Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi -article by Sudhir Panikkaveetil
MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI
“..This simple, inarticulate man transformed himself into the Mahatma who ushered the British Empire out of India without firing a shot.”
Before any Indian language could produce a biography on Gandhi, Malayalam could do it in the year 1913 and the author was none other than Swadesabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai, the champion of the press. At that time Gandhi had not gained much popularity and importance in Indian politics. But the author could foresee it. Thereafter depending upon each one’s intellectual predilections many writers wrote about Gandhi. Famous Malayalam poet Vallathol Narayana Menon in his poem “Ente Gurunathan” writes that Gandhi was a blend of Krishna, Christ, Harishchandra, Buddha, Shankara and Mohammed. The life and work of Gandhi had impressed and inspired many Keralite writers in the past and present. N.V. Krishna Warrior another Malayalam poet in his poem depicted Gandhi standing at the end of the long queue before a ration shop to get his weekly allotment of grain while Godse rides past him in his Rolls-Royce. In the heart of many towns around the world the statue of Gandhi stands as a symbol of truth, courage and determination.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbandar (Gujarat state) on October 2, 1869. He belonged to the third of four Hindu castes, the Vaisya. At that time Jain influence was strong in the Gujarat region. Jainism and Buddhism attempted to reform India’s dominant faith, Hindu religion.
The family members affectionately called young Mohandas as Mohania. His warmest affection went to his mother who was deeply religious and attended temple services daily. During Chaturmas, the four-month rainy season she lived on a single meal and on another Chaturmas she vowed not to eat meal unless the sun appeared. During the observance of his mother’s fast days, young Mohania along with his sister would watch the sun and when it showed through the clouds they would run to their mother to inform the sight of the sun and to break her vow. Since she herself had to see the sun she would come out to watch, by that time the fugitive sun had disappeared. She would cheerfully tell her children that God did not want her to eat that day. The adherence to the vow and determination of his mother might have contributed to the molding of young Mohan’s character. In his autobiography Gandhi writes, “My grand father must have been a man of principle”. His grandfather Uttamchand who was the Prime Minister of Porbander was forced into exile in the nearby little state due to political intrigues. There he saluted the ruling Nawab with his left hand. When he was asked for explanation he said, “My right hand is already pledged to Porbandar”.
Because of the religious restrictions Gandhi’s trip to England to study law was objected by his Community. But he decided to go and his community pronounced him as an outcaste. This incident might have been a great impact on his later view of the caste-system of India. According to him caste defines duties but confer no privilege. However Gandhi was an Orthodox Hindu who revered cow and believed in Avatars (incarnations of God). He designated India’s social outcastes as Harijan (children of God). Mohan das was enamoured of the ideals of truth, love and freedom right from his early age.
When Mohandas was sent to England to study law their family priest, at the instance of his mother had administered an oath to him. He was to take three vows – not to touch wine, women or meat. Gandhi observed them except on one occasion along with his friends he had visited a brothel but returned from there innocuous as before.
Two years later after his return to India he went to South Africa on a year’s legal assignment but stayed there for twenty-three years. He realized the conditions of Indian settlers there and decided to fight for their civil rights. He had conceived the idea of uniting religion and ethics with politics. He depended mostly on ancient Hinduism and borrowed European thought also to shape his strategies to use against British.
The writings of Tolstoy and Pushkin had greatly influenced Gandhi. His reading of Tolstoy’s “the kingdom of God is within you” had increased his awareness of the power of truth. Pushkin’s “Unto the last” also left a deep impression on him. “Its effect upon him was profound and remained present in his consciousness to the end” writes Sheenan.
In South Africa he had first launched his Passive Resistance Association later known as Satyagraha against British rule. He decided to fight for India’s freedom on the moral principle of truth and non-violence. During his campaign in South Africa he had gained valuable experience and spiritual strength which gave him confidence to his future leadership.
When he returned to India he spent the first year touring the country to study the conditions prevailing at that time. About his arrival on the scene Nehru wrote “ And then Gandhi came. He was like a powerful current of fresh air that made us stretch ourselves and take deep breaths; like a beam of light that pierced the darkness and removed the scales from our eyes…”
He had organized the Indian National Congress and through which he had launched his full-fledged non-cooperation movement. He led the historical “Dandi March” in the year 1930.He launched the “Quit India Movement. People responded to the clarion call of Gandhi. By means of policy of non-violence he achieved a major victory –liberation of India from the British in the year 1947.
His strong faith in religion induced him to under-take intensive study of the Shrimat Bhagwatgita. Teachings of Gita had inculcated in him a true spirit of service and the idea of the “maximum good of all” which he termed Sarvodya.
While attending a prayer meeting on January 30th 1948, he was shot dead by a fanatical young Hindu named Nathuram Godse.
On the evening of Mahatma’s death in his grief-stricken effusion Nehru stated on All India Radio “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere…. Bapu as we call him, the father of our nation is no more…” The American writer and Nobel laureate Pearl Buck stated “Another Crucifixion”. New York Times wrote “A light has gone out. The rest remains for history’s inexorable hand to write down.. His undying spirit speaks now to all India and the world. He has left as his spiritual heritage a spiritual force that must in God’s good time prevail over armaments and dark doctrines.”
He was reverently addressed as Mahatma (great soul) whose deeds and words still guide the destinies of his vast nation. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wrote about the India Gandhi had envisioned “ I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony…There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the curse of intoxicating drinks and drugs… Women will enjoy the same right as men.. This is the India of my dreams”
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Article by: Sudhir Panikkaveetil