Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi



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Fast Facts
gandhi.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Mahatma Gandhi, Bapu, M.K. Gandhi
Function: 
Holy Leader
Traditions: 
Ahimsa, Satyagraha
Main Countries of Activity: 
India, South Africa
Date of Birth: 
2 October 1869
Place of Birth: 
Porbandar, Bombay Presidency, British India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
30 January 1948
Descendant Gurus: 

Biography

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the prime political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement. He pioneered Satyagraha - resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a philosophy firmly founded upon ahimsa - nonviolence. These concepts helped India gain independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

Gandhi is often referred to as Mahatma Gandhi ("Great Soul"), an honorific first applied to him by the famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. In India he is also called Bapu ("Father") and officially honored in India as the Father of the Nation. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.

Gandhi first employed civil disobedience while an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, during the resident Indian community's struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he organized protests by peasants and urban laborers concerning excessive land-tax and discrimination. After assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women's rights, build religious and ethnic amity, end untouchability, and increase economic self-reliance. Above all, he aimed to achieve Swaraj or the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi famously led his followers in the Non-cooperation movement that protested the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (240 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930. He launched the Quit India Movement in 1942, demanding immediate independence for India. Gandhi spent in total more than 6 years in jail in both South Africa and India.

As a practitioner of Satyagraha, Gandhi swore to speak the truth and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven from yarn that he had spun by hand himself. He ate simple vegetarian food, experimented for a time with a fruitarian diet, and undertook long fasts as a means of both self-purification and social protest.

Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist.

Teachings

Ahimsa

Ahimsa literally means nonviolence, to do no harm. The word is derived from the Sanskrit root hims - to strike, himsa is injury or harm, a-himsa is the opposite of this, i.e. non harming or nonviolence.

But the term holds a much more profound significance: According to the Hindu scriptures, below violence lies love and when violence is removed, this love uncovers. Therefore Ahimsa means love but in the most profound and universal significance. Gandhi strongly believed in this principle as the main foundation of civil disobedience and resistance.

Satyagraha

Satyagraha which means "Soul Force", "truth force", or "holding on to truth," is a comprehensive and spiritual philosophy and practice of nonviolent resistance that was developed and conceived by Gandhi.

In traditional violent and nonviolent conflict, the goal is to defeat the opponent or frustrate the opponent’s objectives, or to meet one’s own objectives despite the efforts of the opponent to obstruct these. In satyagraha, by contrast, these are not the goals. The Satyagrahi’s object is to convert, not to coerce, the wrong-doer. Success is defined as cooperating with the opponent to meet a just end that the opponent is unwittingly obstructing. The opponent must be converted, at least as far as to stop obstructing the just end, for this cooperation to take place.

The theory of satyagraha sees means and ends as inseparable. The means used to obtain an end are wrapped up in and attached to that end. Therefore, it is contradictory to try to use unjust means to obtain justice or to try to use violence to obtain peace.

Gandhi asked satyagrahis to follow the following principles (Yamas described in Yoga Sutra):

  • Nonviolence (ahimsa)
  • Truth — this includes honesty, but goes beyond it to mean living fully in accord with and in devotion to that which is true
  • Non-stealing
  • Chastity (brahmacharya) — this includes sexual chastity, but also the subordination of other sensual desires to the primary devotion to truth
  • Non-possession (not the same as poverty)
  • Body-labor or bread-labor
  • Control of the palate
  • Fearlessness
  • Equal respect for all religions
  • Economic strategy such as boycotts (swadeshi)
  • Freedom from untouchability

On another occasion, Gandhi listed seven rules as essential for every Satyagrahi in India:

  • must have a living faith in God
  • must believe in truth and non-violence and have faith in the inherent goodness of human nature which he expects to evoke by suffering in the satyagraha effort
  • must be leading a chaste life, and be willing to die or lose all his possessions
  • must be a habitual khadi wearer and spinner
  • must abstain from alcohol and other intoxicants
  • must willingly carry out all the rules of discipline that are issued
  • must obey the jail rules unless they are specially devised to hurt his self respect

Gandhi also proposed a series of rules for satyagrahis to follow in a resistance campaign:

  • harbour no anger
  • suffer the anger of the opponent
  • never retaliate to assaults or punishment; but do not submit, out of fear of punishment or assault, to an order given in anger
  • voluntarily submit to arrest or confiscation of your own property
  • if you are a trustee of property, defend that property (non-violently) from confiscation with your life
  • do not curse or swear
  • do not insult the opponent
  • neither salute nor insult the flag of your opponent or your opponent’s leaders
  • if anyone attempts to insult or assault your opponent, defend your opponent (non-violently) with your life
  • as a prisoner, behave courteously and obey prison regulations (except any that are contrary to self-respect)
  • as a prisoner, do not ask for special favourable treatment
  • as a prisoner, do not fast in an attempt to gain conveniences whose deprivation does not involve any injury to your self-respect
  • joyfully obey the orders of the leaders of the civil disobedience action
  • do not pick and choose amongst the orders you obey; if you find the action as a whole improper or immoral, sever your connection with the action entirely
  • do not make your participation conditional on your comrades taking care of your dependents while you are engaging in the campaign or are in prison; do not expect them to provide such support
  • do not become a cause of communal quarrels
  • do not take sides in such quarrels, but assist only that party which is demonstrably in the right; in the case of inter-religious conflict, give your life to protect (non-violently) those in danger on either side
  • avoid occasions that may give rise to communal quarrels
  • do not take part in processions that would wound the religious sensibilities of any community

Locations

Sevagram Ashram
Type: 
Ashram
Details: 

Sevagram Ashram is situated at Sevagram village, 8KM from Wardha town in the state of Maharashtra, India, approximately 75 km away from Nagpur city.

It served as the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi for six years, from 1934 to 1940. It was here only that he lived, along with his wife Kasturbai, for a few years. Mahatma Gandhi built the Sewagram Ashram himself, with the material that was available locally. He lived at the ashram, amidst lush green surroundings, without any facilities of electricity and telephone.

Directions: 

If coming by train, get down at either the Sewagram Station or at Wardha Junction (10 km). Sevagram railway station is located 6 km away from the main village.

Regular bus service connects Sewagarm to cities like Nagpur, Nanded, Chandrapur and other major towns within the state.

Nagpur Airport (80 km) is the nearest airfield to Sewagram.

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

Gandhi: An Autobiography - The Story of My Experiments With Truth

by Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi

(Paperback)

Mohandas K. Gandhi is one of the most inspiring figures of our time. In his classic autobiography he recounts the story of his life and how he developed his concept of active nonviolent resistance, which propelled the Indian struggle for independence and countless other nonviolent struggles of the twentieth century.

In a new foreword, noted peace expert and teacher Sissela Bok urges us to adopt Gandhi's "attitude of experimenting, of tesing what will and will not bear close scrutiny, what can and cannot be adapted to new circumstances,"in order to bring about change in our own lives and communities.

All royalties earned on this book are paid to the Navajivan Trust, founded by Gandhi, for use in carrying on his work.

Pro Opinions

Nothing can be more spiritual than Ahimsa and Satyagraha

george's picture

Though in personal life was a difficult and even a bit violent (in some non-physical way) person to his family and surroundings (especially to his sons, especially to Harilal), and although his writin

Quote on revanage

dineshrishi's picture

An Eye for an Eye Will Make the Whole World Blind

Con Opinions

Gurudev & Mahatma

Nathyogi's picture

1. I heard that Gandhi addressed Rabindranath Tagore as 'Gurudev' and Rabindranath Tagore called him 'Mahatma'.
Both became Gurudev and Mahatma respectively as people and rulers addressed them so.