Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | History
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi-1
[Oct 2, 1869 - Jan 30, 1948 AD]
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a man of millennium who imparts the lesson of truth, non- violence and peace. The philosophy and ideology is relevant still today. The philosophy of Gandhi was based on truth, sacrifice, non-violence, selfless service and cooperation. In modern times, nonviolent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest. According to Gandhi one should be brave and not a coward. He should present his views, suggestions and thoughts without being violent. One should fight a war with the weapons of truth and non violence. Gandhi said - "There is no God higher than truth". According to Gandhi's thoughts non-violence is ultimate solution of every kind of problem in the world. Gandhi was single person who fought against the British with the weapons of truth and non-violence by persuading countrymen to walk on the path of non-violence.
Once a journalist asked Gandhi when he was on a visit to Europe - "What do you think of Western civilization?" He replied, "It would be very nice, wouldn't it?" The answer illustrated only one facet of his complex character. A westernized, English educated lawyer, who had lived outside India from his youth to middle age, he preached his traditional doctrines to which he had grown to respect in his childhood, notably Ahinsaa (non-violence). From 1921, he gave up his western style of dress and adopted the hand-spun Dhotee. Churchill said that he was a naked Faqeer (holy man). Yet if he was a thorn in British flesh, he was also fiercely critical of many aspects of Hindu society - caste system, Often despised by the British in India, he succeeded in gaining the reluctant respect and ultimately outright admiration of many. His death at the hands of a Hindu chauvinist on 30th January 1948 was a final testimony to the ambiguity of his achievements - successful in contributing so much to achieving India's independence, yet failing to resolve some of the bitter communal legacies which he gave his life to overcome.
Biography and Character
He was mediocre student in his youth at Porbandar and later Raajkot. He barely passed the Matriculate exam from Bhaavnagar, Gujaraat. He was unhappy because his family wanted him to be a lawyer. At the age of 18, on September 4, 1888, Gandhi went to University College of London to study Law and train as a Barrister. His living in London was influenced by a vow taken for his mother in front of a Jain priest Becharjee, that he would abstain from meat, alcohol and promiscuity. There he learned some Western customs of dance etc still he followed his principles. He joined Vegetarian Society and was elected to it Executive Committee. Here he was encouraged to read Geetaa. Although he had no interest in religion, he read works of and about Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islaam. He returned to India as a Barrister but had little success in practicing it in Bombay. He was rejected even for a High School teacher's job, so he came back to Raajkot and started drafting petitions for litigants; but was forced to close down this business as he ran afoul of a British officer. In 1893, just after 5 years of his admission in the Law School, he went to Natal, South Africa, posted with an Indian Company with an year-long contract. When back in London in 1895, he met Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain whose son became Prime Minister in 1930s and suppressed Gandhi. He came back to India in 1915.
He practiced non-violence and truth even in the most extreme situations. His principles were - Non-violence, Truth, Brahmcharya, vegetarianism, simplicity and faith. As a student of Hindoo philosophy, he lived simply, organizing an Aashram that was self-sufficient in its needs. He made his own clothes using Charakhaa, lived on simple vegetarian diet, practiced rigorous fasts for long period both for protests and self-purification.
He had always been a vegan of frutarian and pure vegetarian, never took dairy products from cow; but included goat milk on the advice of his doctor. He had a she-goat in his Aashram,for milk, her name was Nirmalaa. He used to eat Neem Chatanee daily seeing the benefits of Neem.
Satya and Ahinsaa According to Gandhi
And this experimentation was not confined only to his personal life, but was also extended to all his public actions, including his Satyaagraha (literally, truth-force; in substance, non-violent resistance to injustice) movements in South Africa and India. The inherent strength of truth lies latent until it is embodied in the actions as well as thoughts of a human being (Iyer 2000:152). Truth finds its expression in action.
What is truth? Gandhi said, "Truth is the sovereign principle, which includes numerous other principles (Gandhi 1927: xi). Substance of truth is morality. He found the Sanskrit equivalent of truth, Satya, as being more expressive and evocative. Satya word is derived from the verb "sat" (to exist). Therefore, Satya alone exists and falsehood cannot survive. Truth can find acceptance by all and is universal. That is how pursuit of truth leads to knowledge. Gandhi's conception of truth, however, transcended ontological truth while being inclusive of it. Gandhi distinguished between absolute truth (or God) and relative truths. He said, "If we had attained the full vision of truth, we would no longer be mere seekers, but would become one with God, for Truth is God."
Absolute And Relative and Truth
Pursuit of truth was individual in the sense that one had to be receptive to the inner voice and to unprejudiced and unselfish reasoning. And when one finds that truth so arrived at differs from the truth as believed in by a majority, or as provided by law, it is the duty of such an individual to disseminate his own perception of truth, to be prepared for debate and even action to correct the law through non-violent methods. Satya led him to Ahinsaa as its practical or applied principle, not just because truth led to action and action to be non-violent, but also because truth meant Ahinsaa.
Ahinsaa As Virtue
Honors and Awards - Local and International
He was officially accorded the honor of the "Father of the Nation" and October 2 is officially commemorated as Gandhi Jayantee (birthday of Gandhi).
In 1971, Government acquired Birlaa Bhavan, where Gandhi was assassinated, and opened for public in 1973 as "Gandhi Smriti". A martyr's column commemorates the spot where he was assassinated.
Every year, on January 30, on the anniversary of Gandhi's death, in most schools of India a 2-minute silence is observed to remember him.
In 1996, Government of India introduced Mahaatmaa
Gandhi series of currency notes in Rupees 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 denominations. Today
all the currency notes in circulation in India contain a portrait of Mahaatmaa Gandhi.
Time Magazine awarded him "Man of the Year" (1930); and the Runner-up of Sir Albert Einstein as "Person of the Century" at the end of 1999; and named Dalaaee Laamaa, Lech Walesaa, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez, Aung San Suu Kyi, Banigno Aquino Jr, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela as the "Children of Gandhi".
In the USA, there are statues of Gandhi outside the Union Square Park in New York and on Massachussettes Avenue, in Washington DC, near the Indian Embassy.
There is a statue of Gandhi in the city of Pietermaritzburg, in South Africa.
In 1969, UK issued a series of stamps commemorating the centenary of Gandhi. There are several statues of Gandhi in UK, most notably at Tavistock Square, London. January 30 is commemorated there as "National Gandhi Remembrance day".
There are wax statues of Gandhi in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London, UK; and in New York, USA.
Gandhi never received Noble Peace prize though he was nominated for it five times between 1937 and 1948. Decades later the Committee expressed its regret for it. He was to receive this award in 1948, but his assassination prevented this. But when it was presented to Dalaaee Laamaa, the Committee said that it was in part a tribute to the memory of Gandhi.
Every year, on January 30, on the anniversary of Gandhi's death, in schools of many countries is observed the "School Day of Non-violence and Peace (DENIP)" founded in Spain in 1964.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/01/12