Gandhi’s legacy continues to grow

By Anushka Singh

If there is one person who is synonymous to India, it’s Mahatma Gandhi. It won’t be wrong to say that Gandhi was the most popular and significant cultural ambassador of the country. There is no country or region in the world where Gandhi’s contribution to humanity is not recognised and where he is not revered.

Mahatma Gandhi’s message of truth and non-violence struck many chords and his message of peace found takers across the world even with Martin Luther King. His mantra not only got India her freedom but many other nations too followed suit to challenge colonial powers in play. Gandhi’s contribution to mankind and to India in making the country a culture and symbol of peace and harmony is priceless.

Mahatma Gandhi leading the Dandi March 
Early life and education

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known to all as Mahatma Gandhi, was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar in Gujarat. The coastal town in the Kathiawar Peninsula was then part of the princely state of Porbandar in the Kathiawar Agency of the Indian Empire. His father Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi was a Gujarati bania and worked in the Porbandar state as a dewan or chief minister. Gandhi’s mother Putlibai was from Junagadh (now in Gujarat) and the couple had three more children named Laxmidas, Raliatben and Karsandas.

In 1874, Karamchand left Porbandar for the smaller state of Rajkot where he became a counsellor to the ruler. In 1876, he became dewan of Rajkot and his family then rejoined him in Rajkot. Here, Gandhi enrolled in the local school near his home for elementary education and later joined the high school in Rajkot.

In 1883, at the age of 13, Gandhi was married to 14-year-old Kasturba Kapadia who later on walked shoulder to shoulder in his fight for India’s freedom. In 1887, Gandhi graduated from high school in Ahmedabad and soon after joined the Samaldas College in Bhavnagar State that he soon dropped out of to return to his family in Porbandar.

On 10 August 1888, Gandhi left Porbandar for Mumbai (then Bombay) from where he finally sailed to London on 4 September to attend University College, a constituent college of the University of London. Here, he studied law and jurisprudence and was soon called to the bar in June 1891. 

Tryst with destiny

Unable to start a successful law practice in India, Gandhi moved to South Africa in 1893 to represent an Indian merchant in a legal dispute and continued to live in that country for the next 21 years. As soon as Gandhi arrived in South Africa, he saw and experienced discrimination first hand. It was here that his journey as a social reformer began.

The ‘infamous’ incident at Pietermaritzburg changed Gandhi forever and helped him develop tools to face colonial forces that were perpetrating discrimination. On the night of 7 June 1893, at Pietermaritzburg railway station, M K Gandhi was evicted from a first class railway compartment and upon resistance was thrown at the platform. A plaque at the station reads ‘This incident changed the course of his life. He took up the fight against racial oppression. His active non-violence started from that date’.

Gandhi's statue at Pietermaritzburg
In the following years in South Africa, Gandhi first employed non-violent resistance in a campaign for civil rights. He helped found the Natal Indian Congress in 1894 through which he transformed the Indian community of South Africa into a unified political force. 

In 1910, with the help of Hermann Kallenbach, Gandhi established Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg where he catalysed the satyagraha campaign against discrimination of Indians in Transvaal. In 1915, at the age of 45, Gandhi finally returned to India to initiate what later became India’s independence struggle.

Influencing leaders across the world

Mahatma Gandhi’s life and principles influenced several leaders across the world. For example, leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States including Martin Luther King Jr., James Lawson and James Bevel, drew from his writings in their own theories about non-violence. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics." He once wrote that Gandhi was a "guiding light" for him.

In South Africa, anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was inspired by Gandhi too. Other leaders who were strongly influenced by Mahatma include Aung San Suu Kyi, Steve Biko, Vaclav Havel, etc. Nelson Mandela was a follower of Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance.

\World-famous physicist Albert Einstein exchanged written letters with Gandhi and called him "a role model for the generations to come" in a letter writing about him in 1931. He said: Mahatma Gandhi's life achievement stands unique in political history. He has invented a completely new and humane means for the liberation war of an oppressed country, and practised it with greatest energy and devotion. 

The moral influence he had on the consciously thinking human being of the entire civilised world will probably be much more lasting than it seems in our time with its overestimation of brutal violent forces. Because lasting will only be the work of such statesmen who wake up and strengthen the moral power of their people through their example and educational works. We may all be happy and grateful that destiny gifted us with such an enlightened contemporary, a role model for the generations to come. Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.

Celebrating 150 years of Mahatma

On 2 October 2019, the government of India announced celebrations commemorating the 150th birth 
anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi - the Father of the Nation, during the period from 2 October 2019 to 2 October 2020. It was decided to celebrate the event at both national and international levels to propagate the message of the Mahatma. 

A National Committee (NC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was constituted that included the Chief Ministers of all the states of the country, representatives from across the political spectrum, Gandhians, thinkers and eminent persons from all walks of life. The Committee guided and approved policies, programmes and activities for the commemoration and supervised implementation of the decisions.

Mahatma Gandhi was a staunch believer of cleanliness and  said that cleanliness is most important for physical well-being and a healthy environment. He also said it is essential for everyone to learn about cleanliness, hygiene, sanitation and the various diseases that are caused due to poor hygienic conditions. In furthering his beliefs, the PM inaugurated the Swachh Bharat Diwas 2019 in Ahmedabad on 2 October 2019. 

He released postage stamp and silver coin to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. He also distributed the Swachh Bharat Puraskar to the winners. He paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and visited Magan Niwas (Charkha Gallery) where he interacted with children.

The seed that Gandhi sowed on cleanliness grew into the Swachh Bharat Mission that united India in its pledge of cleanliness. Today, the world is a witness to India’s success story of providing toilet facilities to more than 60 crore people in 60 months with the construction of more than 11 crore toilets.

Gandhi’s beliefs and principles are celebrated across the world. The entire world commemorated Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. It was a memorable event when the United Nations released a postal stamp on Gandhi. 

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