New Delhi: As we draw close to celebrate the 152nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, this year, let us remember the ideologies, struggles and virtues of the ‘Father of the Nation’, who drove India to its independence through non-violence. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the prominent leaders of India’s independence movement, and the man behind non-violent civil disobedience that liberated India from the British rule.
Every year October 2 is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti in India and as International Day of nonviolence all over the world. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 29, 1869 at a place called Porbandar, a coastal town in present-day Gujarat in western India. The Gandhis belonged to a Vaishnava sect of the Vaishya caste, for which taking meat and liquor were abhorrent acts. His father Karamchand Gandhi belong to the pansari caste of Sanatan Dharma while his mother Putlibai Pranami belonged to the Parnami Vaishya community. Putlibai was the fourth wife of Karamchand Gandhi, who lost his first wife very early in life, married a second time, and lost her too. He married a third wife who turned out to be an incurably sick woman. Then, with the consent of the third wife, he decided to marry a fourth time. With Putlibai Karamchand Gandhi had four children, three sons and a daughter, of whom Mohandas was the last and her favourite, who she called ‘Monia’.
An ardent believer of ahimsa, Gandhi led India’s non-violent movement against the colonial British empire. He went to South Africa to study law and led nationwide campaigns for farmers and labourers and also fought against caste discrimination and was vocal about expanding women’s rights.
After completing his higher secondary education, young Mohandas went to England to qualify as a barrister, however there were quite a few obstacles that he had to cross before he could go. Born in a conservative Hindu family he had to take the permission of the family elders, specifically an elderly uncle, before setting sail for England. He also had to fight the taboo prevalent in most Hindu families of that era against crossing the ‘dark waters’ and getting polluted in an unholy land. Then there were the problems of finance. The family overcame this issue by pooling jewellery and other resources and the uncle too finally gave-in, however, his kind-hearted and deeply religious mother – who was almost a saint, as the Mahatma remembered her – was afraid of him adapting to western culture. Then the solution came from the advice of a Jain monk, Becharji Maharaj, who made Gandhi take three vows: that he would not touch wine, women and meat. This was done, and Putlibai gave her consent. The most probable date on which this was done was August 5.
Who gave him title of ‘Mahatma’
In Sanskrit, the ‘Mahatma’ or the great soul is a respectful word. Gandhi was first addressed as Mahatma by Rajvaidya Jivaram Kalidas in 1915. According to another opinion, Swami Shwaranind was another person who honoured Bapu the title of Mahatma in 1915, while another opinion is that Guru Rabindranath Tagore conferred him with the title of Mahatma, in one of his articles on April 12, 1919. Notably, Bapu means ‘father’ in Gujarati language and the first person to address Gandhi ji as Bapu was his disciple from Sabarmati Ashram. Whereas, Subhash Chandra Bose first address him as the ‘father of the nation’ on July 6, 1944, in a broadcast released by Rangoon Radio and sought his blessings and good wishes for the soldiers of the Azad Hind Fauj.
On January 30, 1948, one of the fanatics, a man in his thirties named Nathuram Godse, shot the 78-year-old Gandhi three times at point-blank range in the stomach and chest, when the great leader was walking across the gardens of Birla House to attend a prayer meeting. It was then when his murderer emerged from the admiring crowd, bowed to him and killed one of the greatest men of all times. Before falling to the ground Gandhi raised his hands in front of his face in the conventional Hindu gesture of greeting, almost if he was welcoming his murderer. Some said that he cried out, ‘Ram, Ram’ (‘God, God’), though others did not hear him say anything.
After shooting Gandhi Godse tried to shoot himself but failed. In no time he was seized and hustled away while the shocked, hysterical crowd cried out, ‘Kill him, kill him!’ and threatened to lynch him. Godse was tried for murder in May and hanged in November the following year. Though Godse succeeded to kill a mortal man but he couldn’t eliminate his ideology and the principles that Gandhi passed on to the coming generations.
On the 152nd birth anniversary of the great leader, let’s remember his great teachings on which he based his life:
-“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”.
-“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”
-“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”
-“The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.”
-“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
-“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
-“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.”
-“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
-“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
-“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”