Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fondly known as Mahatma Gandhi was a pioneer leader of the Indian freedom struggle against the British ruled East India Company in India. Fondly known as ‘Bapu’ he was single-handedly responsible for revolutionizing the entire freedom struggle in India, mobilizing the burgeoning Indian population divided on the lines of race, caste , religion and gender and channelizing them towards a mass non-violent movement geared to wrench freedom from the hands of the British government without using force.
This was one of the first instances in history when a revolution of such magnanimous proportions achieved its objective without resorting to violence. With the aid of Civil Disobedience movement and Satyagrah or boycott of foreign goods. The Gandhi led movement inspired scores of similar movements elsewhere in the globe and inspired people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu Kyi and others.
Born on 2nd October, 1869in Porbander, Gujarat into a Hindu Bania family, his father was in administrative service in Porbander. His mother was intensely religious and his upbringing was infused with the Jain pacifist teaching of non-violence towards all beings.
Gandhi was born into a privileged family and he was fortunate to receive quality education. He was married at the age of 13 to Kasturba Gandhi and in 1888, at the age of 18, he set his foot for the foreign shores when he received an opportunity to study law at University College, London in Sep, 1888.
On the completion of his course, he did not get adequate scope for work in India, therefore lapped up the chance to work for an Indian firm in Natal, South Africa in the year 1893.
The South Africa sojourn was the turning point of his life, purpose and career as he was a first-hand witness to the Apartheid running across the length and breadth of the country and spent the next 21 years in active railing against racial discrimination over there.Back in India in 1916, he plunged headlong into Indian politics which at that time was fumbling for a visionary leader who could channelize the sporadic movements happening in different pockets of the country. What started in 1918 in West Champaran in Bihar, culminated eventually in the freedom of India on 15th August, 1947 though at great cost tohis own principles since the country lay divided on the grounds of religion, something which Gandhi found difficult to come to terms and reluctantly concurred with its political necessity as the only way to avoid civil war in India.
Keenly aware of the necessity to unify the Hindus and Muslims, the next few months post-independence were spent tirelessly in diffusing the animosity between the Hindus and the Muslims showing remarkable prescience given the turbulent relations between the two countries even more than 70 years post-Independence.
However his supreme effort came at the cost of supreme sacrifice as on 30th January,1948, Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse on his way to a prayer house meet at Birla House, in Delhi with ‘Hey Ram’ being his last spoken words.
It is in memory of this man and his supreme sacrifice that every year since then 2nd October, 1948 is celebrated as National Holiday in India.