Gandhi 1869 - 1948 (79)

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.


The 10 principles

10. Continue to grow and evolve.

”Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”

Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India, known for his employment of nonviolent civil disobedience. He influenced the international movement for peace and his ascetic life has contributed of him becoming a global symbol. He gained the nickname Mahatma, which in Sanskrit means great soul. He was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, on the western coast of India. His father, as his grandfather, was a local governor of the city, his mother was his fourth wife, the previous had died in childbirth. The family followed a local religious movement that advocated the principle of non-injury to living beings, vegetarianism and fasting as a method of self-purification and tolerance among religions and castes. In 1876 they moved to Rajkot and his father chose for him a wife, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Seven years later, in May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas married the 14-year-old Kasturbai. In 1885 they had a son who died on birth and in the following years they had 4 sons. In 1888 he went to study law in London, despite the opposite opinion of the leaders of his cast who wanted him to stay and take his father’s place –who had died by then- in their society. In London he was impressed by the English life style but he didn’t adopt it; he joined the vegetarian club of London, lived a simple life with little money, read a lot. He returned to India in 1891 to learn that his mother had just died. From the beginning of his return he sensed a coldness from the people of his cast for he had gone to England against their leaders will. He went briefly to Mumbai with his family but didn’t stay long, returned to his town; trying to work as a lawyer.

In 1893 he accepted a proposal to be the legal representative for an Indian company in South Africa, so in April he set off first to Natal and then to Pretoria. From the beginning of his stay he feels deeply in his skin the racial discrimination and apartheid; he was thrown out of the court at his first appear because he refused to take off his traditional turban, he then was thrown out of the train to Pretoria because he had bought first class ticket but first class was forbidden for non-whites, then he was bitten by a bus driver when he wanted to sit while sitting was allowed only to whites. Mahatma grew determined to fight injustice. With articles, speeches, letters to international organizations and the government he complained about white’s behavior and asked for equal rights to everyone. He soon became the representative of the 150,000 Hindus in southern Africa. He was to stay only for one year in southern Africa, but the events had overcome him and his fellow countrymen convinced him not to abandon them. So instead of him going back, he went to India and brought his family back. He stayed twenty years in South Africa, defending the rights of his countrymen and people in general. In 1899 during the Boer War, Mahatma organized a unit of the Red Cross and treated the wounded of both sides. After the war he settled in Johannesburg and opened a law office, issued a paper entitled "Indian Opinion" and was recognized as the representative of all Hindus in South Africa. When in 1904 a plague epidemic broke out, he left all the other activities and organized hospitals to fight the disease. After that he founded an agricultural colony that everyone involved was absolutely equal, had a piece of land and shared equally all income. In 1906 during the English war against the Zulu felt appalled by the atrocities of the British, it was then and then starts the idea of Satyagraha=devotion to the truth, 'ahimsa' = resistance without violence, also he gave a vow of chastity, in order to work undisturbed for the good of humanity. When the South African authorities request all Hindus to have with them an identity pass, a humiliating thing that separated them from other citizens, Mahatma implemented the practice of non-violence, just not obeying the law and allowed to be captured. The prisons were filled with Hindus, among them Gandhi, the government came to a deadlock and was forced to promise the withdrawal of the law. His tactic made Gandhi famous all over the world. The following years the South African government imposed a poll tax to all Hindu workers who wanted to remain in the country after the ending of the five-year work contract they had and also canceled the non Christian marriages, declaring all Hindu marriages invalid and their children illegitimate. A great strike starts and a peaceful march of 6000 people. The pioneers were captured, Gandhi first of all. In 1914, after years of struggles and strikes and peaceful marches, the South African government subsides, abolished the poll tax and recognize the Hindu marriages as legal. Mahatma took his family and returned to India.

He was welcomed as a prominent figure in India, for three years he wasn’t involved in politics, he only wandered the country from end to end talking to ordinary people. When the British promoted a legislation stating that anyone can be jailed without evidence as suspect of rebellion, Gandhi put in place the resistance without violence plan, organizing big strikes and peaceful protests. The reaction was murderous. In a peaceful sitting demonstration of 10,000 people, the British opened fire; they killed 400 people and wounded more than 1500, Gandhi was forced to suspend the strike. His next move was to boycott all English products. It was then that he adopted the white clothes and in a symbolic gesture he gathered and burn at 08.01.1921 many European textiles and clothing. A wave o f excitement was sweeping whole of India, the colonists responded with arrests. In February 1922 Gandhi sent an ultimatum to the regent asking autonomy for India within 15 days. At that point some small groups of people disagreed with the non violent plan and fought the English police, in an incident they burned 18 people. The British responded with violence and arrests. Gandhi was accused of being responsible for the attacks against the police; he was sentenced to six years imprisonment. He was released after two years, when he had a surgery for appendicitis. For the following year he lived away from politics, in a commune. When the government doubles the tax on salt Gandhi declared a nationwide disobedience course, and he started a long peaceful walk of 390 km during which he asked not to be heard any hostile voice, only words of faith and prayer. More than 60000 people were captured filling all prisons. They continued fighting with hunger strikes, protests, boycott of English products and services. Gandhi was giving battles not only with the colonizers but also for the rights of the lower classes of India, children of God as he called them, 85% of whom were illiterate and had fewer rights than the rest citizens. With the outbreak of the Second World War the British preventively arrested all members of the Indian Congress. The people manifested in wild riots, the slogan «Quit India» echoed all over the country, Hindu asked for complete independence. Gandhi in his prison went on a hunger strike, his wife died in that same prison. By the end of the war India won its independence, however, a new problem surfaced. Muslims were asking for a separate state, Gandhi strongly opposed to such a view, in protest he didn’t take part in the celebrations. Violence erupted between Muslims and Hindus, he started a new hunger strike –his 20th- in an attempt to pacify the people of India. He stopped the strike only when the leaders of the opponents assured him that there will find a peaceful solution. A few days later, during his prayer, he survived from an attempt with a grenade but on January 30, 1948, he was killed by a Hindu Brahmin who approached him while walking and shot him on the chest.