The world’s most famous freedom fighter never fought!8 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
Do you recognise these glasses?
This spinning wheel?
Alright, the last clue, do you know whose possessions these are?
Did you already mentally picture the man that ties all these images together?
If not, here he is.
Do you recognize him now? This man is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He is an extraordinary and legendary man who lived in India about 100 years ago. He was so great that Albert Einstien, ‘the smartest man on earth’, looked up to him! His face even adorns our currency in India. Every year the 2nd of October is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti or the day that Mahatma Gandhi was born.
Fun Fact: MK Gandhi is respectfully known as Gandhiji. He is also known as Mahatma Gandhi, which means great soul.
So, what did Gandhiji do that makes him so great all these years later?
He used his unique lifestyle and non-violent methods to lead India’s freedom movement in the 20th century. Wait, India was not always a free country? No, in fact, until 1947, India was a colony of the British Empire. The British Empire consisted of lands and nations that were owned by the United Kingdom. India was just one of those nations. This meant that while Indians were ruled by the British Empire, they did not enjoy the rights and freedoms that were shared by its people in the UK.
Indians were discriminated against, killed, and forced to work under terrible, life-threatening conditions in their own country! The whole situation was tragic for several Indians, particularly those that already lived in poverty. So, the Indians had to cook up an ingenious way of ridding themselves of their powerful and wealthy British Rulers.
A man that played a significant role in the struggle to ward off the British was Mahatma Gandhi. Although he was not the only one who struggled and fought for the freedom of the Indian people, his movement known as the Quit India Movement, was unique and unbelievably effective.
As one of the world’s best-known freedom fighters, it will interest you to know that Mahatma Gandhi didn’t believe in fighting. Instead, he believed in the Jain and Buddhist teaching known as ahimsa or non-violence. Thus, rather than taking up arms to drive out the British, Gandhi thought it would be a better idea to do nothing at all.
Do nothing at all? This seems easy! Well, no, Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy is not for the faint-hearted. Gandhi insisted that ahimsa was not for those who were too scared to take up arms – “[Ahimsa} is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatever; and it always insists upon truth.”
Even when beaten or provoked, Gandhi would not react. He never resorted to violence, not even as a form of self-defense!
Gandhi called his practice of ahimsa, “satyagraha” which means ‘truth force.’ According to satyagraha, the aim of any non-violent conflict was to convert the opponent; to win over his mind and his heart and persuade him to your point of view. He then took satyagraha and intertwined with other principles that insisted upon simplicity and a life of voluntary poverty.
Self-reliant and Independent
Gandhi’s idea was that in order to drive out the British, Indians needed to be completely reliant on only themselves. Thus, when the British possessed nothing that the Indians needed, they lost their power to rule over them. Of course, this meant that the followers of Gandhi’s principles had to live very difficult and disciplined lives to attain their freedom. Gandhi himself lived an extremely simple life. He always wore only a white cloth that he wrapped around his body, and often went days without eating any food!
Gandhi did all this to protest the injustices faced by millions of Indians. Through his actions Gandhi showed the world that no amount of money and weaponry can fight the silent power of regular people and the will of the masses. ‘
Gandhi’s most ingenious protest was the Salt March. The British had been taxing salt in India for decades but this hurt the poorest people most. To show the world the injustice of British rule Gandhi marched to the coast with a growing number of people to symbolically collect salt from the sea without paying any tax to the British. This protest forced the British to recognize Gandhi as India’s most important leader. They invited him to London to begin negotiations on the Government of India Act that would introduce national elections and give more power to Indians.https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z8rx82p/revision/2
Gandhi will always be remembered for his teachings and extraordinary life. In fact, as protests are becoming more widespread and frequent globally, Gandhi’s teachings have never been more relevant. It is important to remember power of peaceful protests in the face of injustice. As Gandhi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world!”
Questions to ask yourself:
Was Mahatma Gandhi a perfect man, or was he flawed like the rest of us?
What happened to Gandhi after India became an independent country?
Images: BBC, tenor, Quora, Gandhi Memorial Centre