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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a great political and spiritual leader of India. He was in favour of Satyagraha (the resistance of tyranny through civil disobedience) founded upon "ahimsa" : non-violence. This led India to independence.
Gandhi is usually known as Mahatma Gandhi (from Sanskrit, Mahatma: "Great Soul") and as Bapu ("Father").


BIOGRAPHY

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born into a Hindu Modh family in Porbandar, Gujarat, India on October 2nd, 1869.

In 1883, at the age of 13, Gandhi was married to Kasturba Makhanji. They had four sons : Harilal Gandhi (1888), Manilal Gandhi (1892), Ramdas Gandhi (1897) and Devdas Gandhi (1900).

In 1888, he went to England to become a barrister at University College London. Before he left India, he made his mother 3 promises : abstinence from meat, alcohol, and promiscuity. He respected his promises and joined the Vegetarian Society. He also read "The Bhagavad Gita" (sacred text of Hindu philosophy).

Civil Rights movement in South Africa (1893-1914)

In 1893 he accepted a job in Natal, South Africa. A large Indian community lived in South Africa. What he experienced there radically changed his life. He saw racial discrimination against Blacks and Indians. For example he was refused access to the first-class carriage on a train at Pietermaritzburg although he had bought a first-class ticket.
As Gandhi had finished his one-year contract, he was about to go back to India. But a law was about to deny the right to vote to Indians, and Gandhi was the only barrister able to reject this law. So Gandhi decided to stay and help. Unfortunately he couldn't stop the law. However his campaign was successful because people were now aware of the existing discrimination. He founded the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, with himself as the Secretary.

In 1896
Gandhi returned to India. When he came back to South Africa in January 1897 with his wife and children, a white mob attacked and tried to lynch him.
From 1899 to 1902 the Second Boer War took place (between the British Empire and two independent Boer republics). Gandhi participated in the war effort.
In 1906, the Transvaal government promulgated a new Act forcing registration of the colony's Indian population. At a mass protest meeting in Johannesburg in September, Gandhi adopted his methodology of "satyagraha" (devotion to the truth), or non-violent protest for the first time. He asked Indians to defy the new law and suffer the punishments, rather than resist through violence. Seven difficult years followed and thousands of Indians were imprisoned, including Gandhi on several occasions.
South African General Jan Christiaan Smuts had to negotiate a compromise with Gandhi.
In May 1915, Gandhi founded an ashram (a Hindu hermitage) on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and called it Satyagrah Ashram. Twenty-five men and women lived there : they took vows of truth, celibacy, ahimsa (non-violence), nonpossession, control of the palate, and service of the Indian people.
Gandhi supported the British in World War I.

Gandhi in India (1916-1948)


In 1918 in Champaran (a district in Bihar) the situation was extremely difficult for the inhabitants : they suffered from poverty, famine, unhygienic conditions, alcoholism and purdah (women forced to cover their bodies).
Gandhi established an ashram there, organizing his supporters and volunteers from the region. He organized a detailed study of the villages (atrocities and terrible episodes of suffering). Building on the confidence of villagers, he began leading the clean-up of villages, building of schools and hospitals and encouraging the village leadership to undo and condemn many social evils, as accounted above.
Gandhi was arrested by the police. But hundreds of thousands of people protested and met outside the jail, police stations and courts : they demanded his release. And he was released.
On this occasion, he was called as Bapu (Father) and Mahatma (Great Soul).
All prisoners were released. Gandhi became famous all over the nation.


The Rowlatt Act of 1919, which empowered the government to imprison those accused of sedition without trial, was passed.
In Punjab, the Amritsar massacre of 379 civilians by British troops was an immense shock for the whole nation.


Gandhi became the leader of the Indian National Congress in 1921.
Gandhi was arrested on March 10th, 1922, tried for sedition and sentenced to six years. He only served about two years and was released in 1924. During his imprisonment, cooperation among Hindus and Muslims deteriorated and the Indian National Congress was divided into two factions.

In April, 1930 Gandhi, 61 years old, reached Dandi after walking 241 miles in 24 days. The Salt Satyagraha, also known as the Salt March to Dandi, was an act of protest against the British salt tax in Colonial India.
He wanted to get himself some salt, and thousands of Indians followed him. The British could do nothing. The march from Ahmedabad to Dandi was 400 km (248 miles) and lasted from March 12th to April 6th, 1930.

Gandhi gathering salt

This campaign was very successful and led to the imprisonment of over 60,000 people.

The Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolan) was the final organized movement of civil disobedience for the immediate independence of India from British rule on August 9th 1942 and made famous by his slogans Do or Die (Karenge Ya Marenge in Hindi). They supported the war effort provided that they would be granted independence from Britain. Violence, protests and arrests were very common. Gandhi was arrested in Bombay in 1942 and was held for two years in the Aga Khan Palace. His wife Kasturba died in 1944. Gandhi's health was fragile and deteriorated.

The partition of India into two separate countries (Pakistan & India) seemed inevitable. Although Gandhi was fiercely opposed to that idea, he gave his assent. India was threatened by a civil war between Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi tried to cool passions and enmity.

The Indo-Pakistani War (the First Kashmir War) was between India and Pakistan over the region of Kashmir from 1947 to 1949.

Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India when India won its independence on August 15th 1947.

On January 30th 1948, as he was walking to a prayer meeting, Gandhi was shot dead in Birla House, New Delhi, by Nathuram Godse (a Hindu radical). He was tried, convicted, and on 15th November 1949 executed. Gandhi's memorial bears the epigraph : "Oh God" (maybe his words just before he died).

Jawaharlal Nehru's radio speech :


"Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not for me only, but for millions and millions in this country."



PICTURES




books & spinning wheel, symbol of India's independence


Time magazine cover in 1931 Time magazine cover in 1947


Flag of India

The Flag of India was adopted on
July 22nd 1947, a few days before India's independence.
The flag is a horizontal tricolour of saffron at the top, white in the middle, and green at the bottom. In the centre, there is a navy blue wheel with twenty-four spokes, known as the Chakra.
It was designed by Pingali Venkayya.





ACTIVITIES

Gandhi quiz student A
Gandhi quiz student B
Gandhi quiz teacher's notes

Gandhi's Salt March - video gandhiserve.org

Gandhi movie (1982) by R. Attenborough



SELECTION of LINKS

Mahatma Gandhi Foundation mahatma.org.in


64 videos online gandhiserve.org

Salt March celebration saltmarch.org.in

info, famous speeches, letters... mahatma.com

Gandhi on Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org

Louis Fischer's Gandhi & first pages amazon.fr




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