Mahatma Gandhi, a brief biography and thoughts of the Indian leader who supported non-violence

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhinicknamed Mahatma (meaning “Great Soul”) or Babywas an Indian politician and philosopher, born in 1869 he died in 1948. He was the main exponent of theindependence of India and the creator of a method of fighting, the satyagrahabased on non-violence. Born into a family belonging to the Banyan casteGandhi studied in England and as a young man he lived for many years in South Africaleading the Indian community’s struggle against white racism. Returning to India, he became the leader of independence, always following a non-violent approach and promoting high-impact initiatives, such as the Salt March 1930. India gained independence in 1947 but, despite Gandhi’s efforts, suffered the division of the territory of Pakistan. The Mahatma, who sought mediation between the two parties, was killed by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. Since then it has been considered a symbol of non-violence and the fight against racism and colonialism.

  • 1Birth and early years
  • 2Gandhi in South Africa
  • 3Return to India and the anti-colonialist struggle
  • 4The Salt March and the Second World War
  • 5Independence of India
  • 6The Indo-Pakistani War and the Death of Gandhi

Birth and early years

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in To be a bandin the present Indian state of Gujarat (northwestern India). At that time India was a British colony (with the exception of small portions of territory controlled by other European states) and also included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. The country was inhabited by a majority of Hindu religion and from a Muslim minoritypresent especially in the North. Among the Hindus the caste systemaccording to which the population was divided into closed social groups, to which one belonged by birth (the system still exists today, but is little respected).

Gandhi’s family was well-off: they belonged to the Banyan castewidespread especially in Gujarat and belonging to the larger caste of Vayshias, that is, bankers and merchants. The eighteen-year-old Mohandas moved to England in 1887 For study lawwhich cost him the abandonment of the caste, opposed to his transfer. Having graduated in 1891returned to India.

Gandhi student in London

Gandhi in South Africa

Gandhi began working as a lawyer and in 1893 he moved to South Africawhere a large Indian community lived, as a legal representative of a company. He thus had the opportunity to experience racism with which the white minority treated blacks and Indians. It began to mature anti-colonialist ideasmaking himself known as one of the political leaders of the Indian community. In 1906 launched his own method of fighting: the satyagraharoughly translatable as civil disobediencewhich consists in not respecting the laws imposed by the colonial authorities, accepting the punishments foreseen for transgressors, and in not using violent methods of struggle.

Because of his activism, Gandhi was arrested by the South African colonial authorities, but managed to obtain important political results for his people. He remained in the country until 1914, when he moved to England for a short time and then returned to India.

Return to India and the anti-colonialist struggle

Upon his return to India, Gandhi was already a well-known and appreciated leader, so much so that in 1915 he was nicknamed for the first time Mahatma (literally “Great soul”). In the same year he joined theIndian National Congressthe main anti-colonialist party, of which he would become president in the 1920s. He also adopted a lifestyle based on chastity (despite being married), the vegetarianism and poverty. In 1919 he organized non-violent protests against the law that extended the restrictions introduced by the colonial authorities during the First World War, which resulted in a massacre: in the city of Amristarin Punjab, the British troops opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds of Indians. After the massacre, Gandhi reiterated that he wanted to conduct the independence struggle with non-violent methods, but added to disobedience the practice of Swadeshiroughly translatable as “economic independence”, based on the boycott of English goods.

To develop Swadeshi it was essential not to buy fabrics from foreign companies, so Gandhi proposed that every Indian should learn to spin cotton with the charkathe spinning wheel. He himself devoted at least an hour a day to spinning and got into the habit of wearing a peasant’s dress, called dhotimade in khadithe fabric obtained by spinning cotton with the charka. It is no coincidence that the most famous image of Gandhi is the one wearing the khadi dress.

Gandhi with the Dothi

The Salt March and the Second World War

In 1930 Gandhi promoted one of his most successful initiatives: the salt march, organized together with about seventy companions to protest against the increase in taxes on salt. The campaign had a strong media impact, to which the English reacted jailing Gandhi and other independence leaders. The following year, however, the Mahatma was released from prison and was able to participate in a Conference on the future of India held in London. During the journey he also visited other European countries, including Italy. He then returned to India and continued the anti-colonialist struggle, suffering further arrests.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Gandhi, who had well understood the intentions of the Nazi-Fascists and the Japanese, he did not side against the Englishbut continued the fight for independence. In 1942 he launched the campaign Quit Indiawho called on the United Kingdom to leave the country, and was imprisoned until 1944.

Independence of India

At the end of the war, the international balance of power changed and two superpowers emerged, the United States and the Soviet Union, which were against colonialism. Furthermore, the struggle led by Gandhi and other independentists made it difficult for the English to control Indian territory. For these reasons, in 1947 the United Kingdom agreed to recognize the independence of India. The country, however, was divided: despite Gandhi’s efforts to maintain unity, the Muslim minority in the north separated to form the state of Pakistan (which originally also included what is now Bangladesh). In India, Gandhi’s closest collaborator rose to power, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Independence and partition of India (Credits Super Nabla)

The Indo-Pakistani War and the Death of Gandhi

In 1947 a war began between India and Pakistan warwhich Gandhi tried in vain to oppose. His pacifist and moderate approach, however, did not please the extremists: on 30 January 1948 the Mahatma was killed in New Delhi by a Hindu fanatic, who challenged his attitude towards Muslims.

Since then, in India the Mahatma has been considered the father of the homeland: just think that his face is printed on all banknotes and that the national flag features his symbol of the chakra. Furthermore, Gandhi’s approach has inspired anti-racist movements and leaders around the world, most notably Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Martin Luther King in the United States.