Mahatma Gandhi, also known as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was an Indian political and social activist. He is highly celebrated for his doctrine of nonviolent protest to achieve political and social progress worldwide.
From a young age, Gandhi had a reputation for being kind and approachable. He quickly won the adoration of his fellow Indians as a result of his gift of communication. It would eventually become one of the most recognized titles in India.
Gandhi was born in 1869 and was the youngest child of his father's fourth wife. His father,Karamchand Gandhi, the dewan of Porbandar, did not have much in the way of a formal education. He was, however, an able administrator who knew how to navigate amongst his subjects, and British bureaucrats in power.
Mohandas Gandhi was raised by his devoutly Hindu mother, Putlibai. Even though she didn't care much for finery or jewelry nor did she practice extensive fasting, Gandhi's mother brought up the son of a family who took for granted ahinsa (nonviolence) and vegetarianism. Mohandas grew up taking nonviolence and dietary habits for granted in a household steeped in Vaishnavism--worship of the Hindu god Vishnu--with an undercurrent of Jainism as well.
When Mohandas was five years old, his father had to leave Rajkot in order to become the Dewan of another state. It caused Mohandas to lose a year of school, which didn't help his academic record. When he did attend school, he often received prizes and scholarships for those categories: good in English, fair in arithmetic. He was married at the age of 13 years. His learning style made him feel diffident at school and on the baseball field, so didn't shine either one. He loved to take long walks outside when he wasn't nursing his sick father or helping around the house with chores.
He learned from his experiences as an adolescent that it's best to carry out the orders of the elders even if you disagree with them. As a result, he went through a period of teenage rebellion during which he was secretly atheist, petty thief and furtive smoker, among other things. However, what was most surprising for a boy raised in a Vaishnava family is how he ended his youthful transgressions.
Each time he made a mistake, never again was his promise to himself. And he always kept his promise. Beneath an unprepossessing exterior, he concealed a burning passion for self-improvement that led him to take even the heroes of Hindu mythology, such as Prahlada and Harishcandra—legendary embodiments of truthfulness and sacrifice—as living models.
Mohandas was the younger son of Vallabhbhai Patel, and one of his professors encouraged him to further his studies at Cambridge. In a flurry of excitement and gratitude at getting this opportunity from his professor, Mohandas scraped through the matriculation examination of the University of Bombay (now University of Mumbai) and joined Samaldas College in Bhavnagar (Bhaunagar). As he had to suddenly switch from Gujarati to English, he found it difficult to attend lectures at Samaldas College.
Mohandas Gandhi, known as the father of modern India, defied convention as a 20-year-old son of a Hindu lawyer who sailed to England in obedience to his own volition. He was determined to continue his family's profession and achieve an education abroad. Once he arrived in London, it took him less than a month to realize that he would never be accepted into any law school in London and join the legal profession because of religious discrimination. He then visited several other countries before finally converting to Islam.
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Mahatma Gandhi, he returned to India from Europe in 1915
One of Gandhi's biggest struggles as he went from being a teenager living in rural India to studying in England was the transition between eating vegetarian food, dining with friends, and wearing Western clothes. It wasn't easy for him to adjust to social norms when his lifestyle differed greatly from everyone else's, but he managed to find some measure of understanding by finding a vegetarian restaurant and moving closer towards it.
Now he has a passionate defense of vegetarianism that keeps him true. This zeal project helped him come out of his shell and gave him new poise. He joined the executive committee of the London Vegetarian Society and wrote for their magazine.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Gandhi was introduced to the Bible and Bhagavad Gita through members of a vegetarian community in London. The Gita has been interpreted as representing both Hinduism and Jainism, depending on which Indian tradition it is read from.
Vegetarians were a motley group who included socialists and religious leaders such as Edward Carpenter (British Thoreau), George Bernard Shaw, Fabian Society activists like George Bernard Shaw, and Theosophists like Annie Besant. Most of them were idealists who believed in moral values over material ones. These interpersonal interactions helped shape Gandhi’s personality and eventually his political views.
Although limited, Gandhi's legal career began with a bang. His first client was battling in a case against another barrister and failed to win. Competing lawyers would decide the winning bid for these cases, so Gandhi's job of helping drafting his client's petition wasn't financially helpful. It was also hard to find work teaching because there were more qualified applicants than positions. He did, however, eventually get a one year contract from an Indian firm in Natal.
Gandhi's time spent in Africa was unlike any of his other experiences. There he saw the challenges and opportunities that he could hardly have imagined. Even though Gandhi wouldn't spend too long there, it set the course for his life in the future.
One day in the Durban courthouse, Gandhi was asked by a judge to take off his turban. He refused and left the courtroom. A few days later while on a train heading to Pretoria, a white man began insulting him for no reason at all and then continuously bullied him, eventually throwing Gandhi off the train when he refused to give up his seat for a white passenger who had already boarded.
On the rest of this journey, not only was Gandhi assaulted by another person but was denied entry into hotels reserved for Europeans alone. These daily humiliations were a new experience for Indian traders and laborers in Natal, who have learned that this is what their life is going to be: working hard in order to live in poverty and incidents like this will undoubtedly embarrass them (therefore finding it easier to accept).
What is new are these experiences made possible by an unprecedented response from an experienced man who not only felt rejected but became more aware of himself thanks to this rejection.
While in Pretoria, Gandhi studied the conditions in which his fellow South Asians lived and tried to educate them on their rights and duties. However, he had no intention of staying on in South Africa. Indeed, after completing his year's contract, he was back in Durban, preparing for the return voyage to India. At a farewell party given in his honor, he happened to glance through the Natal Mercury and learned that the Natal Legislative Assembly was considering a bill which would deprive Indians from voting rights.
When Gandhi was 25, he found that the string of public speaking panics gradually faded away. Nowadays, the public wouldn't know that the young lawyer could hardly stand to be in front of a group. But this all changed after his return to South Africa, when he used his lectures and writing to bring attention to the plight of South African Indians who were being persecuted by British-occupied colonialism.
In 1896, at the age of 42 years old, Gandhi decided to set off to India from South Africa to fetch his wife and their two youngest children. He met with prominent leaders and persuaded them to address meetings for public support for the Indian communities overseas.
Unfortunately for him, he was unaware that garbled versions of his speeches and utterances reached Natal and inflamed its European population. On landing at Durban in January 1897, Gandhi found himself assaulted or almost lynched by a white mob acting on behalf of a British colonial administration in Natal who wanted to fire up its population against him.
When the British invaded the Boer people in South Africa and claimed their rights, Gandhi refused to take their side. He argued that they were duty-bound to protect their rights as citizens of a British colony, and he even raised an ambulance corps of 1,100 volunteers who were mostly indentured laborers. At his side was a motley crew of lawyers, artists, artisans and labourers. Gandhi's task was to guide them on how to live out his message of selfless service for those whom they considered oppressors.
I found Gandhi sitting by the roadside one morning, with a stack of regulation army biscuits. All the men in General Buller's force were dazed and down, and everyone cursed everything. But Gandhi was content and stoic, talked cheerfully and had a kind smile.
A British victory during the war in India did little to ease the suffering of South Africa's Indians. The new regime in South Africa was set to be a partnership between British and Boers, but only at the expense of Indians, who saw Gandhi doing little to unite them before this.
In 1906, the Transvaal government published an ordinance requiring that all Indian births and deaths be registered with the state. Indians held mass protests against this rule, under Gandhi's leadership. This led to the creation of satyagraha , a new way of alleviating problems through passive aggression rather than violence.
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