Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Gujrat, India.
On 15 August 1947, he and his followers forced the British to leave India. Rightfully, he is called the father of the nation.
His full name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He is known as Mahatma, meaning 'great soul', because of his work on non-violence, satyagrah and selfless service to his people.
Gandhi spent 20 years in South Africa working to fight discrimination. It was there that he created his concept of satyagraha, a non-violent way of protesting against injustices. While in India, Gandhi's obvious virtue, simplistic lifestyle, and minimal dress endeared him to the people. He spent his remaining years working diligently to both remove British rule from India as well as to better the lives of India's poorest classes. Many civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., used Gandhi's concept of non-violent protest as a model for their own struggles.
Gandhiji influenced both nationalist and internationalist movements and brought the cause of India's independence from British colonial rule to world attention. Gandhiji's principle of satyagraha (from Sanskrit satya: truth, and graha: grasp/hold), has also inspired other democratic activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon and the 14th Dalai Lama.
In September 1888, at age 18, Gandhi left India, without his wife and newborn son, in order to study to become a barrister (lawyer) in London. Attempting to fit into English society, Gandhi spent his first three months in London attempting to make himself into an English gentleman by buying new suits, fine-tuning his English accent, learning French, and taking violin and dance lessons. After three months of these expensive endeavors, Gandhi decided they were a waste of time and money. He then cancelled all of these classes and spent the remainder of his three-year stay in London being a serious student and living a very simple lifestyle.
In addition to learning to live a very simple and frugal lifestyle, Gandhi discovered his life-long passion for vegetarianism while in England. Although most of the other Indian students ate meat while they were in England, Gandhi was determined not to do so, in part because he had vowed to his mother that he would stay a vegetarian. In his search for vegetarian restaurants, Gandhi found and joined the London Vegetarian Society. The Society consisted of an intellectual crowd who introduced Gandhi to different authors, such as Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy. It was also through members of the Society that Gandhi began to really read the Bhagavad Gita, an epic poem which is considered a sacred text to Hindus. The new ideas and concepts that he learned from these books set the foundation for his later beliefs.
Gandhi successfully passed the bar on June 10, 1891 and sailed back to India two days later. For the next two years, Gandhi attempted to practice law in India. Unfortunately, Gandhi found that he lacked both knowledge of Indian law and self-confidence at trial. When he was offered a year-long position to take a case in South Africa, he was thankful for the opportunity.
Gandhi in South Africa
At age 23, Gandhi once again left his family behind and set off for South Africa, arriving in British-governed Natal in May 1893. Although Gandhi was hoping to earn a little bit of money and to learn more about law, it was in South Africa that Gandhi transformed from a very quiet and shy man to a resilient and potent leader against discrimination. The beginning of this transformation occurred during a business trip taken shortly after his arrival in South Africa.
Gandhi had only been in South Africa for about a week when he was asked to take the long trip from Natal to the capital of the Dutch-governed Transvaal province of South Africa for his case. It was to be a several day trip, including transportation by train and by stagecoach. When Gandhi boarded the first train of his journey at the Pietermartizburg station, railroad officials told Gandhi that he needed to transfer to the third-class passenger car. When Gandhi, who was holding first-class passenger tickets, refused to move, a policeman came and threw him off the train.
That was not the last of the injustices Gandhi suffered on this trip. As Gandhi talked to other Indians in South Africa (derogatorily called "coolies"), he found that his experiences were most definitely not isolated incidents but rather, these types of situations were common. During that first night of his trip, sitting in the cold of the railroad station after being thrown off the train, Gandhi contemplated whether he should go back home to India or to fight the discrimination. After much thought, Gandhi decided that he could not let these injustices continue and that he was going to fight to change these discriminatory practices.
He spent his remaining years working diligently to both remove British rule from India as well as to better the lives of India's poorest classes. Many civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., used Gandhi's concept of non-violent protest as a model for their own struggles.
The title of ‘Mahatma’ (Sanskrit term of reverence ‘mahatman’ meaning ‘one of great soul’) was accorded on Gandhiji in 1915 by his admirer Rabindranath Tagore (the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature). It was given in response to Gandhiji conferring the title of "Gurudev" (great teacher) upon Tagore.
Unfortunately, not everyone was happy with this peace plan. There were a few radical Hindu groups who believed that India should never have been partitioned. In part, they blamed Gandhi for the separation.
On January 30, 1948, the 78-year-old Gandhi spent his last day as he had many others. The majority of the day was spent discussing issues with various groups and individuals. At a few minutes past 5 p.m., when it was time for the prayer meeting, Gandhi began the walk to Birla House. A crowd had surrounded him as he walked, being supported by two of his grandnieces. In front of him, a young Hindu named Nathuram Godse stopped before him and bowed. Gandhi bowed back. Then Godse rushed forward and shot Gandhi three times with a black, semi-automatic pistol. Although Gandhi had survived five other assassination attempts, this time, Gandhi fell to the ground, dead.