Mahatma Gandhi, formally named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was born in 1869 (Porbandar) and died in1948, after leaving an indelible footprint on the world, its politics and its religions. Gandhi was born into an influential family and received a superior education at University College in London, where he studied law. After efforts to change the legal system in Bombay (known today as Mumbai), Gandhi was transferred to Durban, South Africa, as a legal advisor in 1893. South Africa was known for its racial inequality until the late 20th century.
The struggle for human rights among non-white South African residents was a major cause of concern for Mahatma Gandhi and he immediately began his non-violent campaigning for equality across colour-, religious- and racial barriers. His efforts led to major opposition, despite the fact that he always went about his endeavours peacefully and respectfully. He was badly humiliated and attacked by a group of white citizens in 1896. After this episode, Gandhi encouraged non-whites to adopt a method of non-compliance, a peaceful rebellion to the legislated inequalities inflicted upon these people. He termed his attitude “Satyagraha”, which means “truth and firmness” in Sanskrit, and aptly describes his approach. After the Boer War, where Gandhi headed up an ambulance service for British soldiers, he established a community in Durban for Indian folk, which he called Tolstoy Farm, after the author Leo Tolstoy. This was in 1910.
Four years later, Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts received some recognition for their consistency and prominence in local government. In response to his ongoing fights, Indian residents of South Africa were able to marry one another legally and were exempt from poll tax. He felt satisfied that he had accomplished an important part of his mission and returned to his homeland. However, this did not mean the end of his efforts, for these continued back home, where he joined the campaign for India to become independent from British rule.
For this initiative, he used the same method of firmness and truth; resisting the British Empire, while avoiding violence at all times. This movement became very popular and effective, spreading across the sub-continent and influencing the mindsets and attitudes of citizens and politicians alike. Despite imprisonment, beatings and other significant obstacles, Gandhi accomplished several major achievements in religious and political arenas.
This was a man that refused to live a life of opulence, always maintaining a simple lifestyle and refusing the earthly possessions that came with political prominence. He lived on fruit and vegetables and always wore only a loincloth and shawl, which were the identifying clothes of the lowliest people in the Indian culture. He spent his worship time fasting, meditating and praying as a prime example to those around him. For this reason, he was soon dubbed “Mahatma”, which means that he had a very special soul.
Because of his commitment to a method of peaceful rebellion, rather than one of violence, England responded by halting their violent reaction to such a rebellion. It was deemed futile and damaging. Eventually, England stopped interfering with India altogether as a direct result of the extent of Gandhi’s influence on the country. India eventually gained independence after World War II, shortly before this brave ambassador passed away.
Gandhi is revered the world over for his wise observations of mankind, Although a Buddhist, he was able to appreciate many Christian teachings and beliefs, using these to awaken those who claimed to subscribe to such ideals, revealing their own hypocrisies. Some of the better known quotes include:
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.