Saturday, September 28, 2013

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Gandhi did not make the facile division of mankind into "good" and "bad". He was convinced that every human being—even the "enemy" –had a kernel of decency: there were only evil acts, no wholly evil men. His technique of Satyagraha was designed not to coerce the opponent, but to set into motion forces which could lead to his conversion. Relying as it did on persuasion and compromise, Gandhi’s method was not always quick in producing results, but the results were likely to be the more durable for having been brought about peacefully. "It is my firm conviction," Gandhi affirmed, "that nothing enduring can be built upon violence. " The rate of social change through the non-violent technique was not in fact likely to be much slower than that achieved by violent methods; it was definitely faster than that expected from the normal functioning of institutions which tended to fossilize and preserve the status quo.
Gandhi did not think it possible to bring about radical changes in the structure of society overnight. Nor did he succumb to the illusion that the road to a new order could be paved merely with pious wishes and fine words. It was not enough to blame the opponent or bewail the times in which one’s lot was cast. However heavy the odds, it was the Satyagrahi’s duty never to feel helpless. The least he could do was to make a beginning with himself. If he was crusading for a new deal for peasantry, he could go to a village and live there, If he wanted to bring peace to a disturbed district, he could walk through it, entering into the minds and hearts of those who were going through the ordeal, If an age-old evil like untouchability was to be fought, what could be a more effective symbol of defiance for a reformer than to adopt an untouchable child? If the object was to challenge foreign rule, why not act on the assumption that the country was already free, ignore the alien government and build alternative institutions to harness the spontaneous, constructive and cooperative effort of the people? If the goal was world peace, why not begin today by acting peacefully towards the immediate neighbour, going more than half way to understand and win him over?
Though he may have appeared a starry-eyed idealist to so me, Gandhi’s attitude to social and political problems was severely practical. There was a deep mystical streak in him, but even his mysticism seemed to have little of the ethereal about it. He did not dream heavenly dreams nor see things unutterable in trance; when "the still small voice" spoke to him, it was often to tell how he could fight a social evil or heal a rift between two warring communities. Far from distracting him from his role in public affairs, Gandhi’s religious quest gave him the stamina to play it more effectively. To him true religion was not merely the reading of scriptures, the dissection of ancient texts, or even the practice of cloistered virtue: it had to be lived in the challenging context of political and social life.
Gandhi used his non-violent technique on behalf of his fellow-countrymen in South Africa and India, but he did not conceive it only as a weapon in the armoury of Indian nationalism. On the other hand, he fashioned it as an instrument for righting wrongs and resolving conflicts between opposing groups, races and nations. It is a strange paradox that though the stoutest and perhaps the most successful champion of the revolt against colonialism in our time, Gandhi was frees from the taint of narrow nationalism. As early as 1924, he had declared that "the better mind of the world desires today, not absolutely independent states, warring one against another, but a federation of independent, of friendly interdependent states".

biography of mahatma gandhi

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In January 1948, before three pistol shots put an end to his life, Gandhi had been on the political stage for more than fifty years. He had inspired two generations of India, patriots, shaken an empire and sparked off a revolution which was to change the face of Africa and Asia. To millions of his own people, he was the Mahatma- the great soul- whose sacred glimpse was a reward in itself. By the end of 1947 he had lived down much of the suspicion, ridicule and opposition which he had to face, when he first raised the banner of revolt against racial exclusiveness and imperial domination. His ideas, once dismissed as quaint and utopian ,had begun to strike answering chords in some of the finest minds in the world. "Generations to come, it may be", Einstein had said of Gandhi in July 1944, "will scarcely believe that such  one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon earth."
Though his life had been continual unfolding of an endless drama, Gandhi himself seemed the least dramatic of men. It would be difficult to imagine a man with fewer trappings of political eminence or with less of the popular image of a heroic figure. With his loin cloth, steel-rimmed glasses, rough sandals, a toothless smile and a voice which rarely rose above a whisper, he had a disarming humility. He used a stone instead of soap for his bath, wrote his letters on little bits of paper with little stumps of pencils which he could hardly hold between his fingers, shaved with a crude country razor and ate with a wooden spoon from a prisoner’s bowl. He was, if one were to use the famous words of the Buddha, a man who had "by rousing himself, by earnestness, by restraint and control, made for himself an island which no flood could overwhelm." 
Gandhi’s, deepest strivings were spiritual, but he did not-as had been the custom in his country- retire to a cave in the Himalayas to seek his salvation. He carried his cave within him. He did not know, he said, any religion apart from human activity; the spiritual law did not work in a vacuum, but expressed itself through the ordinary activities of life. This aspiration to relate the spirit- not the forms-of religion to the problems of everyday life runs like a thread through Gandhi’s career; his uneventful childhood, the slow unfolding and the near- failure of his youth, reluctant plunge into the politics of Natal, the long, unequal struggle in South Africa, and the vicissitudes of the Indian struggle for freedom, which under his leadership was to culminate in a triumph not untinged with tragedy.

However, he was not destined to pick up the threads of his constructive Programme. He had a narrow escape on January 20, 1948, when a bomb exploded in Birla House in New Delhi where he was addressing his prayer meeting. He took no notice of the explosion. Next day he referred to the congratulations which he had received for remaining unruffled after the explosion. He would deserve them, he said, if he fell as a result of such an explosion and yet retained a smile on his face and no malice against the assailant. He described the bomb-thrower as a misguided youth and advised the police not to "molest" him but to convert him with persuasion and affection. "The misguided youth" was Madan Lal, a refugee from West Punjab, who was a member of a gang which had plotted Gandhi’s death. These highly-strung Youngman saw Hinduism menaced by Islam from without and by Gandhi from within. Madan Lal having missed his aim, a fellow conspirator from Poona, Nathu Ram Godse, came to Gandhi’s prayer meeting on the evening of January 30, whipped out his pistol and fired three shots. Gandhi fell instantly with the words ‘He Rama’ (Oh! God).

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about mahatma gandhi

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Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, a small state in western India. He was named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The word Gandhi means grocer, and generations earlier that had been the family occupation. But Gandhi's grandfather, father, and uncle had served as prime ministers to the princes of Porbandar and other tiny Indian states, and though lower caste, the Gandhis were middle-class, cultured, and deeply religious Hindus.

Gandhi remembered his father as truthful, brave, incorruptible, and short-tempered, but he remembered his mother as a saint. She often fasted for long periods, and once, during the four months of the rainy season, ate only on the rare days that the sun shone.

At the age of six Gandhi went to school in Porbandar and had difficulty learning to multiply. The following year his family moved to Rajkot where he remained a mediocre student, so sensitive that he ran home from school for fear the other boys might make fun of him.

When Gandhi was thirteen, he was married to Kasturbai, a girl of the same age. Child marriages, arranged by the parents, were then common in India, and since Hindu weddings were elegant, expensive affairs, the Gandhi family decided to marry off Gandhi, his older brother, and a cousin all at one time to spare the cost of three separate celebrations.

At first the thirteen-year-old couple were almost too shy to speak to each other, but Gandhi soon became bossy and jealous. Kasturbai could not even play with her friends without his permission and often he would refuse it. But she was not easily cowed, and when she disobeyed him the two children would quarrel and not talk for days. Yet while Gandhi was desperately trying to assert his authority as a husband he remained a boy, so afraid of the dark that he had to sleep with a light on in his room though he was ashamed to explain this to Kasturbai.

The young bridegroom was still in high school, where his scholarship had improved, and he won several small prizes. Indian independence was the dream of every student, and a Moslem friend convinced Gandhi that the British were able to rule India only because they ate meat and the Hindus did not. In meat lay strength and in strength lay freedom.

Gandhi's family was sternly vegetarian, but the boy's patriotism vanquished his scruples. One day, in a hidden place by a river, his friend gave him some cooked goat's meat. To Gandhi it tasted like leather and he immediately became ill. That night he dreamed a live goat was bleating in his stomach, but he ate meat another half-dozen times, until he decided it was not worth the sin of lying to his parents. After they died, he thought, he would turn carnivorous and build up the strength to fight for freedom. Actually, he never ate meat again, and freed India with a strength that was moral rather than physical.

But Gandhi was still a rebellious teenager, and once, when he needed money, stole a bit of gold from his brother's jewelry. The crime haunted him so that he finally confessed to his father, expecting him to be angry and violent. Instead the old man wept.

"Those pearl drops of love cleansed my heart," Gandhi later wrote, "and washed my sin away." It was his first insight into the impressive psychological power of ahimsa, or nonviolence.

Gandhi was sixteen when his father died. Two years later the youth graduated from high school and enrolled in a small Indian college. But he disliked it and returned home after one term.

A friend of the family then advised him to go to England where he could earn a law degree in three years and equip himself for eventual succession to his father's post as prime minister. Though he would have preferred to study medicine, the idea of going to England excited Gandhi. After he vowed he would not touch liquor, meat, or women, his mother gave him her blessing and his brother gave him the money.

Leaving his wife and their infant son with his family in Rajkot, he went to Bombay. There he purchased some English-style clothing and sailed for England on September 4, 1888, just one month short of his nineteenth birthday.

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biography of gandhi

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Mohandas K. Gandhi More at IMDbPro »

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Date of Birth
2 October 1869, Porbandar, India 

Date of Death
30 January 1948, Delhi, India (assassination) 

Birth Name
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 

Nickname
Bapu 
Gandhiji 
The Father of the (Indian) Nation 

Height
5' 4½" (1.64 m) 

Mini Biography
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) was born on October 2, 1869, into a Hindu Modh family in Porbanadar, Gujarat, India. His father, named Karamchand Gandhi, was the Chief Minister (diwan) of the city of Porbanadar. His mother, named Putlibai, was the fourth wife; the previous three wives died in childbirth. Gandhi was born into the vaishya (business caste). He was 13 years old when married Kasturbai (Ba) Makhanji, through his parents arrangement. They had four sons. Gandhi learned tolerance and non-injury to living beings from an early age. He was abstinent from meat, alcohol, and promiscuity.

Gandhi studied law at the University of Bombay for one year, then at the University College London, from which he graduated in 1891, and was admitted to the bar of England. His reading of "Civil Disobedience" by David Thoreau inspired his devotion to the principle of non-violence. He returned to Bombay and practiced law there for a year, then went to South Africa to work for an Indian firm in Natal. There Gandhi experienced racism: he was thrown off a train while holding a valid first class ticket and pushed to third class. Later he was beaten by a stagecoach driver for refusing to travel on the foot-board to make room for a European passenger. He was barred from many hotels because of his race. In 1894, Gandhi founded the Natal Indian Congress. They focused on the Indian cause and British discrimination in South Africa. In 1897, Gandhi brought his wife and children to South Africa. He was attacked by a mob of racists, who tried to lynch him. He refused to press charges on any member of the mob. Gandhi became the first non-white lawyer to be admitted to the bar in South Africa.

During the South African War, Gandhi was a stretcher barer. He organized the Indian Ambulance corps of 300 Indian volunteers and hundreds of associates to serve wounded black South Africans. He was decorated for his courage at the Battle of Spion Kop. At that time Gandhi corresponded with Leo Tolstoy and expressed his admiration of the Tolstoyan principles of non-violence. In 1906 Gandhi, for the first time, organized a non-violent resistance against the Transvaal government's registration act. He called upon his fellow Indians to defy the new law in a non-violent manner and suffer the punishment for doing so. He was jailed on many occasions along with thousands of his supporters. Peaceful Indian protests caused a public outcry and forced the South African General J. C. Smuts to negotiate a compromise with Gandhi. However, Gandhi supported the British in World War I and encouraged Indians to join the Army to defend the British Empire, in compliance with the full citizenship requirement.

Back in India, Gandhi became active in the struggle for Indian Independence. He spoke at the conventions of the Indian National Congress, becoming one of its leaders. In 1918, Gandhi opposed the increasing tax levied by the British during the devastating famine. He was arrested in Champaran, state Bihar, for organizing civil resistance of tens of thousands of landless farmers and serfs. In jail Gandhi was on a hunger strike in solidarity with the famine stricken farmers. Hundreds of thousands of his supporters gathered around the jail. Gandhi was addressed by the people as Mahatma (Great Soul) and Bapu (Father). He was released. Then he represented the farmers in negotiation with the British administration. His effort worked. The tax collection was suspended and all prisoners were released. He declared that all violence was evil after the Amritsar massacre of 379 civilians by British troops, which traumatized the Indian nation. As the leader of the Indian National Congress party Gandhi launched "Swaraj", a campaign for independence and non-cooperation with the British authorities. He urged Indians to replace British goods with their own fabrics and goods. He was imprisoned from 1922-1924, being released after an appendectomy. During that time a Swaraj party was formed by his anxious opponents; it later dissolved back into the Congress.

On New Year's Eve, December 31, 1929, the Indian National Congress unfurled it's flag of independence. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru issued the Declaration of Independence on January 26, 1930. Gandhi planned to achieve stability through the secularization of India, as the only way of uniting Hindus and Muslims in one peaceful nation. The religious divide was growing under the British colonial rule, which prospered from the monopoly on the salt trade. Everyone needed salt. Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin: "If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of March I shall proceed with co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws. I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man's standpoint. As the Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil."

From March 12 to April 6, 1930, Gandhi made the famous Satyagraha ("Satya" - truth, "Agraha" - persuasion), The Salt March to Dandi. He walked on foot to the ocean in protest against the British salt monopoly and salt tax. He led thousands of Indians on a 240 mile (400 km) march from Ashram Ahmetabad to the village of Dandi on the ocean to make their own salt. For 23 days the two-mile long procession was watched by every resident along the journey. On April 6, Gandhi raised a grain of salt and declared, "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire." Gandhi's plan worked because it appealed to people in every region, class, religion, and ethnicity. The successful campaign led to the reaction of the British government and imprisonment of over 60,000 people for making or selling salt without a tax. The British opened fire on the unarmed crowd and shot hundreds of demonstrators. Gandhi was arrested in his sleep on the night of May 4th, 1930. Eventually the British government, represented by Lord Irwin, signed the Gandhi-Irwin Pact in March 1931, agreeing to free all political prisoners. Gandhi was invited to London as the leader of the Indian National Congress, but he was disappointed with the British attempts to destroy his influence by dividing him from his followers.

Gandhi campaigned to improve the lives of the untouchables, whom he called Harijans (the children of God). He promoted equitable rights, including the right to vote in the same electorates as other castes. In 1934 Gandhi survived three attempts on his life. In 1936, he briefly resigned from the party, because his popularity was stifling the diversity of membership; ranging from communists and socialists to religious conservatives and pro-business groups. He returned to the head of the party with the Jawaharlal Nehru presidency. At the beginning of the Second World War Gandhi declared that India could not be a party to this war, unless it has independence. His "Quit India" campaign led to mass arrests on an unprecedented scale of struggle. He was arrested in Bombay (Mumbai) and was held for two years. During his captivity his wife passed away and his secretary also died. Gandhi was released in May of 1944, due to a necessary surgery. His campaign led to a release of over 100,000 political prisoners before the end of the war.

India won independence in 1947, followed by the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, and partition of India. Gandhi said, "Before partitioning India, my body will have to be cut into two pieces." About one million people died in the bloody riots until partition was reluctantly asserted by Gandhi as the only way to stop the Civil War. He urged the Congress Party to accept partition, and launched his last "fast-into-death" campaign in Delhi, calling for a stop to all violence. Gandhi also called to give Pakistan the 550,000,000 rupees in honor of the partition agreement. He tried to prevent instability and anger against India.

Gandhi was shot three times in the chest and died while on his way to a prayer meeting, on January 30, 1948. His assassins were convicted and executed a year later. The ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were split in portions and sent to all states of India to be scattered in rivers. Part of Gandhi's ashes rest in Raj Ghat, near Delhi, India. Part of Mahatma Gandhi's ashes are at the Lake Shrine in Los Angeles.
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