Mahatma Gandhi ji was born on 2nd october 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat. He felt that India could never become independent until the country could produce its own cloth as the British controlled the production and distribution of cloth in India in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He encouraged people to spin and weave cotton cloth using small-scale traditional spinning wheels and looms. Hence, simple hand spinning wheels for cotton became an important symbol of the struggle for Indian independence and Mahatma Gandhi’s life and work. In 1888, Gandhi travelled to South Africa to study law and upon return to India, he accepted a position with an Indian firm that sent him to its office in South Africa. Along with his wife, Kasturbai, and their children, Gandhi remained in South Africa for nearly 20 years.
He led many campaigns and protests for farmers, peasants and labourers. He is known for his great contributions towards India’s freedom struggle against Britishers. In South Africa, he faces many discrimination and racism which was his turning point in his life. In 1906, he led the Non Violence Movement which inspired many civil rights movements in South Africa and gradually in 1913 hundreds of Indians and women in South Africa joined this movement and got imprisoned and shot on sight. Gandhiji ran a thriving legal practice, and at the outbreak of the Boer War, he raised an all-Indian ambulance corps of 1,100 volunteers to support the British cause, arguing that if Indians expected to have full rights of citizenship in the British Empire, they also needed to shoulder their responsibilities.
He returned to India in 1913, he supported British world war-1 efforts. In 1915, he founded an Ashram in Ahmedabad which was open for all castes. In 1918, he started the Civil Disobedience Movement in order to alert local villagers for a peaceful protest and strike against the britishers which led to a huge outbreak in april 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh in Amrister. He also led the Dandi March which was a protest against salt tax in 1930. He fought against caste discrimination, untouchability and expanding women’s rights. He also led the Quit India Movement in 1942 to throw Britishers out of India.
Gandhiji believed in religious pluralism and wanted India to be a secular nation. But his vision was hindered by Muslim nationalists led by the Muslim league on one side and the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak on the other side leading the Hindu nationalists. Gandhiji, who opposed the Partition, could not prevent the partition of India into a Hindu majority India and Muslim majority Pakistan. Gandhiji was killed by Hindu nationalist Nathu Ram Godse on January 30, 1948.
Three locations in India play important roles in the celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. These are:
- The Martyr’s Column at the Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi where Mahatma Gandhi was shot,
- The Raj Ghat on the banks of the river Yamuna in New Delhi where Mahatma Gandhi’s body was cremated on January 31, 1948.
- The Triveni Sangam where the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati come together near Allahabad.
- He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times between 1937 to 1948.
- Time magazine named Gandhi the Man of the Year in 1930.
- The University of Nagpur awarded him an LL.D. in 1937.