The name of Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi will always be written in letters of gold in the history of India. He may undoubtedly be regarded as the man of the millennium. In 1936, while lying on his death-bed, Pandit Motilal Nehru called him ‘Mahatmaji’. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore used to call him ‘Mahatma’. In a meeting in Singapore, speaking before the people, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose described Gandhi ji as ‘The Father of the Nation’. This speaks volumes about not only his personality but also his popularity. Today, as soon as, you utter ‘Mahatma’ or ‘The Father of the Nation, the listener will at once understand that you are talking of Gandhiji.
Shri M.K. Gandhi was born at Porbander in Gujarat on October 2, 1869. His father Shri Kaba Gandhi was the Diwan (Minister) of Rajkot state. His mother, Putlibai was a noble and religious-minded lady. At the age of seven he was sent to school for his primary education. At school he was not a very bright student. After passing his matriculation examination, he was sent to England for higher education. He returned to India as a barrister. Then in order to fight a case he had to go to South Africa where he stayed for 21 years. There he fought against the White man’s injustice towards the Indians who were called coolies and treated like dogs. There he started an ashram which was called ‘Tolstoy Farm’.
Gandhi ji came back to India from South Africa in 1915, Rejoined the Indian National Congress and toured India dressed like a common farmer to understand the people and their problems; Then he launched his Satyagrah movement against the British rule in India. His Satyagrah movement was based on Truth and Ahimsa (Non-Violence). He led the historic Dandi Yatra or March where he broke the Salt Law. He was put in prison several times and he faced all the hardships and harassments with peace and patience. He undertook fast a number of times for bringing the Hindus and Muslims together and also to obtain for Harijans the right to enter temples at Kashi and Prayag (Varanasi and Allahabad). In 1942, Gandhi ji began ‘Quit India Movement’ and forced the Britishers to leave India forever. India won her independence on August 15, 1947 largely due to Gandhiji’s efforts.
Gandhiji was a sbcial reformer who worked for the upliftment of the Harijans who lovingly started calling him ‘Bapu’. His wife Kasturba Gandhi also worked with him and was endearingly called ‘Baa’. Bapu ji was also a champion of Hindu-Muslim unity and worked earnestly for the achievement of this objective throughout his life.
Truth and Ahimsa were the two guiding principles of Gandhi’s life. His autobiography ‘My Experiments with Truth’ bears witness to his quest for truth. He never cared for the difficulties of life and showed respect even for his enemies. He never uttered a single harsh word even for his dead enemies. He was a man of simple living and high thinking who always advised people to discard foreign clothes and wear Khadi.
Gandhiji sacrificed his life for his ideals. A fanatic Hindu, Nathuram Godse shot him dead on January 30, 1948 on the plea that he favoured the Muslims. The whole of the world was sad at his death. George Bernard Shaw said, “It is an irony of fate that he who preached non-violence became a prey of violence.”