Biography of Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2nd 1869, in a town near Bombay. He was born into a family of six children and he was the youngest. His father’s profession was an advisor to one of the states in Gujarat province. His mother was uneducated.
Gandhi married Kasturba at the age of thirteen. The marriage affected his schooling, but soon he was able to catch up. His father died when he was in Grade 10(Indian education system). He was the first person to complete a high school education. Gandhi then attended a college, failed to succeed and dropped out after three months. A family friend advised Gandhi that, in order to be a Barrister in India, he would have to complete a B.A degree. He decided to go to England. His brother sold some of the family land and his wife sold most of her jewellery to raise funds for his ticket.
After obtaining his mother’s consent, Gandhi left India on September 1888, at the age of 18.
In London, Gandhi was able to complete his law course. In 1891 he returned to India with the Barrister’s title and tried to build his own law practice. He did not have enough money to begin his practice in Bombay. In May 1893, at the age of 23, Gandhi accepted an offer to work in South Africa as a lawyer.
Gandhi experienced racial discrimination for the first time when he was removed from a railway carriage because the South African Railway did not allow coloured people to travel first class.
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This incident greatly affected him. He called a meeting of the local East Indians and decided to represent their right to have fair
treatment in the courts. Gandhi worked hard to get rid of discrimination and to educate Indians to become better citizens.
Gandhi came up with the idea of Satyagraha, which meant using non- violence. The leaders in India were paying attention to Gandhi’s work in South Africa and had been asking him to return to India to work with them. In 1915, at the age of 45, Gandhi returned to India. He travelled all over India for one year without making any public comment, so that he could see for himself what was happening.
At that time Gandhi believed that the British Empire was good for the welfare of the people of India. In 1919, the British ordered mass destruction in the Punjab, during which many people were killed and injured. This made Gandhi turn against the British Empire. He decided to fight for the independence of India.
Gandhi started educating millions of Indians to grow their own food, weave their own clothes, and run their own schools, hospitals, railways, courts, police system and many other services.
He also taught them the need for unity of the different religions, languages and castes. He tried to encourage his people to move away from foreign materials and foreign help without using violence of any kind. Gandhi experienced success in 1930, when he challenged the British government saying that he would disregard the Salt Tax, if it was not withdrawn within the following ten days. The government ignored his threat. Gandhi carried out his defiance by marching 241 miles, on foot, in twenty four days. He was breaking the law publicly. Then, for the first time, the British Empire consented to talk with the people of India about granting them independence.
Gandhi was seen as the sole representative of the people.
Gandhi held a series of talks with the Viceroy in India and also attended conferences in London. For the next 16 years the British Empire used many techniques to stop India gaining independence and at times sent thousands of people to jail. Slowly they were losing their grip on India. Gandhi himself was jailed for almost 7 years during his life time. He used the time to write his papers. Several times his newspapers were banned and the machines burned, but the government discovered that this created great public disturbance. The government found Gandhi to be a greater threat when he was imprisoned.
Finally, on August 5th, 1947, 31 years after Gandhi joined the struggle, India was granted independence.
Towards the end of his life, Gandhi considered himself as a
failure, because he was unable to keep the Hindus and Muslims united. The country was divided into India and Pakistan. Many people were killed at the uncontrolled crossings near the borders. To bring sanity to his people, he undertook another fast. He achieved his goal. All the killings stopped throughout the land. However, some Hindus felt that Gandhi had become too powerful and was giving away everything to Pakistan. On January 30th, 1948, ten days after his last fast, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu, who believed that Gandhi had been supporting the Muslims too much, at the expense of the Hindus.
Many world leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the United States and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, have successfully employed Gandhi’s technique of non-violence to achieve great success in their own political struggles.
Gandhi was a great man. He fought for independence for India in a time when racism was rife. Western politicians assumed that an Indian leader was inferior and should do as he was told; Gandhi taught them a lesson. Gandhi and his follower, Nehru, were the great architects of modern India.
Gandhi was not perfect – his idea that India should rely on a traditional ‘cottage industry’ was unrealistic. He was a man with human flaws, but he was one of the great leaders of the twentieth century.
I have chosen this leader as the basis of my biography because I think his life and politics were interesting. I admire his leadership of the Indian people and the achievements he made during his lifetime. The part I most admire was his policy of non-violence. Gandhi was a man of peace until he fell at the hands of a violent assassin. His death was particularly distressing as it was such a violent one as he was trying to get rid of violence.
Even people today say Gandhi was a wonderful man and brought hope and freedom to the people of India. He will always be remembered for his exceptional leadership, qualities and commitment to non-violence. Gandhi will also be remembered for his physical appearance. He was a slender figure, draped in a simple loin cloth. He was identified as the poorest peasant. He sometimes wore rimless glasses perched on the end of his hooked nose.
In 1982, was the release of the film “GANDHI.” In the film Ben Kingsley plays Gandhi. Ben Kingsley excels as the unassuming hero who leads his countrymen to freedom from British rule using peaceful means.
Richard Attenborough (the director of the film) guides his audience on a tour through Gandhi’s life, from his first brush with British imperialism when he is ousted from South African train for being a “black” lawyer, to his hunger strikes (fasts) which led to India’s peaceful protests against the British and ends with Gandhi’s assassination.