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Facts About Gandhi

Ranjan Shandilya
He was a man behind the idea of independence through non-violence, and an inspirational figure for millions of people across the globe. This story provides you with some of the most interesting and intriguing facts about the 'Father of Independent India', Mahatma Gandhi.

Did you Know?

In India, there are two temples dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. One of them is located at Sambalpur in Orissa, and the other is in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka.
"Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth."
Albert Einstein on Mahatma Gandhi's 70th birthday
His name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, but for people around the world, he was 'Mahatma', the 'Great Soul'. For the people of India, he was 'Bapu' or the 'father', which is why Indians call him 'Father of the Nation', owing to his contribution to India's freedom struggle.
Respectfully addressed as 'Gandhiji', he inspired great men and masses all over the world through his principles of truth and non-violence. He proved to the world that things such as independence from the colonial powers, which seemed extremely difficult to achieve without resorting to violent means, could also be achieved through non-violence.
He was of the opinion that one should seem different from his/her opponent in the deeds that he/she performs, and this difference should always remain. "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind" was his reply, when asked about his non-violent ways.

Timeline and Important Facts About the Mahatma


✰ Mahatma Gandhi lived an exemplary life. It is very admirable that a small man, about 5 feet 2 inches tall, who was born in a traditional Gujarati family, elevated himself through his principles to such a level that he achieved the title of 'Mahatma', which is otherwise given only to spiritual leaders, who manage to reach the stage of salvation.
✰ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar (present-day Gujarat state), a small principality in the British-ruled Bombay Presidency. He was the youngest son of Karamchand Gandhi, an incorruptible government servant, and Putlibai, an illiterate, yet devout woman.
✰ He did not do well as a student, and when he was 12, he started smoking secretly. One day, in order to buy cigarettes, he stole money from a servant and from his brother's purse. However, later on, he regretted his deed and wrote a confession letter to his father informing him of the "terrible sin" that he had committed.
His father, who he thought would be furious on reading the letter, instead praised him for his honesty. This was where the principle of non-violence took root in his mind.
✰ The practice of child marriage was prevalent all over India in those days, and even Mahatma Gandhi could not escape it. He was 13 when he got married to Kasturbai Makanji (later, Kasturba Gandhi) in 1883.
✰ In the year 1885, when Mohandas and Kasturba Gandhi were 15 and 16 years old respectively, their first child was born, but did not survive. Later on, the couple was blessed with four more sons viz., Harilal (born in 1888), Manilal (born in 1892), Ramdas (born in 1897), and Devdas (born in 1900).

Education and Career

✰ In 1886-87, Gandhi appeared for the matriculation exam at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, and barely managed to clear it. His was a family of lawyers, and so his father wanted him to study law and become a barrister.
✰ In the year 1888, at the age of 18, he decided that he was going to follow his family's footsteps and pursue a career in law. In the same year, he went to London to study Indian law and jurisprudence at the University College London (UCL), and to be trained as a barrister at the The Honorable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as Inner Temple.
✰ While in London, Gandhi tried to adapt to the British ways and customs. For instance, he took dancing lessons along with his friends. However, he did not forget the vows of abstinence from meat, alcohol, and promiscuity, which he had made to his mother before leaving for London.
✰ He took membership of the Vegetarian Society, and was also elected to its executive committee. Here, he met some members of the Theosophical Society, who convinced him to join them for the reading of the Bhagavad Gita, a religious scripture of the Hindus.
Gandhi, who did not seem to have much interest in religion till then, was suddenly drawn towards religious thoughts.
✰ In 1891, he was called to the Bar, which means that he was accepted as a member of the Inner Temple, and was thenceforth eligible to practice as a barrister in both England and Wales. Shortly after, he bid adieu to London and left for India.
The following slideshow showcases some photographs of memorials built in honor of Mahatma Gandhi, along with other important statues.

Life in South Africa

✰ It was in 1906 that he began the 'Satyagraha' movement in South Africa protesting the law that all Indians should be fingerprinted, and should also carry an identification card. Gandhi helped to start a very peaceful campaign declaring that he would either go to jail or die before following any anti-Asian laws.
✰ He was joined by thousands of Indians in this movement. Gandhi also organized strikes on the sugar plantations and coalfields, and led a march from Natal to Transvaal to protest against the Immigration Act. During this period, he was arrested several times.
✰ In 1914, the government of the Union of South Africa relented, and made many important amendments to the Immigration Act to meet Gandhi's demands, which included recognizing Indian marriages, and the abolition of poll tax.
✰ In 1906, when the British forces attacked the Zulu kingdom of Natal, Gandhi encouraged them to recruit the Indians in their army. This, he thought, was necessary in order to legitimize the claims of the Indians for citizenship. The British army did recruit some 20 Indian volunteers led by Gandhi himself, but only for just under two months.
✰ Finally, he realized that challenging the British army with arms was a bad idea, and non-violence was the best weapon to fight their overwhelming strength. Eventually, when South Africa came to be governed by the black majority, Gandhi was declared a national hero, with numerous monuments and statues dedicated to him.

A Freedom Fighter

✰ On completing his work in South Africa, Gandhi returned permanently to India in 1915, with an international reputation as an Indian nationalist. He joined the Indian National Congress and spent a year touring the country on the advice of his political guru, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, with the motive of knowing the 'real India'.
✰ In India, Gandhi made some unsuccessful attempts of setting up his own law practice in Bombay and Rajkot, where he ended up making a modest living by drafting petitions for litigants.
However, in 1893, he entered into an year-long contract with Dada Abdulla & Co., an Indian law firm, for a post of a Legal Representative for Muslim Indian traders, in the British Colony of Natal in South Africa, where he developed his political ideology and morals.
✰ When he arrived in Pretoria, he had not expected to see a rift between the Indians staying there, based on their castes and religions. Till then, he believed that religion and caste were negligible things and a feeling of 'Indianness' was something that was way above them. This was when he began to understand the real India, with all its complexities.
✰ In South Africa, he also encountered discrimination on the basis of the color of the skin, for the first time. He was thrown out of train at Pietermaritzburg, even after having a valid first-class ticket. At another instance, he was beaten up by a stagecoach driver on refusing to move aside and make room for a European passenger.
Also, the Durban court magistrate asked Gandhi to remove his turban, which he eventually did not. All these incidents made a deep impact on Gandhi, and shaped his political and social thought.
✰ The sorry state of the 'others' in the British empire affected him deeply and he decided to extend his stay in South Africa for making his contribution to the civil rights movement.
His campaign, to oppose the bill that denied the Indians the right to vote, was successful in drawing attention of the world towards the grievances of the Indians staying there. Furthermore, in 1894, he assisted in the founding of the Natal Indian Congress, which proved to be a political party that unified the Indian voice in South Africa.
On completing the tour, Gandhi chose to settle down on the banks of river Sabarmati on the outskirts of the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where he also opened the Satyagraha Ashram, commonly known as the Sabarmati Ashram.

Gandhi was a part of this committee, and it ruled in favor of the farmers.

✰ In India, Gandhi started the first Satyagraha in Champaran, Bihar on the request of the poor farmers who were compelled to grow indigo on their lands by the Britishers - initially on 15% of their land and then on all of it. This protest forced the British Government to set up an inquiry to evaluate the condition of the farmers.
✰ In 1920, Gandhi called for a Non-cooperation Movement against the British rule in India. Many Indians willingly renounced their honors and titles, lawyers gave up their practice, and students left schools and colleges. However, the main outcome of the movement was that women entered the freedom struggle for the first time.
The movement seriously shook the foundation of the British Empire in India. Unfortunately, Gandhi had to end this movement abruptly, owing to the mob violence in Chauri Chaura in Uttar Pradesh that broke out in February 1922.
✰Gandhi was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for starting a movement that led to violence, but was released in 1924 on medical grounds.
✰ Over the next five years, Gandhi did not take part in active politics. Rather, he devoted his time to the propagation of ideas, such as the unity among the Hindus and the Muslims, rights of women, removal of the concept of untouchability, and increasing the popularity of hand-spun clothes.
✰ Gandhi started the historic Dandi March on March 12, 1930 to break the law, which stated that salt could not be manufactured by the Indians. He reached the beach at Dandi near Navsari in Gujarat, and broke the salt law on April 6, 1930.
This simple act gave strength to the entire nation to start a nationwide defiance of the law, thus triggering the Civil Disobedience Movement. Within a couple of weeks, thousands were arrested and jailed, but the popularity of the movement went on increasing.
✰ Owing to the popularity of the Civil Disobedience Movement, the then Viceroy, Lord Irwin, was forced to hold talks with Gandhi and on March 5, 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin pact was signed, after which, Gandhi left for England to attend the First Round Table Conference that turned out to be a disappointment.
✰ At the end of World War II, Britain emerged victorious, and when the general elections were held in England in 1945, the 'Labor Party' came to power and Clement Attlee became the Prime Minister. He promised that a self-government would soon be formulated in India.
A committee arrived from England and discussions were held with the leaders of India, including Gandhi, about the future of a free India, but these meetings failed because of the differences in the opinions of the Congress and the Muslims leaders.
✰ India eventually attained Independence in 1947, but due to the obstinacy of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the All-India Muslim League, the country had to be partitioned into two parts, viz., India and Pakistan. The Hindu-Muslim riots that took place as an aftermath of the partition, caused a huge amount of bloodshed and destruction.
During this entire saga of partitioning, Gandhi worked relentlessly to promote the unity between the Hindus and the Muslims. This angered the fundamentalists to the extent that they decided that Gandhi had to be killed.
He was assassinated by Nathuram Godse on January 30, 1948, at Birla House in New Delhi. The last words that he uttered before his death were 'Hey Ram' (Oh God).

✰ In India, his birthday is observed as a national holiday, and also is considered as the International Day of Non-violence.

Fun and Interesting Facts about Mahatma Gandhi For Kids

✰ Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Prize for five times, but unfortunately did not win even once.

✰ Interestingly, in 1948, when he was killed, a Nobel Prize was not given for that year, as there was no suitable living person who was worthy of receiving it, other than the Mahatma.
✰ The Story of My Experiments with Truth is the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, which was published in the year 1925.

✰ 30th January, the day when Mahatma Gandhi died, is observed as Martyr's Day in India.
✰ In India and South Africa, M.K. Gandhi also worked as an editor for several newspapers, apart from his career in law.

✰ In South Africa, his income was around USD 15,000 for a year (of that time), which made him quite rich!

✰ He lived a very simple lifestyle, made his own clothes from khadi, and is said to have followed a diet that consisted of only goat's milk and some fruits.

Quotes by Gandhi

"A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes."

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

✰ "Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit."

✰ "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
✰ "Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory."

✰ "Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment."
✰ "Faith... must be enforced by reason... when faith becomes blind, it dies."

✰ "I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could."

Quotes About Gandhi

✰ "I believe that Gandhi's views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil." ―Albert Einstein

✰ "On Gandhi: Don't ever forget, that we were not lead by a saint with his head in clouds, but by a master tactician with his feet on the ground." ―Shashi Tharoor
✰ "On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, I salute every individual who honors the core values of his legacy, making him proud of humanity." ―Widad Akrawi
✰ "Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth." ―Albert Einstein

✰ "Posterity could not escape him even if it tried. By all standards of measurement, he is one of the half-dozen greatest men in world history." ―Martin Luther King Jr.
✰ "He was able to mobilize and galvanize more people in his lifetime than any other person in the history of this world." ―Martin Luther King Jr.

"I firmly believe that the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolent resistance is the only logical and moral approach to the solution of the race problem in the United States." ―Martin Luther King Jr.
✰ "He dared to exhort nonviolence in a time when the violence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had exploded on us; he exhorted morality when science, technology and the capitalist order had made it redundant; he replaced self-interest with group interest without minimizing the importance of self." ―Nelson Mandela

✰ "Now more than ever is the time when we have to pay heed to the lessons of Mahatma Gandhi." ―Nelson Mandela
Gandhi continues to inspire new generations through his literary works, such as his autobiography My Experiments with Truth. Moreover, Gandhian philosophy and Gandhian Economics are the two schools of thought that developed on the basis of his ethics and principles.
On being asked about the message he would want to give to his followers and fellow Indians, Gandhi answered, "My life is my message". Indeed, his thought process and methods of work have inspired millions of people across the world, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, and still continue to do so.