Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most prominent figures in the history of India in the twentieth century. Alongside Nehru and Jinnah, Gandhi helped to shape India’s history until its independence, which occurred in 1947 (Schraff, 2008). Gandhi was born on the 2nd of October 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat (West India). He joined the University in 1888 to study law. Thereafter, he went back to Bombay in 1891 to work as a barrister (Schraff, 2008). In 1907, he accepted a job offered to him by an Indian law firm based in Durban, South Africa. Mahatma was amazed with the way Indian immigrants were treated there, and consequently decided to fight for their basic rights. Gandhi participated in passive protests against the treatment of Indian settlers by the Transvaal government. This perhaps explains why he was imprisoned for a countless number of times while in South Africa (Schraff, 2008). He returned to India in 1915 and joined the Congress movement, which witnessed him emerging as one of the leaders of the party.
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Gandhi is remembered for encouraging Indians to buy Indian goods instead of those, imported from Britain. Consequently this helped to revitalize local Indian economy. Furthermore, it undermined the presence of the British economy in India. Believing that violent acts would only provoke a negative response, Gandhi preached passive resistance considering that it would incite Britain to act, and thus pushing more people to back up the Indian National Congress movement (Schraff, 2008). Gandhi was imprisoned several times in 1922, 1930, 1933, as well as in 1942. His gained such a big fame during his lifetime, that when he ultimately died in prison, announcements about his death appeared on the international headlines. That event greatly embarrassed the British government as it had been criticizing dictators within Europe at that time. Gandhi went to Britain in 1931 for the Round Table conferences to represent the Indian National Congress (Schraff, 2008). However, nothing was attained in the conference except for the publicity that he received as a result of dressing in the attire of an Indian villager. That dress was perfect for Gandhi as a representative of the Indian people. British representatives who attended the conference were, however, soberly clothed in official dresses (Schraff, 2008).
Wherever possible, Gandhi took on the British colonialists while in India. For instance, his prominent walk to the sea to make salt was very outspoken of his actions. His actions were driven by the British monopoly of salt production in India, and that was unjust according to Gandhi (Schraff, 2008). Considering the depth of Indian religious issues, he still decided to join forces with Wavell and Mountbatten in the upsurge to Independence in 1947. This relationship with the Indian break-up would later lead to the end of his life. On 20th January 1948, there was an assassination attempt on Gandhi’s life that failed (Schraff, 2008). However, ten days later, he was killed by a Hindu extremist who could not forgive Gandhi for believing that Muslims and Hindus had the same value (Schraff, 2008). This paper examines why I have chosen Mahatma Gandhi, his motivations, how extraordinary he was, what challenges he faced and how he responded to them, as well as the role of his figure today.
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Gandhi pursued no office, held no career, acquired no wealth and desired no prominence, yet he remains a hero to numerous Indian people, as well as people from other parts of the world, who are fascinated with the way he lived his life, and what he achieved (Carter, 1995). Gandhi is indeed my hero for having pursued his ideas and bringing the change that he desired to see in the world via his own life. He was a fearless protector of the weak, a candid seeker of the truth, as well as an adamant practitioner of nonviolence. Gandhi possessed those qualities which could have been found in a few people during his time (Carter, 1995). He has inspired me by standing for what he believed in i.e. fighting against the mistreatment of Indian immigrants by the Transvaal government not using violence (Carter, 1995). He is indeed a true, inspirational leader whose life and achievements impacted the world. He fought for the rights of Indians and led his country to Independence.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Motivations
Gandhi was motivated both by people and books. In his own words, he said, “Three moderns have left a deep impress on my life and captivated me. Raychandbhai by his living contact; Tolstoy by his book, The Kingdom of God is within You; and Ruskin by his Unto This Last (Carter, 1995). Gandhi had met Raychandbhai in Bombay immediately after he returned to India from London. He was instantly convinced that he was a person of great learning and character, a real truth seeker. Often, Gandhi found himself absorbed in Raychandbhai’s Godly pursuits in the middle of important business transactions (Carter, 1995). Raychandbhai's impression on Gandhi’s mind as a spiritual guide remained unrivalled to the extent that he believed that Raychandbhai could never lead him a stray. Consequently, Gandhi became Raychandbhai’s confidant. In fact during Gandhi’s spiritual crisis for instance, in South Africa, Raychandbhai became his refuge (Carter, 1995). Gandhi also had a prolonged correspondence with Tolstoy, both having the same views on morality and truth, as well as, sharing similar heroes (Mohammed, Buddha and Socrates). The Kingdom of God is within You by Tolstoy, had a great impact on Gandhi’s life. In addition, Unto This Last, a book written by Ruskin, had a magic spell on Gandhi to the extent that he decided to paraphrase the volume as Sarvodaya, and instruct from it (Agence France Presse, 2011).
Other than the above people, other life-long inspirational sources to Gandhi were the Bible and the Gita. He read the Gita in England for the first time, and it made a profound impression on his mind, later providing him with invaluable aid during moments of gloom (Carter, 1995). He also read the Bible, particularly the New Testament, as well as the “The Sermon on the Mountain” that penetrated his heart thoroughly. The renunciation and compassion of Jesus greatly appealed to Gandhi (Carter, 1995).
How Mahatma Gandhi Was Extraordinary
Mahatma Gandhi was indeed an extra-ordinary person whose life and achievements continue to inspire many people across the world. He had unique qualities of bravery, simplicity and leadership skills that made him stand out among the rest as discussed below:
Gandhi had strong leadership skills which saw him encourage people from his village to begin using homespun clothing (Severance, 1997). Consequently, there was growth in the economy of the village with the poor becoming employed to manufacture homespun clothes for people within and outside their village. This significantly reduced poverty within Gandhi’s village (Severance, 1997). In addition, he ended the discrimination against the untouchables (Hindus of a low caste system/ poor Hindus) by the Hindus. His leadership skills enabled him to convince Hindus that what they were doing to the untouchables was wrong, similar to what the British were doing to them in general, making them change their behavior.
Gandhi was a very simple man by nature. He lived a very simple life, surviving just on the basic needs. Though he was a lawyer, he did not show any arrogance. In fact, he clothed himself like a poor man, only wearing homespun clothes. He was also a vegetarian and a fruitarian, and he could go without food for several days without complains (Severance, 1997).
Gandhi was also a very brave man which was shown through his actions, for instance, in the Dandi March. Gandhi led Indians in the march to the sea to produce salt, an act of bravery that helped him to break the Salt Law but consequently get imprisoned for several years (Severance, 1997). It was the initial act of resistance towards the British, which was marked with commencement to the movement that would later lead to India’s independence.
The Challenges Mahatma Gandhi Faced and How He Responded to Them
Gandhi faced numerous challenges throughout his life. For instance, while working in South Africa, he was discriminated alongside with other Indian immigrants. This was one of the things that motivated him to fight for their basic rights (Severance, 1997). Being a strong believer in nonviolence, Gandhi responded by participating in passive protests against the treatment of Indian settlers by the Transvaal government, which saw him jailed a countless number of times while in South Africa (Severance, 1997).
While back in India, he also observed how the British government monopolized the Indian economy with their goods, simultaneously maltreating Indian goods. The economy of India was declining gradually, and he had to do something about it. In response to the British policies, he persuaded the Indians to boycott British commodities, and encouraged them to buy their domestically produced goods (Severance, 1997). This consequently helped to revitalize the local Indian economy, but at the same time, it undermined the presence of the British goods in India. Believing that violent acts would only provoke a negative response from the British government, Gandhi preached passive resistance in the belief that it would incite Britain to act and treat Indians fairly (Severance, 1997). Consequently, a number of his followers increased significantly and more people backed up the Indian National Congress movement. Ultimately, the British government jailed Gandhi several times for his opposition. For instance, in 1922, he was jailed for six years for leading a boycott of the British goods, but was released after only two years (Severance, 1997).
Mahatma Gandhi’s Relevance Today
There is no doubt that Mahatma Gandhi remains in the hearts of many Indians, as well as other people across the world today. Gandhi was an exemplary leader who spent his whole life in service to the Indian people, fighting for their rights, freedoms and independence (Severance, 1997). He underwent several tribulations, even being put in jail in his quest for Indian independence, but he did not relent. His tenets of nonviolence, prosperity and peace have been adopted by numerous politicians and social activists across the world today (Severance, 1997). He became both, a national leader and an international icon, being an inspiration to prominent global personalities such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, as well as President Barack Obama. Mahatma Gandhi will continue remaining relevant body as long as civilization lives (Severance, 1997). People need to live in unity, peace and brotherhood, which are the only possible ways via Gandhi’s principle of love, nonviolence and peace (Severance, 1997).
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