Mahatma Gandhi (Oct 2, 1869 to Jan 30, 1948)
Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi was born in 1869 to Hindu parents in the state of Gujarat in Western part of India. He was born in the second highest cast, and was the youngest of the three sons of Putalibai and Karamchand Gandhi. Mohandas believed that people was born into casts which people stay their whole life. When their behaviour according to the religious rules of Hinduism is good, they get in a higher cast in their next life. On the other hand, if they don’t follow the rules, they get in a lower cast. People without casts are called the Untouchables. The little house Gandhi was born is today the "Kirti Mandir".
When Gandhi was borned, India was controlled by the British, and had been a colony of Britain for hundreds of centuries. Many people lived in great poverty because the British took all the wealth.
He went to Porbander primary school, and later the Albert High School, Rajkot. Gandhi showed no particular brilliancy, played no games, and avoided company. He read little beyond the books at school, but respected his teacher. He would never copy from his neighbour’s answers, for instance.
When he was 13 years old, he entered an arranged wedding with Kasturbai Makanji. At the beginning, it was all play, but Gandhi soon began as a jealous and possessive husband; he wanted to make his illiterate wife an ideal one.
Gandhi was also very attached to his eldest brother Laxmidas. After his father passed away, it was Laxmidas who helped to educate him and send him to law school in London. Before Gandhi went abroad, he wowed to his mother to lead a caste and simple life. In 1891 he was admitted to The Inner Temple, and called to the bar. While studying in London, he was working actively for the London Vegetarian Society.
Shortly after Gandhi arrived in India, he went to South Africa to handle a case. This happened in 1891. Even though his legally work was soon over, he remained there for 21 years, fighting for Indian rights and defending indentured labour in low courts against discrimination. One day Gandhi got pushed out of the train when he refused to leave his seat for a white person. It was then that decided never to be pushed down again and to fight for the rights of minorities. He made a very important rule for himself which he used his whole life: never to use violence in his fights, even if others would use violence against him. In Southern Africa he worked ceaselessly to improve the rights of the immigrant Indians. It was there that he developed his creed of passive resistance against injustice, satyagraha, meaning truth force, and was frequently jailed as a result of the protests that he led. Before he returned to India with his wife and children in 1915, he had radically changed the lives of Indians living in Southern Africa. Gandhi combined his opposition to the wrongdoer. During the Boer war and the Zulu rebellion he helped the Government at the hour of its need, by raising Indian Ambulance and Stretcher barer Crops, which served close to the line of fire. He was awarded medals for this service. The Passive Resistance Struggle was to be long-drawn-out. Thousands of satyagrahis suffered imprisonment, loss of property and trade. Tolstoy farm was built by Gandhi on land donated by kallenbach, as a colony for housing satyagrahis families. They did farming, grew fruit, followed simple crafts and conducted school.
Gandhi started a project (ashram) where people from different religions lived together in peace and freedom. He was an honest man and was a nice, friendly person throughout his whole life. He wanted to live like most people in India: out in the countryside and poor. That was shy he began travelling through the country by train in the third class wagons. He saw a lot of India and how people lived and worked there.
One day – as a symbolic event – he asked some followers on a big meeting to throw all their British clothes on a big fire. Many people became encouraged not to buy British clothing, but to produce and buy their own Indian clothes. After that many people started to boycott British goods.
Gandhi took another important step to independency when he asked a whole nation to strike for one day. Nothing worked on that day. There was virtually none traffic, mail wasn’t delivered, factories weren’t working and – for the British a very important thing – the telegraph lines didn’t work and the British in India were cut off their mother country. It was then the British first understood Gandhi’s power in India.
When the Muslims and Hindus in India committed acts of violence, whether against the British or against each other, he fasted until the fighting ceased. Many remember Gandhi for his fasting especially. Once he nearly fasted to death when Hindus and Muslims fought against each other. The fights stopped and started to live together in peace again. Violence made Gandhi sad and he felt more than once that his life had been useless when people fought against each other. Independence came in 1947, it wasn’t a military victory, but a triumph of human will. Gandhi was despaired to see that India had become divided, in Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan.
After the Second World War, India became independent, but Gandhi didn’t feel like celebrating because a civil war broke out. Gandhi managed to stop the fights with speeches to the people and his fasts. Once again people lived in peace.
Most of Gandhi’s actions were a great success because the British didn’t know how to fight an enemy who didn’t used violence. One of the reasons for Gandhi’s success was that he was so close to the people of India. He was arrested several times in South Africa as well as in India. When he was imprisoned, he used his time to think and plan other actions. He also used his time in jail to think of ways to help the Untouchables. Gandhi was a religious man and believed in casts, but he didn’t believe that God wanted the Untouchables to have no rights. He went for long walks through India to collect money for the Untouchables and he fought for their rights his whole life.
In January 1948, when Gandhi was at the age of 79, he was killed by an assassin while waling through a crowed garden in New Delhi to take evening prayers. The fanatic Hindu, who killed Gandhi, was named Nathuram Godsey.
I think Mohandas Gandhi was one of the most significant persons in the 20th century. He proved that it was possible to fight very successfully without violence. He fought his whole life with humanity, tolerance, ideas and without violence and showed the way to a better world. Still today there are many people who love him and who use his philosophy to change the world. War is a very good example. Another very popular example is the fight against nuclear energy or nuclear weapons or when the French tests of nuclear weapons in the pacific 1996. That was non-violent resistance. Also Martin Luther King didn’t use violence in his struggle for the black people in America. When India became independent, it was a sign to the other colonies under the British. They saw their chance for independence and Gandhi showed them the way. That was one of the main causes for the independency of many of those countries.