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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: Rediscovering the Power of Ahimsha (Non-Violence) to the World as a Father of Indian Nation


3D Picture of Gandhiji created by me (Manash Kundu)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi:


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi  ( 2 October 1869– 30 January 1948)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi  ( 2 October 1869– 30 January 1948), commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.

The son of a senior government official, Gandhi was born and raised in a Hindu Bania community in coastal Gujarat, and trained in law in London. Gandhi became famous by fighting for the civil rights of Muslim and Hindu Indians in South Africa, using the new techniques of non-violent civil disobedience that he developed. Returning to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants to protest excessive land-taxes. A lifelong opponent of "communalism" (i.e. basing politics on religion) he reached out widely to all religious groups. He became a leader of Muslims protesting the declining status of the Caliphate. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, increasing economic self-reliance, and above all for achieving Swaraj—the independence of India from British domination.

3D Picture of Gandhiji created by me (Manash Kundu)


Gandhi led Indians in protesting the national salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in demanding the British to immediately Quit India in 1942, during World War II. He was imprisoned for that and for numerous other political offenses over the years. Gandhi sought to practice non-violence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. He saw the villages as the core of the true India and promoted self-sufficiency; he did not support the industrialization programs of his disciple Jawaharlal Nehru. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn he had hand spun on a charkha. His chief political enemy in Britain was Winston Churchill,who ridiculed him as a "half-naked fakir." He was a dedicated vegetarian, and undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and political mobilization.

In his last year, unhappy at the partition of India, Gandhi worked to stop the carnage between Muslims on the one hand and Hindus and Sikhs that raged in the border area between India and Pakistan. He was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by a Hindu nationalist who thought Gandhi was too sympathetic to India's Muslims. 30 January is observed as Martyrs' Day in India. The honorific Mahatma ("Great Soul"), was applied to him by 1914. In India he was also called Bapu ("Father"). He is known in India as the Father of the Nation; his birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi's philosophy was not theoretical but one of pragmatism, that is, practicing his principles in real time. Asked to give a message to the people, he would respond, "My life is my message.

From His extraordinary autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth:


His extraordinary autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Gandhi later recorded the early years of his life in his extraordinary autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. His father died before Gandhi could finish his schooling, and at thirteen he was married to Kasturba [or Kasturbai], who was of the same age as Mohandas himself . In 1888 Gandhi set sail for England, where he had decided to pursue a degree in law. Though his elders objected, Gandhi could not be prevented from leaving; and it is said that his mother, a devout woman, made him promise that he would keep away from wine, women, and meat during his stay abroad. Gandhi left behind his son Harilal, then a few months old.

In London, Gandhi encountered theosophists, vegetarians, and others who were disenchanted not only with industrialism, but with the legacy of Enlightenment thought. They themselves represented the fringe elements of English society. Gandhi was powerfully attracted to them, as he was to the texts of the major religious traditions; and ironically it is in London that he was introduced to the Bhagavad Gita. Here, too, Gandhi showed determination and single-minded pursuit of his purpose, and accomplished his objective of finishing his degree from the Inner Temple. He was called to the bar in 1891, and even enrolled in the High Court of London; but later that year he left for India.

Gandhiji in South Africa:


Gandhiji in South Africa

After one year of a none too successful law practice, Gandhi decided to accept an offer from an Indian businessman in South Africa, Dada Abdulla, to join him as a legal adviser. Unbeknown to him, this was to become an exceedingly lengthy stay, and altogether Gandhi was to stay in South Africa for over twenty years. The Indians who had been living in South Africa were without political rights, and were generally known by the derogatory name of 'coolies'. 

Gandhi decided to accept an offer from an Indian businessman in South Africa, Dada Abdulla, to join him as a legal adviser

Gandhi himself came to an awareness of the frightening force and fury of European racism, and how far Indians were from being considered full human beings, when he when thrown out of a first-class railway compartment car, though he held a first-class ticket, at Pietermaritzburg. From this political awakening Gandhi was to emerge as the leader of the Indian community, and it is in South Africa that he first coined the term satyagraha to signify his theory and practice of non-violent resistance. Gandhi was to describe himself preeminently as a votary or seeker of satya (truth), which could not be attained other than through ahimsa (non-violence, love) and brahmacharya (celibacy, striving towards God). Gandhi conceived of his own life as a series of experiments to forge the use of satyagraha in such a manner as to make the oppressor and the oppressed alike recognize their common bonding and humanity: as he recognized, freedom is only freedom when it is indivisible. In his book Satyagraha in South Africa he was to detail the struggles of the Indians to claim their rights, and their resistance to oppressive legislation and executive measures, such as the imposition of a poll tax on them, or the declaration by the government that all non-Christian marriages were to be construed as invalid. In 1909, on a trip back to India, Gandhi authored a short treatise entitled Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, where he all but initiated the critique, not only of industrial civilization, but of modernity in all its aspects.

Gandhiji Became Mahatma (Great Soul) during freedom struggle of  India:

Gandhi returned to India in early 1915, and was never to leave the country again except for a short trip that took him to Europe in 1931. Though he was not completely unknown in India, Gandhi followed the advice of his political mentor, Gokhale, and took it upon himself to acquire a familiarity with Indian conditions. He traveled widely for one year. 

Gandhiji at Champaran in Bihar,

Over the next few years, he was to become involved in numerous local struggles, such as at Champaran in Bihar, where workers on indigo plantations complained of oppressive working conditions, and at Ahmedabad, where a dispute had broken out between management and workers at textile mills. His interventions earned Gandhi a considerable reputation, and his rapid ascendancy to the helm of nationalist politics is signified by his leadership of the opposition to repressive legislation (known as the "Rowlatt Acts") in 1919. 

Gandhiji With Rabindranath Tagore

His saintliness was not uncommon, except in someone like him who immersed himself in politics, and by this time he had earned from no less a person than Rabindranath Tagore, India's most well-known writer, the title of Mahatma, or 'Great Soul'. 

Non-cooperation movement, which called upon Indians to withdraw from British institutions,

When 'disturbances' broke out in the Punjab, leading to the massacre of a large crowd of unarmed Indians at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar and other atrocities, Gandhi wrote the report of the Punjab Congress Inquiry Committee. Over the next two years, Gandhi initiated the non-cooperation movement, which called upon Indians to withdraw from British institutions, to return honors conferred by the British, and to learn the art of self-reliance; though the British administration was at places paralyzed, the movement was suspended in February 1922 when a score of Indian policemen were brutally killed by a large crowd at Chauri Chaura, a small market town in the United Provinces. Gandhi himself was arrested shortly thereafter, tried on charges of sedition, and sentenced to imprisonment for six years. At The Great Trial, as it is known to his biographers, Gandhi delivered a masterful indictment of British rule.

Gandhiji`s Movement for  National Unity:

Owing to his poor health, Gandhi was released from prison in 1925. Over the following years, he worked hard to preserve Hindu-Muslim relations, and in 1924 he observed, from his prison cell, a 21-day fast when Hindu-Muslim riots broke out at Kohat, a military barracks on the Northwest Frontier. This was to be of his many major public fasts, and in 1932 he was to commence the so-called Epic Fast unto death, since he thought of "separate electorates" for the oppressed class of what were then called untouchables (or Harijans in Gandhi's vocabulary, and dalits in today's language) as a retrograde measure meant to produce permanent divisions within Hindu society. 

Gandhi earned the hostility of Ambedkar, the leader of the untouchables

Gandhi earned the hostility of Ambedkar, the leader of the untouchables, but few doubted that Gandhi was genuinely interested in removing the serious disabilities from which they suffered, just as no one doubt that Gandhi never accepted the argument that Hindus and Muslims constituted two separate elements in Indian society. These were some of the concerns most prominent in Gandhi's mind, but he was also to initiate a constructive programme for social reform. Gandhi had ideas -- mostly sound -- on every subject, from hygiene and nutrition to education and labor, and he relentlessly pursued his ideas in one of the many newspapers which he founded. Indeed, were Gandhi known for nothing else in India, he would still be remembered as one of the principal figures in the history of Indian journalism.

Gandhiji`s Dandi Salt Movement:

In early 1930, as the nationalist movement was revived, the Indian National Congress, the preeminent body of nationalist opinion, declared that it would now be satisfied with nothing short of complete independence (purna swaraj). Once the clarion call had been issued, it was perforce necessary to launch a movement of resistance against British rule. On March 2, Gandhi addressed a letter to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, informing him that unless Indian demands were met, he would be compelled to break the "salt laws". 

Gandhiji`s Dandi Salt Movement

Predictably, his letter was received with bewildered amusement, and accordingly Gandhi set off, on the early morning of March 12, with a small group of followers towards Dandi on the sea. They arrived there on April 5th: Gandhi picked up a small lump of natural salt, and so gave the signal to hundreds of thousands of people to similarly defy the law, since the British exercised a monopoly on the production and sale of salt. 

Gandhiji`s Dandi Salt Movement

This was the beginning of the civil disobedience movement: Gandhi himself was arrested, and thousands of others were also hauled into jail. It is to break this deadlock that Irwin agreed to hold talks with Gandhi, and subsequently the British agreed to hold a Round Table Conference in London to negotiate the possible terms of Indian independence. Gandhi went to London in 1931 and met some of his admirers in Europe, but the negotiations proved inconclusive. On his return to India, he was once again arrested.

constructive reform of Indian society:

For the next few years, Gandhi would be engaged mainly in the constructive reform of Indian society. 

abarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad

He had vowed upon undertaking the salt march that he would not return to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, where he had made his home, if India did not attain its independence, and in the mid-1930s he established himself in a remote village, in the dead center of India, by the name of Segaon [known as Sevagram]. It is to this obscure village, which was without electricity or running water, that India's political leaders made their way to engage in discussions with Gandhi about the future of the independence movement, and it is here that he received visitors such as Margaret Sanger, the well-known American proponent of birth-control. Gandhi also continued to travel throughout the country, taking him wherever his services were required.

Ideological Difference With Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose:


Gandhiji with Netaji

One such visit was to the Northwest Frontier, where he had in the imposing Pathan, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (known by the endearing term of "Frontier Gandhi", and at other times as Badshah [King] Khan), a fervent disciple. At the outset of World War II, Gandhi and the Congress leadership assumed a position of neutrality: while clearly critical of fascism, they could not find it in themselves to support British imperialism. Gandhi was opposed by Subhas Chandra Bose, who had served as President of the Congress, and who took to the view that Britain's moment of weakness was India's moment of opportunity. When Bose ran for President of the Congress against Gandhi's wishes and triumphed against Gandhi's own candidate, he found that Gandhi still exercised influence over the Congress Working Committee, and that it was near impossible to run the Congress if the cooperation of Gandhi and his followers could not be procured. Bose tendered his resignation, and shortly thereafter was to make a dramatic escape from India to find support among the Japanese and the Nazis for his plans to liberate India.

Gandhi's Call for Quit India:


Gandhi's Call for Quit India

Sir Stafford Cripps left the country amidst unprecedented excitement. Immediately after the return of Sir Stafford Cripps, Gandhi announced 'Quit India' as the war cry for the Indians. To quote Gandhi, "The presence of the British in India is an invitation to Japan to invade India. Their withdrawal removes that bait............". Gandhi realized that the time was ripe to take some strong and quick actions. He wrote a series of articles in Harijan where he urged the people to rise in action. He was in favor of resorting to direct action. In order to give effect to the Mahatma's views, The Congress Working Committee adopted the well known 'Quit India' Resolution, on July 14th 1942 at Wardha. The All India Congress Committee accepted this resolution with some modifications, on 8th August, 1942 in Bombay.

9th August, eminent Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawarharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad were arrested


The very next day, on 9th August, eminent Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawarharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad were arrested. The masses were left without any guidance. Gandhi's 'do or die' call for the people created an upheaval in the country. But at the same time, Gandhi mentioned specifically that mass movement should be conducted following non violent means. The Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, adopted a policy of harsh repression all over the country and gory instances of British atrocities abounded all over. This ruined the atmosphere of non violence in the country. Unlike the other two movements, the Non-Co-Operation and the Civil Disobedience Movement that unleashed under the aegis of Mahatma Gandhi, the Quit India Movement captures the quintessence of a 'spontaneous' rising by the people.

The Quit India Movement, inaugurated at the call of the Mahatma, unfolded in four phases. In the first phase there were strikes, processions, demonstrations and processions. This phase lasted for a period of three to four days and commenced from the day of Gandhi's arrest on August 9th , 1942. The factory and mill workers rose to the cause and displayed maximum vigor and enthusiasm. The government took recourse to repressive measures to subdue the movement. In an incident of open fire in Bombay, the casualties included large number of women and children.

Raids of municipal and government buildings characterized the second phase of the movement. Police stations, post offices and railway stations were attacked and set ablaze. Attempts were made by the agitated mobs to capture court buildings. Troops fired to control mob fury. September 1942, marks the beginning of the third phase of the movement. It is said that during this phase of the movement, the mob threw bombs on the police in Madhya Pradesh, Bombay and Uttar Pradesh. With the emergence of the movement into the fourth phase, it gained back its peaceful character and extended till Mahatma Gandhi was released from prison in May, 1944.

Quit India movement was Gandhi's final bid to secure India's independence. Although, many diverse political ideologies crowded the scenario of Indian National Movement at that time, yet it was the satyagraha adopted by Gandhi that finally had the most telling effect in challenging the British authorities. India was at the very threshold of Independence by the end of the Quit India movement and Gandhi's long cherished dream was about to be realized. Quit India movement sealed the success for satyagraha as a policy of political resistance, and Gandhi's role as the chief moving force behind India's Independence came to be universally accepted, although dark clouds of a communal fissure still lurked in the background.


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (often called Mahatma Gandhi) was assassinated on 30 January 1948, shot at point-blank range by Nathuram Godse. Prior to his death, there had been five unsuccessful attempts to kill Gandhi, the first occurring in 1934. Gandhi was outside on the steps of a building where a prayer meeting was going to take place. He was surrounded by a part of his family and some followers when three gunshots killed him.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (often called Mahatma Gandhi) was assassinated on 30 January 1948, shot at point-blank range by Nathuram Godse


Day of assassination

Godse killed Gandhi on January 30, 1948. He approached Gandhi on the way to a prayer meeting and bowed. A girl accompanying Gandhi told Godse, "Brother, Bapu is already late" and tried to put him off, but Godse pushed her aside and shot Gandhi three times at point-blank range in the chest with a .38 Beretta semi-automatic pistol.

Gandhi's last words

The First Information Report (FIR) filed by Shri Nand Lal Mehta shows that the last words of Gandhi were Hey Raam. There has been no explanation of why he was not rushed to the hospital and was instead taken to Birla House, where he later died

3D Picture of Gandhiji and Charkha created by me (Mansh Kundu)


The Gandhian concept of the charkha:

The Gandhian concept of the charkha was a symbol of self-entrepreneurship, which alone can help the nation protect its bio-diversity and provide sustenance to the poorest of the poor

Today, when everything is creating disillusionment, people are being drawn to violence. Only Gandhian thoughts can equip the present and the future generations to deal with it without committing violence on themselves.

Gandhi picked the charkha (spinning wheel) because the British colonial rule was wiping out India's textile production. Today's colonization is around patenting of life, genetic manipulation of food, monopolies over water, seeds, plants and animals.

3D Picture of Gandhiji and Charkha created by me (Mansh Kundu)


Organic farming as a nonviolent system:

The present model of development is based on taking away the little the poor have for consumption of the rich. There is a new project sponsored by a multinational, Swayze, to cater to the wasteful needs of Delhi's public.

About 650 million litres of water will be diverted to Delhi through giant-sized pipelines, while thousands of people are being drowned at Tehri and an equal number of farmers in western Uttar Pradesh lose their crops.

So you wipe out the civilisation that has existed for ten thousand years so that for two years Delhites can wash three more cars and flush their toilets!

So, the choice for these people is not between self-reliance and development. It is self-reliance or annihilation. I believe everyone has a right to live.

Gandhi's diet was based on a principle that is good for the soil, the producer and the consumer. It produces sustainability and livelihood and is good for health.

A violent diet destroys the bio-diversity and uproots the farmers. Gandhi had a clear criteria on testing technology and it can be referred to his talisman that anyone who ignores the general masses is not technologically progressive, but humanly regressive.

What is called the economics of abundance is economics of scarcity. The Green Revolution was supposed to create abundance but has destroyed one-third of the land in Punjab. It has destroyed the water resources and wiped off thousands of farmers.

The 'economy of scarcity' is an economy viewed from the blinkers of the monoculture mind who only see what the rich and the powerful can extract. They do not see the wealth in the eco-system.

Gandhi encouraged self-entrepreneurship. Navdanya promotes it. We work with farmers to acquaint them with bio-diversity. This generates better income, because of diversity of crops.

Poster of Gandhi (film)


Gandhi (film):

Gandhi is a 1982 biographical film based on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who led the nonviolent resistance movement against British colonial rule in India during the first half of the 20th century. The film was directed and produced by Sir Richard Attenborough and stars Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. They both won Academy Awards for their work on the film, and the film also won the award for Best Picture, winning eight Academy Awards in total.

It was an international co-production between production companies in India and the UK. The film premiered in New Delhi on 30 November 1982.

Gandhi`s Famous Quotation

Gandhi`s Famous Quotation:

"I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?
Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."


 Vaishnov Jan to taynay kahyeeye
Jay peerh paraaye janneyray
Par dukkhey upkar karey teeyey,
man abhiman na anney ray

Sakal lokma Sahuney bandhey,
Ninda Na karye kainee ray
Baach kaachh, Man nischal Raakhey,
dhan-dhan jananee tainee ray

Samdrishi nay trishna tyagee,
par-stree jaynay mat ray
Vivihva thaki asatya na bolay,
par-dhan nav jhaley haath ray

Moh maaya vyaayey nahin Jeynay,
dridth vairagya jana manma ray
Ram-nam-shoom taalee laagee,
Sakal teerth seyna tanma ray

Vanloohee nay kapat rahit chhay,
Kaam, Krodh nivarya ray
Bhane Narsinhyo tainoo darshan karta
kul ekotair taarya re.

3D Picture of Gandhiji created by me (Manash Kundu)

3D Picture of Gandhiji and Charkha created by me (Mansh Kundu)

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