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Gandhi Essay, Research Paper

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Satyagraha means “force or firmness of truth”. (www.engagedpage.com) Mohandas K. Gandhi worked and lived by this word. By peaceful, non-violent demonstrations he little by little took hold of the people of India’s love and honor and freed them from British rule.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Poorbandar, Gujarat, a region of Queen Victoria in West India. He was the son of Karamchand Gandhi, the chief minister of Poorbandar, and his fourth wife, Putlibai, a deeply religious Hindu. From her he formed a deep belief in non-violence. As he grew, Mohandas became a small, shy and skinny boy, afraid of others’ opinions. He never spoke out, but although he was never a clever child, others were surprised by his gentleness. At the age of thirteen, he was married to Kastaurbai, a pretty yet strongwilled girl of the same caste. He would now live with his wife, instead of his mother and father whom he had cared for so long. (Britannica’s Junior Encyclopedia, 1980, p.257) Before this, Mohandas had told lies, had smoked, and had eaten meat, which was strictly forbidden of Hindus. Now, suddenly, he felt guilty and that he had hurt himself and in some ways those who he cared for. So, in desperation, he told his father, and they cried together. One year later Mohandes’ father Karamchand Gandhi died. Mohandas was sixteen when his father passed away.

At eighteen he traveled to England to study law and secretly to see for himself what made the English so powerful. He enrolled in a college of law but quit after one term. He felt that he didn’t fit in, so he studied the ” Standard Elocutionist” for use and knowledge of proper etiquette. After a while he quit this also because he saw no use anymore. Quitting became a popular theme in his early life. Sometimes he quit because he was bored with something and just grew out of it, or sometimes when he just couldn’t accomplish anything. He did not quit everything though. He worked at some things if he thought that it would in some way help him. He studied material on Common & Roman laws and had to pass major exams on it. (Reynolds, The True Story of Gandhi, pp.87-88, 1964) At 19 his family sent him to London to study law at the Inner Temple. (www.engagedpage.com) He was not a very distinguished or even good one at first.

On his return to India in 1891 he was unable to find a suitable job, so he accepted a year’s contract in Natal, South Africa, from 1893. Having suffered the humiliation of racial prejudice there for the first time in his life, he was persuaded to remain in South Africa to oppose the bill which would not allow Indians of the right to vote. His mission was not entirely successful, but he was smart in bringing the flight of Indians in South Africa to the attention for the world; and in so doing launched himself as a certain political campaigner. He remained in South Africa for 20 years, opposing further racial thoughts by means of non-violent defiance. His law practice funded his civil activities and, with the support of his wife, he threw his home open to political friends. During the Boer War (1899-1902) he helped the British by raising an Ambulance Corps of more than 1000 Indians, for which he was awarded the War Medal.

Gandhi returned to India in 1914 and, while supporting the British in World War 1, took an increasing interest in Home Rule for India. He became a major influence in the National Congress movement (which had been formed in 1885), reshaping it, and becoming an international political figure of his generation. His policies remained unchanged: non-violent, non-cooperation to achieve independence. (Life of Gandhi, 1977, pp.76-78) However, following his civil disobedience campaign, during which British soldiers killed nearly 400 people at the Amritsar Massacre (1919), he was jailed for conspiracy for two years. (Microsoft Encarta, 1997) On his release, the Hindu and Muslim people of the Congress Party were warring. Reasoning with them proved pointless and, in an attempt to restore the non-violent campaign, Gandhi undertook a much-publicized personal fast for three weeks. . He fought for equality for all. He led Indian workers against other Indians in a cotton mill strike that was successful. Mohandes also worked to show that the “untouchables” (very poor and supposedly unclean people) were the same as everyone else. He did this by living as simply as they did and sometimes with them. It never quite did solve the problem, but it did help. Gandhi’s impact on other occurred in many ways but all of them good During his life many loved him and others respected him for his Crusades for peace. His followers loved him, but almost to the point of worship, and that he truly hated. (Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1975, pp. 102-103)

By 1928 he was back at the head of the Congress Party, and in 1930 launched his spectacular attack on the unrealistic salt taxes, leading a 200 mile march to the sea to collect salt, rather than buy so he and his followers could show symbolic defiance of the government monopoly. More than 60,000 were imprisoned and he was arrested again. (www.Biography.com)

On his release in 1931, he negotiated a truce between Congress and the government, and traveled to London to attend the Round Table Conference on Indian constitutional reform. Back in India, he renewed the civil disobedience campaign and was arrested again- the pattern, along with his “fasts unto death,” of his political activity continued for the next six years. He helped in the making of the constitutional compromise of 1937, under which Congress ministers accepted office in the new legislatures. At the outbreak of World War 2, convinced that only a free India could give Britain effective support, he urged complete independence more and more strongly. In August 1942 he was arrested for concurring in civil disobedience action to obstruct the war effort, and not released until May 1944. (Britannica’s Junior Encyclopedia, 1980, pp. 111-113)

Two years later Gandhi negotiated with the British Cabinet Mission which recommended the fixing of the constitution, trying to end the war of India and Pakistan. Although disappointed that India was not united in its freedom, he agreed to Britain’s decision to grant India independence as “the noblest act of the British nation.” His last months were darkened by continuous strife between Hindu and Muslim. (Microsoft Encarta, 1997) However, at the age of 79 a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse assassinated him in Delhi, on January 30 1948. (www.Biography.com) Gandhi, no matter how much they hated this, wanted peace between the Muslims and the Hindus. Their religions were always against each other and were fighting. The Hindus thought that Gandhi was becoming a traitor and siding with the Muslims. This was far from the truth- Gandhi was only looking for peace. He felt strongly about this and was, unfortunately, the cause of his assassination. The whole world mourned for Gandhi, a man who had no authority in government, but definitely had earned the respect and most importantly, the love of his people. Showing love and humanity through peaceful acts, he became well known and well liked. (Reynolds, 1964, pp. 104-106)

In his lifetime, Mahatma “the great soul” Gandhi was known as a moral teacher, a reformer who sought an India as a country free from materialism, and a dedicated patriot. In Asia particularly he has been regarded as a great influence for peace, whose teachings held a message not only for India, but also for the world.


 Attenborough, Richard. “Mahatma Gandhi”. www.Engagedpage.com

 Chester, Christopher. Mohandas Gandhi. Britannica’s Junior Encyclopedia. (Vol. 6). Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1980.

 Johnson, Alex. Mohandas K. Gandhi. New York: William Morrow, 1975.

 Martins, Richard. Life of Gandhi. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.

 “Mohandas Gandhi”. www.Biography.com.

 “Mohandas Gandhi”. Microsoft Encarta Electronic Encyclopedia. Microsoft Electronic Publishing, 1997.

 Reynolds, Reginald. The True Story of Gandhi, Man of Peace. Chicago: Children’s Press, 1964.

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