Satyagraha. Meaning “force or firmness of truth, Mohandas Gandhi worked and lived by this word. By peaceful, non-violent demonstrations he little by little took hold of the people of India’s love and honor and freed them from British rule. This is his story: On October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, India, a region of Queen Victoria, Mohandas Gandhi was born to Kaba Gandhi and his wife. Although his father, Kaba, was the chief Minister for the Maharaja of Porbandar, he and his family lived in a small house and belonged to a Hindu caste of merchants called “banjas.” As he grew, Mohandas became a small, shy and skinny boy, afraid of others’ opinions. He never spoke out, but although he was never a clever child, others were surprised by his gentleness. At the age of thirteen, he was married to Kastaurbai, a pretty yet strong willed girl of the same caste. He would now live with his wife, instead of his mother and father whom he had cared for so long. Before this, Mohandas had told lies, had smoked, and had eaten meat, which was strictly forbidden of Hindus. Now, suddenly, he felt guilty and that he had hurt himself and in some ways those who he cared for. So, in desperation, he told his father, and they cried together. One year later Kaba Gandhi died. Mohandas was sixteen. At eighteen he traveled to England to study law and secretly to see for himself what made the English so powerful. He enrolled in a college of law but quit after one term. He felt that he didn’t fit in, so he studied the “Standard Elocutionist” for use and knowledge of proper etiquette. After a while he quit this also because he saw no use anymore. Quitting became a popular theme in his early life. Sometimes he quit because he was bored with something and just grew out of it, or sometimes when he just couldn’t accomplish anything. For example, he took English dancing and violin lessons to become more distinguished, but he was very clumsy and quit after six lessons.
He did not quit everything though. He worked at some things if he thought that it would in some way help him He studied material on Common & Roman laws and had to pass major exams on it. Despite all of the quitting and studying, he became a lawyer. He was not a very distinguished or even good one at first, but later became respected by his friends and clients after his work on a case in South Africa. Becoming a moral leader was a very long and slow process. Gandhi was not looking for success or fame but something more; equality, respect, but most of all, peace. He had seen the hate the white man had for Indians. And for what reason their color or heritage? This did not seem right to him, so he began his life long struggle of never ending peaceful protests and his silent fight for justice for all.
Mohandas Gandhi died in January of 1948. (The actual date is in dispute. The information from my book said that his death was on the 30th, but the World Book Encyclopedia says that it was Jan. 13th) He was shot 3 times by Godse, a Hindu himself. The whole world mourned for Gandhi, a man who had no authority in government, but definitely had earned the respect and most importantly, the love of his people. Showing love and humanity through peaceful acts, he became well-known and well-liked. For instance, in 1906 the Zulus in Africa (blacks) rebelled. A new tax had been forced upon them and they had refused to pay and decided to instead, fight. Sadly, they were almost at once crushed by the well-armed white people. There were many wounded so showing as much fortitude as possible, Gandhi and a group of his volunteers marched 40 miles a day through hilly country carrying much needed medical supplies to heal them. At first some of the soldiers wouldn’t let him go, but eventually they understood. Some even thanked him.
Gandhi also, no matter how they hated this, wanted peace between the Muslims and the Hindus. Their religions were always against each other and were fighting. The Hindus thought that Gandhi was becoming a traitor and siding with the Muslims. This was far from the truth- Gandhi was only looking for peace. He felt strongly about this and was, unfortunately, the cause of his assassination.
Gandhi did not struggle against others for his race only. He fought for equality for all. He led Indian workers against other Indians in a cotton mill strike which was successful. He also worked to show that the “untouchables” (very poor and supposedly unclean people) were the same as everyone else. He did this by living as simply as they did and sometimes with them. It never quite did solve the problem, but it did help.
A major decision in Gandhi’s life was that of his marriage to Kasturbai. In India it was tradition to marry early, at 13 in his case, and to have your child married to the same caste. His marriage was preplanned from years back to ensure that he would have enough money and marry into a rich family.
Kasturbai’s family was well-off; her father was a wealthy merchant. Mohandas father was the Prime Minister of the state, but only because his father (Mohandas grandfather) had begun a new career also as Prime Minister. Therefore, his son had followed in his footsteps. The men in the Gandhi family before him had once been merchants and traders like Kasturbai’s family. So to save the trouble, they had decided to stay in the same caste.
During the beginning of his marriage (and this is why is such an important part of his life), he was shy towards Kasturbai. When he finally overcame this, he started to be somewhat of a bully towards her, since she was brought up to “obey her husband meekly.” Suddenly she found a strong will of her own though, when he forbade her to go anywhere without his permission. Because of the clash of personalities they fought often but did grow to love each other. Gandhi learned to truly respect others from this relationship not that just all men are equal, but that all men and women are equal. Gandhi’s impact on other occurred in many ways but all of them good. During his life many loved him and others respected him for his Crusades for peace. His followers loved him, but almost to the point of worship, and that he truly hated.
Toward the end of his life, people’s thoughts about him had changed dramatically. Most were sick of peaceful demonstrations because they took too long to get results and some of the time didn’t accomplish anything. They were ready to look to someone new for leadership. Gandhi himself stopped protesting and leading for a while and was teaching skills and helping the poor live better and simpler lives. Over all, everyone was just sick of hearing the name Mohandas Gandhi.
For some reason when he was killed though, all of that changed. Everyone was sad, and the Hindu people were ashamed that it was one of them who had killed him. People began to worship Gandhi in the ways that he had hated. They knew that if he would have been able to speak a few words before he died he would have said to the people to “have mercy on the misguided Godse”, but knowing this, they still hanged his assassin. Gandhi once said: “I have no strength, save what God gives me. I have no authority over my country men, save the purely moral.” And he more than anyone knew how weak that authority could be. Overtime, Mohandas freed India from the British rule, earning rights and respect for his people and a lasting place in history. In my opinion, like everyone else’s, he was a great man putting others ahead of himself, but above all else wanting, hoping, and dying for peace.