Short Biography on Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, often referred to as Mahatma Gandhi, was an Indian politician. After completing his law studies, Gandhi left for South Africa, where he worked for the Indian population.
Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, a village in the state of Gujarat India. He was the son of Karamchand Gandhi, the Diwan, (Prime Minister) of Porbandar Province. His mother, Putlibai, was Karamchand’s fourth wife. His first three wives had died in childbirth. Gandhi was raised on the principle of Ahimsa, meaning ‘not to hurt all beings’. He was also a vegetarian. In May 1883, 14-year-old Kasurbai Makhanji was married off to 13-year-old Mahatma as was the custom of the region. Mahatma would criticize this child marriage, a common phenomenon that still exists, later in his works. Of the wedding day itself, he once said: “We didn’t know much about marriage. For us it just meant wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with family members. ‘ In 1885, when Gandhi was 15, their first child was born, but the child survived only a few days. Ultimately, the couple had four children. Earlier that year, Karamchand, Gandhi’s father, passed away.
Gandhi was a good student at the University of Bombay and was known for his justice. At the age of 19 he left by boat for England to study law at the University of London. England disappointed him. Not only because he was lonely, but also because it was almost impossible for him to live up to his customs, such as being a vegetarian. Still, he wanted to belong and adjusted his clothes in the style that was fashionable at the time.
In 1891 he graduated as a lawyer at the age of 22. Once back in India, he found out that his mother had died, which really affected him. He tried to work for a law firm, but had little success. A wealthy Indian businessman offered Gandhi to work in Natal, a province in South Africa, which Gandhi accepted. In the end, Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa.
The period in South Africa contributed much to his view. The whites ruled and treated negroes and Indians with contempt. Gandhi was once thrown off the train because he refused to sit in third class with his first-class ticket. Gandhi did not accept that and sued, won, and was allowed to travel first class next time.
In 1894 he co-founded the Natal Indian Congress. Congress sought to defend the rights of the Indians who worked in large numbers as indentured servants in South Africa and to prevent them from losing their right to vote. He became a leader of South Africa’s Indian community and ran a thriving law practice. Three years later he picked up his wife and children in India. However, a hostile crowd awaited them at the dock and tried to kill Gandhi. By intervention of the police, he made it out alive.
During the Second Boer War in South Africa between the British and the Boers, (the white African-speaking inhabitants of South Africa), Gandhi supported the British by setting up an ambulance corps. This consisted entirely of volunteers. Gandhi was of the opinion that India could only get its emancipation through the British. Despite the English appreciation for voluntary work, the position of the Indians in South Africa deteriorated considerably after this war.
In 1906 Gandhi introduced the concept of “Satyagraha” love to the truth. Repairing the truth, not by hurting the opponent, but by enduring pain yourself. Patience and sympathy had to dissuade the opponent from his mistake. He organized actions around nonviolent violation of laws, collective arrests, refusal to cooperate with the government, boycotts and spectacular marches. Gandhi thought it important to be poor because only then could you attain spiritual wealth. After all, if you were rich you had to think about your property. He gave up his luxury and wore a white self-spun “Dhoti”, a shawl and simple sandals.
At the age of 45 he returned with his family to India where he was most welcomed. India wanted to become independent from England and the people hoped that Gandhi would help them. Gandhi decided to oppose the British government. This battle lasted 28 years. Many times Gandhi went on hunger strike to achieve his goals and held talks for hours on end.
Much cottage industry had disappeared in India because the British textile mills in England made Indian cotton. Gandhi encouraged the people to spin their own clothes again. This would reduce poverty. Gandhi was concerned about the dirty streets. He traveled all over India to meet and address the population. Still, Gandhi couldn’t control everyone, as fires started regularly in British shops. Gandhi was captured several times in his life and spent many years in prison. Sometimes for “rebellion against the government or because he refused to have fingerprints taken.
In 1945 England got a Labor government. This government was ready to give India its independence. In India arguments arose about who should become the new government of “Free India”. Conflicts arose between the Muslims and the Hindus because the Muslims wanted a separate Muslim state. Gandhi hated this news and did everything he could to stop the massacres between the two groups. On August 15, 1947, India became independent and India was split into a Hindu and a Muslim state (Pakistan).
In addition to friends, Gandhi had made enemies during his years of struggle. One of his biggest adversaries was the extremist Hindu Nuthuram Godse, leader of a conspiracy of seven men. In 1947 Nuthuram started preparing for an attack. He collected two pistols and five hand grenades. On January 20 they planned the first attack. The plan was to detonate the explosives during the evening prayer in Brila house and to kill Gandhi during the chaos. However, the henchmen disagreed as to who was given which task, and neither did the two pistols. Despite this, they continued their plans. The charge was detonated by Pagwa. The wall where Gandhi was praying nearby was destroyed by the blast. Gandhi was not fooled and said: “If we panic for nothing now, what should we do if something really happens.” Pagwa was arrested but his accomplices escaped.
On January 30, ten days after the first attack, Godse tried again. Gandhi spent the day in conversations and prayers as usual. After the sacrament, he and his two cousins, Abha and Manu, went to the evening prayer. A stout young man walked up to them and wanted to touch the feet of the Mahatma. Manu asked not to do this because they were late for prayer, but the man ignored her. As he leaned forward to Gandhi, he fired three bullets. One bullet hit Gandhi in the stomach and the other two in the chest. Gandhi collapsed and muttered, Hey Ram (Oh God).
The perpetrator was arrested and taken away. The trial of the conspirators lasted eight months. One of the conspirators was acquitted, another was jailed for seven years and four others were sentenced to life. Godse and another man were sentenced to death. On November 15, they were taken to the gallows and hanged for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi.