Rani Rupaliba, became regent for her son. She soon fell out with Uttamchand and forced him to return to his ancestral village in Junagadh. While in Junagadh, Uttamchand appeared before its Nawab and saluted him with his left hand instead of his right, replying that his right hand was pledged to Porbandar’s service. In 1841, Vikmatji assumed the throne and reinstated Uttamchand as his diwan.
In 1847, Rana Vikmatji appointed Uttamchand’s son, Karamchand, as diwan after disagreeing with Uttamchand over the state’s maintenance of a British garrison.Although he only had an elementary education and had previously been a clerk in the state administration, Karamchand proved a capable chief minister. During his tenure, Karamchand married four times. His first two wives died young, after each had given birth to a daughter, and his third marriage was childless. In 1857, Karamchand sought his third wife’s permission to remarry; that year, he married Putlibai (1844–1891), who also came from Junagadh,and was from a Pranami Vaishnava family. Karamchand and Putlibai had three children over the ensuing decade, a son, Laxmidas (c. 1860 – March 1914), a daughter, Raliatbehn (1862–1960) and another son, Karsandas (c. 1866–1913).
On 2 October 1869, Putlibai gave birth to her last child, Mohandas, in a dark, windowless ground-floor room of the Gandhi family residence in Porbandar city. As a child, Gandhi was described by his sister Raliat as “restless as mercury, either playing or roaming about. One of his favourite pastimes was twisting dogs’ ears.” The Indian classics, especially the stories of Shravana and king Harishchandra, had a great impact on Gandhi in his childhood. In his autobiography, he admits that they left an indelible impression on his mind. He writes: “It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number.” Gandhi’s early self-identification with truth and love as supreme values is traceable to these epic characters.As the best-educated of his brothers, Gandhi was seen by his family as the best candidate to one day succeed his father and his uncle Tulsidas as diwan.Mavji Dave, a Brahmin priest and family friend, advised Gandhi and his family that he should qualify as a barrister in London, after which he would be certain to achieve the diwanship.Initially, Putlibai did not want her youngest son to leave India and travel across the “black waters”, thereby losing his caste. Gandhi’s uncle Tulsidas also tried to dissuade his nephew. Finally, Gandhi made a vow to his mother in the presence of a Jain monk to observe the precepts of sexual abstinence as well as abstinence from meat and alcohol, after which Putlibai gave her permission and blessing.In July, Kasturba gave birth to the couple’s first surviving son, Harilal.
On 10 August 1888, Gandhi left Porbandar for Bombay (Mumbai). Upon arrival in the port, he was met by the head of the Modh Bania community, who had known Gandhi’s family. Having learned of Gandhi’s plans, he and other elders warned Gandhi that he would be excommunicated if he did not obey their wishes and remain in India. After Gandhi reiterated his intentions to leave for England, the elders declared him an outcastAt the request of Gokhale, conveyed to him by C.F. Andrews, Gandhi returned to India in 1915. He brought an international reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist and organiser. He joined the Indian National Congress and was introduced to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people primarily by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Gokhale was a key leader of the Congress Party best known for his restraint and moderation, and his insistence on working inside the system. Gandhi took Gokhale’s liberal approach based on British Whiggish traditions and transformed it to make it look wholly Indian.
Gandhi was a prolific writer. One of Gandhi’s earliest publications, Hind Swaraj, published in Gujarati in 1909, is recognised as the intellectual blueprint of India’s independence movement. The book was translated into English the next year, with a copyright legend that read “No Rights Reserved”For decades he edited several newspapers including Harijan in Gujarati, in Hindi and in the English language; Indian Opinion while in South Africa and, Young India, in English, and Navajivan, a Gujarati monthly, on his return to India. Later, Navajivan was also published in Hindi. In addition, he wrote letters almost every day to individuals and newspapers.India, with its rapid economic modernisation and urbanisation, has rejected Gandhi’s economics but accepted much of his politics and continues to revere his memory. Reporter Jim Yardley notes that, “modern India is hardly a Gandhian nation, if it ever was one. His vision of a village-dominated economy was shunted aside during his lifetime as rural romanticism, and his call for a national ethos of personal austerity and nonviolence has proved antithetical to the goals of an aspiring economic and military power.” By contrast Gandhi is “given full credit for India’s political identity as a tolerant, secular democracy.
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