Biography of Mahatma Gandhi | Architect of the independence of India (1947)

Myth of the pacifism of the twentieth century and formulator of the doctrines of nonviolence, Gandhi led the process of independence of the India.
Although he was the architect of the independence of India (1947), Mahatma Gandhi is rarely evoked by that achievement. Firstly, because the most inspiring figure does not reside so much in that short as in the media, i.e. in its nearly three decades of perseverance in a peaceful activism based on non-violence and the force of convictions. And second, because their goals always were much broader and encompassed the abolition of castes, social justice, the transformation of economic structures and harmony among religions, aims that converged on the ideal of a profound ethical and spiritual human renewal.

Man of inflexible austerity and absolute modesty, who complained about the title of Mahatma ('great soul') that the poet Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi had given him against his will include the great characters that, with his thought and action, questioned and came to alter the political and ideological establishment of the world in the 20th century and were erected in all kinds of protests against injustice. In a country in which politics was synonymous with corruption, Gandhi introduced ethics in public life through the word and the example. He lived in poverty without palliative, never granted patronage to relatives and always rejected political power, before and after the release of the India. Such idiosyncrasies has become the Apostle of non-violence a unique case among the revolutionaries of all time, and in the most admired (when not revered) modern spiritual leaders.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in the coastal city of Porbandar, located in the Northwest corner of India, in the region of Gujarat. This region was then a mosaic of tiny principalities, whose rulers had absolute power over the lives of his subjects. His father, Karamchand Gandhi, was Prime Minister of Porbandar and belonged to the caste of the banias, merchants of proverbial cunning and skill in the trade. His mother, Putlibai, named came from the sect of the pranamis, who mixed the Hinduism with the teachings of the Quran.
Gandhi's mother was a woman deeply religious and austere, he divided his time between the temple and the care of his family, amen of practicing frequent fasts. In the spiritual formation of Mohandas, who felt an unlimited love for his parents, attended, in addition to the worship of the goddess Vishnu who professed the family, a number of cultures and creeds amalgamated: the hindu, Muslim and the jain. The latter had special influence on his philosophy: Jains practiced non-violence not only with animals and human beings, but even with plants, microbes, water, fire and wind.
Typical example of late genius, Gandhi was a quiet, withdrawn teenager and nothing bright in studies, which went unnoticed by the schools in Rajkot. At the age of thirteen, following the hindu custom, he was married with a child of his age called Kasturbai, with whom he was promised from the six years without knowing it. The young husband fell passionately in love girl, and by making love with her left the bed of his dying father the night they died. The event left a sense of indelible blame for Gandhi, which would later be declared against marriage between children and in favor of sexual Continence.

Kasturbai Gandhi and the four children of the marriage (South Africa, 1902)
As their ratings did not improve at the Institute, the family decided to send him to London to follow the courses of law of the Inner Temple, whose requirements were lower than the Indian universities. With both fear and excitement, the young Gandhi embarked in Bombay in September 1888. He was nineteen years old and just be a father for the first time. Before leaving he had promised solemnly to his mother not follow the English custom of eating meat, since prohibited it the vaishnavism. Several times in his teens he had transgressed such standard, driven by a friend who advised him to meat to resemble the English fortress.
London lived three years (1888-1891), period that occurred in one of the more determinants of his vocation: the discovery of the East through West. Indeed, in the British capital began to frequent the Theosophist, who initiated him in the reading of the first Indian classic, the Bhagavad Gita, which would be considered "the book par excellence for the knowledge of the truth". Also there he came into contact with the teachings of Christ, and for a time he was so attracted by Christian ethics which hesitate between this and Hinduism.
From that time are their attempts to synthesize the precepts of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and native religion through what they said as the unifying principle of them all: the idea of renunciation. In these decisive years for his intellectual formation read León Tolstói, who later would be the Guide for the development of practice and theory of non-violence. And when he returned to India with the title of lawyer, did so with its Oriental hallmarks: it had gone in search of the Western wisdom and was returning with the secret that had made wise the Hindus.

In South Africa (1893-1915)

Returning to Porbandar found her family disintegrated: the mother had died shortly before and the Gandhi had lost all influence in the Princely Court. As a lawyer he found many perspectives, since his first professional performance ended in a humiliating failure, because it silenced to refer to the Court and was unable to continue. It was then when a Muslim commercial factory offered him a contract to meet a case of the company in the South African city of Durban, and Gandhi did not let the opportunity pass: in 1893 embarked towards South Africa.
In the country of the old Dutch settlers lived a hindu colony consisting mostly of workers, whom the English called derogatorily sami. They lacked any right and be despised them and discriminated against racially, as it witnessed firsthand the young lawyer during some of his travels by rail. But the situation was more serious even than it seemed. Finished their work, Gandhi was about to return to the India when he learned of the existence of a draft law to remove the right of suffrage to the Hindus. He decided then to postpone the game a month to organize the resistance of compatriots, and the month became twenty-two years.

Gandhi in his South African stage (c. 1906)
During this long period of his life, his biggest concern was the release of the Indian community, and she was giving way to weapons of struggle that would later use in his country. In the early years, convinced of the good intentions of British colonialism, he opened a law firm to defend his countrymen before the courts in Johannesburg and was proposed to articulate a movement dedicated to the agitation by legal means. He founded the newspaper "The Indian Opinion" for bringing together the Indian community, and as an instrument of legal turmoil, created the Natal Indian Congress. Anglophiles sympathies during the war against the boers led him to organize the Indian body of ambulances, action that was harshly criticized by Indian nationalists.
From 1904, the activity of Gandhi suffered a noticeable change: after reading the critique of capitalism contained in Unto This Last, John Ruskin, modified their lifestyle and went on to live a simple community life on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where he founded a commune called Tolstoy. At that time it sketched the theory of non-violent activism, which launched for the first time to oppose the registration law. This law forced all Indians to enroll in a special register with their fingerprints. Gandhi ordered his countrymen who do not sign up, they comerciaran in the streets without a license and, later, that they burned their cards against the mosque in Johannesburg. Like many of his followers, he went to jail several times, but the civil resistance movement obtained several partial successes.
In 1913, protest against an unjust considered tax resulted in a March through the Transvaal to Natal. The following year the British authorities gave running back with such a tax and authorized Asians reside in Natal as free workers. The victory seemed full, and Gandhi, who had abandoned the European clothes in protest, finally departed from South Africa with his wife and children. In the long run, all the achievements of the Indian community were lost, and the authorities of that country further tightened its racist policy; but South Africa had been the test bench where Gandhi developed and rehearsed the tactics that would later use in his homeland.

The Apostle of non-violence

Preceded by the aura of their successful campaigns abroad, Gandhi arrived in the India in 1915 and was received as a true hero. Masses of Bombay paid him a warm welcome, the English Governor went to greet him and the poet Rabindranath Tagore gave him welcome at the free University of Santiniketan. Shortly after arriving, he founded in the city of Ahmedabad an almost monastic community in which foreign clothes, meals with spices and private property were banned. Its members were engaged only in two materials work: agriculture for sustenance, and the tissue by hand, to seek shelter. There began a fight that Gandhi would hold throughout his life: the battle against the scourges of Hinduism and in favour of the untouchables. The first step was to admit them as members of the community.
In those early years, Gandhi abandoned all political turmoil in order to support the war efforts of Great Britain in World War II, even reaching the recruitment of soldiers for the British army. Its entry into Indian politics did not occur until February 1919, when the passage of the Rowlatt Act, which established the censorship and pointed out tough penalties for any suspect of terrorism or sedition, opened her eyes about the true intentions of the British imperialists in the India.

Gandhi then went on to lead the opposition to the law. He organized a propaganda campaign at the national level through non-violence, which began with a general strike. It soon spread throughout the country and protests took place in major cities, where there were some pockets of violence despite the insistence of the leader in the peaceful nature of the demonstrations. When he went to Delhi to appease the population, Gandhi was arrested. Days later, on April 13, 1919, brigadier general Dyer ordered to shoot their gurkas on the crowd gathered at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar city. English domination had shown its true face bloody and brutal: almost four hundred people were killed and thousands other injured. But the British authorities were forced to reconsider their tactics and the Rowlatt Act never came into force.
In the years following the massacre of Amritsar, Gandhi became the nationalist leader unchallenged, reaching the Presidency of the Indian National Congress (also called Congress Party, founded by Alan Hume Octavius in 1885), that Gandhi was able to make an instrument effective for independence: a grouping of the urban middle classes, became a mass organization rooted in the towns and the peasantry. They were implemented large civil disobedience campaigns, ranging from the mass refusal to pay taxes until the boycott to the authorities. Thousands of Indians filled the jails and the same Gandhi was arrested in March 1922. Ten days later he began «Grand», in which the Mahatma pleaded guilty and judgment considered the sentence to six years in prison as an honor, so the session ended with a mutual reverence between judge and defendant.
When he left prison (appendicitis did to the colonial authorities released him in 1924), found that the political landscape had changed in his absence: the Congress Party had split into two factions and unity between Hindus and Muslims, achieved with the civil disobedience movement, had disappeared. Gandhi decided then to retire from politics to live as a hermit, in absolute poverty and looking for silence as a regenerative force. Retired in his Ashram, became in those years in the spiritual leader of India, in the religious leader of international fame that many Westerners in search of spiritual peace treated as a guru. In those years he wrote serials essential autobiography entitled the story of my experiments with truth, whose English version appeared posted in 1927.

The salt March

His retirement ended abruptly in 1927, when the British Government appointed a Committee on the reform of the Constitution which did not participate any native. At the head of the political struggle, Gandhi got to all parties in the country to do the boycott of the Commission. Shortly thereafter, the strike of Bardoli, in support of the refusal to pay taxes, ended in complete success. The victory of the movement encouraged the Indian National Congress to declare independence from the India on January 26, 1930, and was commissioned to the Mahatma the direction of the campaign of non-violence to support the resolution.
Gandhi chose to aim the same monopoly of salt, particularly affecting the poor, and departed from Sabartami on 12 March with seventy-nine volunteers heading to Dandi, coastal town distant 385 kilometers. The small movement spread like waves in a pond to reach all the India: farmers planted green branches roads where would happen that small and half-naked, man with a stick of bamboo, path from the sea and in front of a huge army Pacific.

Gandhi in the March of the salt (1930)
The day of the anniversary of the massacre of Amritsar, Gandhi arrived on the shores of the sea and took a handful of salt, symbolically breaking the monopoly. From that moment the civil disobedience was unstoppable: deputies and local officials resigned, the local notables abandoned their posts, the soldiers of the Indian army refused to fire on demonstrators and women joined the movement, while the followers of Gandhi was peacefully invaded by salt factories.
The campaign ended with a Pact of compromise between Gandhi and the viceroy of his British Majesty, which legalized the production of salt and is releasing about one hundred thousand prisoners arrested during the demonstrations. On the other hand, Gandhi was sent to London to participate in the Conference which discussed the steps to follow to establish a constitutional Government in India (1931). The presence of the Mahatma in England, apart from the great popular reception you dispensed London neighborhoods, was not favorable to the cause progress, and upon returning to their country met Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders of the Indian National Congress were once again in prison.
Several times in his life turned Gandhi fasts as a means of pressure against the power, as a way to fight spectacular and dramatic to stop the violence or to draw the attention of the masses. The lack of humanity of the caste system, which condemned the pariah, ostracized, and absolute destitution converted Gandhi the abolition of untouchability in a primary goal of their efforts. And since Yervada prison, where he had been confined again, he did in 1932 a 'fasting until death» against elections separate from Hindus and pariahs. This forced all political leaders to go along with its bed of prisoner to sign a pact with the English consent.

With activist Maniben Patel (1931)
The work of 'popular pedagogy' to heal the hindu society of his wounds did not end here. Distanced from 1934 of the Congress Party by the disappointment that provoked you the political maneuvers, he devoted himself to visit distant towns, insisting on popular education, the prohibition of alcohol, in the spiritual liberation of man.

The India independence

The outbreak of the second World War (1939-1945) was the reason that Gandhi, once more, to return to the political level first. His opposition to the war was absolute and did not share the opinion of Jawaharlal Nehru and other Congress leaders, likely to support the fight against fascism. But the decision of the viceroy incorporate the subcontinent to Britain's war preparations without consulting with local politicians clarified waters, causing the resignation en masse of the ministers belonging to the Indian National Congress.
After the capture of Rangoon by the Japanese, Gandhi demanded complete independence from the India, so the country could freely make their decisions. The next day, on August 9, 1942, he was arrested along with other members of the Congress Party, which resulted in an uprising of native mass, followed by a series of violent revolts throughout the Indian. This was the last prison of the Mahatma and perhaps the most painful, because from his prison in Poona she learned of the death of his wife, Kasturbai. It was already an old man, frail and weakened when it was released in the year 1944.

Nehru and Gandhi (Bombay, 1946)
After the war, and after the rise to power of the labour party in England, Gandhi played a key role in the negotiations that led to the release. However, his stance opposed to the partition of the subcontinent could nothing against the determination of the leader of the Muslim League, Alí Mohammed Jinnah, advocate of the separation of Pakistan. Hurt by what he considered a betrayal, in 1946 the Mahatma he saw with horror how the old Indian ghosts resurgían during the celebration of the appointment of Jawaharlal Nehru as the first head of Government, which was the pretext of violent riots by the struggle between Hindus and Muslims.
Gandhi moved to Noakhali, where had started the clashes and walked from village to village, barefoot, trying to stop the massacres that accompanied the partition in Bengal, Calcutta, Bihar, Kashmir and Delhi. But their efforts only served to increase hatred that fanatical extremists of both peoples felt for him: Hindus attempted on his life in Calcutta and the Muslims did the same in Noakhali. During his last days in Delhi conducted a fast to reconcile the two communities, which severely affected his health. Even so, it appeared again in public a few days before his death.
On January 30, 1948, when dusk was heading for communal prayer, he was hit by the bullets of a hindu girl. As he had predicted it to his granddaughter, died as a true Mahatma, with the branch ('God') word on his lips. As Einstein said, «perhaps generations duden ever that a similar man was a reality of flesh and bone in this world».

Chronology of Mahatma Gandhi

1869Born in Porbandar, India.
1882He married Kastubai Nakanj.
1888First trip to England.
1891He obtained the title of lawyer and returns to the India.
1893He moved to South Africa, where he works in favour of the Indians living in that country.
1915In the India again, it joins the Indian national movement.
1919Amritsar massacre.
1922First campaign of civil disobedience. He is sentenced to prison.
1930March of the salt.
1931He travelled to London to participate in the round table conference.
1933Campaign for the untouchables.
1940Boycott of the Indian intervention in the war.
1947The India independence. Separation from Pakistan.
1948He died assassinated by a hindu fanatic in New Delhi.

Mahatma Gandhi and non-violence

Historically, the actions of Gandhi demonstrated that pacifism was a viable instrument for achieving ambitious political objectives and that the independence of the India was possible without bloodshed; in a century convulsed by two world wars and a multitude of tragic events, Gandhi always maintained their fight under the banners of harmony and non-violence who had preached. Hence, his figure is inextricably linked with the peaceful resistance and non-violence.

Gandhi (drawing of A. Seuron)
Gandhi was a nationalist leader, but, above all, he was an advocate for equality and justice. He fought with great impetus both to achieve the independence of the India as ending inequalities that it suffers from society in their country. In a society as stratified as india, stood on the side of the untouchables (private all right breed) and preached the admission of all individuals in society and equality of all its members. In fact, their ideals transcended the strictly political sphere: beyond of their country's liberation and social transformation, advocated the spiritual perfection of man.
Two concepts were key in their fight: satyagraha, which can be translated as "truth force", and the ahimsa or non-violence. The truth is above all things; hold the truth is to sustain the indestructible, and to hold the truth, the truth sustains us: truth is the force that has feed actions as the non-cooperation, civil disobedience, fasting or passive resistance, which has very little to do with passivity, as it requires an immense energy that only the satyagraha can infuse.
The ahimsa or non-violence is imposed as ethical imperative in a struggle that, ultimately, is a fight against peers, against holders of our same dignity as human beings and deserving of the same respect that we demand, which excludes all forms of coercion. Although the term ahimsa comes from Hinduism and is common in the Eastern tradition, Gandhi understood that such a concept also underlies Western, such as Islam and Christianity religions. In fact, the Gospel teachings of Jesus and Western authors such as the American Henry David Thoreau (who theorized about civil disobedience), Russian novelist León Tolstói and the British writer John Ruskin exerted influence on the thinking of Gandhi.

Ben Kingsley in Gandhi (Richard Attenborough, 1982), award-winning eight Oscar
During his life, Gandhi met successes and failures suffered. He saw how its strategy of non-violence enabled the independence of his nation; There was, however, point out that their country was radically divided between Hindus and Muslims, and witnessed the separation of Pakistan from India. Despite this final failure, its influence has been immense. The thinking and attitudes of Gandhi would serve as example and inspiration for the various pacifist movements that arose in the world after the second world war.
Gandhi also became a point of reference for the nationalist leaders of Asia and Africa. It showed that the independence movement could face successfully the colonial powers to liberate their countries from the European yoke. The India independence gave an important impetus to the process of decolonization in Asia and Africa in the second half of the 20th century.
The written work of Gandhi is composed of a varied crowd daily published articles and magazines, as well as transcripts of official speeches both in his country and Britain and other numerous speeches addressed to the people. Among his books should highlight story of my experiments with truth (1927), an autobiography that ends in 1921 and which unfortunately lacking in continuation. The text is an extraordinary testimony to his quest and ideals.
The figure of Gandhi still wakes fascination today. Its fragile and serene look, their sober white tunic and his pacifist ideals have helped give a mythical aura. For this reason, it is not surprising that his life has been recreated in various television series and films. The film Gandhi (1982), is particularly celebrated Richard Attenborough, in which Ben Kingsley played the famous Indian activist.
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
Biographies of historical figures and personalities

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