Who was Mahatma Gandhi?


wiseGEEK Writing Contest

Mahatma Gandhi a freedom fighter whose philosophy of non-violence won India its freedom from colonial rule was born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2, 1869 at Porbandar, on the western coast of India.

A mediocre student the only highlight of his childhood was his marriage to Kasturbai which happened when he was thirteen years old. The first experience which converted Mohandas into a `Mahatma’ (enlightened soul) happened when he was practicing law in South Africa. When he boarded a train in the first class compartment, there were objections and he was ordered to shift to a third class compartment. When he refused he was pushed out of the train and his luggage taken away. That night, as he sat shivering in the cold, his desire was to go back to his country. But Gandhi decided to stay back and fight.

He came back to India but only after he had garnered the vast community of Indians to fight apartheid. While he fought this battle for the rights of human beings irrespective of their race, breed cast or color, Gandhi’s personality began undergoing subtle changes. A man who till then took pride in dressing like the Britishers, decided that for him to go after the higher goals in life would call for self discipline. It started with simple activities like learning to cut his own hair and laundering his clothes. From there he moved on to the task of washing his toilet. This at a time when caste system was rampant in India and a person who belonged to a higher caste would get someone from the lower caste or an `untouchable’ as he was called, to wash his toilet!

He returned to India, but the `Mahatma’ in him was already emerging. His hometown was plague ridden and Gandhi taught the people the importance of cleanliness. He went around cleaning public toilets and named the lower caste people as `Harijans’ literally translated this word means “God’s people”.

He saw that India had become a colony of the Britishers and he began a war of non-violence. His famous Salt Satyagraha where he fought the tax on salt by walking to the beaches to produce salt, his Dandi march, his frequent trips into and out of prison, saw him evolving more and more. A day in every week would see him observing total silence. He shed his clothes for the simple loin cloth which the poorest of Indians wore. He lived on goat’s milk and peanuts - the food of the poor.

India got her freedom but Gandhi’s troubles were far from over. He wished the Hindus and Muslims to live together in harmony but his efforts in that direction saw his death. His last words were “Hey Ram”.