Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi, later known as Mahatma Gandhi, is my favourite leader. He was one of the greatest figures of world history. We lovingly and reverently call him the father of the nation. He was born in 1869 at Porbander, a well known place in the state of Kathyawar. His father was the Diwan of the state. He was a straight forward honest man who cared more for righteousness than for worldly position or wealth. Gandhiji’s mother was a pious and religious lady.
In his early years Gandhiji was a very shy child. He avoided all company. The anecdotes related about his childhood show that he was a regular student and a lover of truth. After passing his Matriculation Examination, he first studied at a College in Bhavanagar and then proceeded to England to study law. In London he made the acquaintance of Mrs Besant, the famous Theosophist leader and read the works of great Russian reformer, Tolstoy. Tolstoy’s teachings had deep effect on his mind. He returned from England as a barrister. After a brief legal practice in India, he went to South Africa to plead a legal case.
In South Africa he found Indians suffering from many disabilities. His patriotic feelings were hurt and aroused by the treatment of Indians in South Africa. He had been inspired by the writings of Tolstoy. He had learnt from them two doctrines of civil disobedience and passive resistance. On these principles he waged a peaceful campaign against the South African Government. He was thrown into jail. Some time after his release he came to India.
He had faith in British justice. It took him some time to realise that British justice came into play after organised resistance to British rule. His life was a busy one. In a brief essay full justice cannot be done to such a life. He was shocked and horrified by the massacre of Jalianwala Bagh. He started the Non co-operation Movement in 1920, which shook India from end-to-end. His extraordinary work in India attracted worldwide attention. The leadership of Indian National Congress passed into his hands. A silent revolution took place in the mental, moral and political life of India. Many top ranking Indians and the masses joined his movement. Indian political life came to have a mass contact under his leadership.
The guiding principles of his life were truth and non-violence. He preached the noble doctrine that the means should be as clean as the end. Wrong means did not justify the right end. Millions courted imprisonment under his inspiring leadership. His efforts for Indian independence were crowned with success in 1947. India was partitioned to his great regret. He died a heroic martyr’s death, when he was shot dead by an assassin’s bullet. Not only India but the whole world was made poorer by his death.
His efforts to uplift the Harijans and Adivasees will always be remembered. He tried to remove untouchability from India. With a view to make the people come in contact with Harijans he kept a Harijan cook. He stayed with Harijans. He started a magazine named ‘Harijan’.
Gandhiji was the most popular leader. Daily came to him thousands of letters and hundreds of visitors. Every visit was timed by the Mahatmas’ nickel-plated dollar watch hanged from a cord which held up his loin cloth. Most Indians bowed low before Gandhiji when they came into his presence.
Congress Chief Ministers of Indian provinces came for his advice and instructions. Educators came to test their ideas with him. Whoever had a new scheme sought his blessings. Individuals came to get help in solving their personal problems. Gandhiji had marvellous energy. He never went to bed before ten. His firm conviction was that if one prayed more one slept better. In talking to Gandhiji one saw the entire world in the mirror of India. He had submerged himself in Indians. That is why he was the most loved and the most influential man in India. Hindus worship one God, but they also worshipped many gods and idols and there were idols of Gandhiji in some Hindu temples.