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MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI
(The Father of Civil Disobedience)


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of satyagraha—resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon ahimsa or total non-violence—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. He is commonly known around the world as Mahatma Gandhi and in India also as Bapu. He is officially honoured in India as the Father of the Nation; his birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday

Childhood


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born October 2, 1869 in Porbunder, Kathiawar on the western coast of India. Gandhi born of a Bania (Vaishya or trading caste), the youngest of the three sons of Karamchand alias Kaba Gandhi. His Grandfather Uttamchand Gandhi and his father Karamchand Gandhi occupied the high office of Diwan (The chef minister) of Porbunder. To be Diwan of one of the princely was on sinecure (An office or requiring or no work). Porbunder was one of some three hundred native states in the western coast of India which were ruled by princes. These princes were accidently born to support and keep the British in power in India. To steer one's course safely between wayward Indian Princes, overbearing the British political agent of the suzerain and the long suffering subjects required a high degree of patience, diplomatic skill and common sense. Both Gandhi’s grandfather, Uttamchand Gandhi, and his father, Karamchand Gandhi, were good administrators, upright and honorable men who were loyal to their masters and did not flinch from offering unplatable advice. Uttamchand Gandhi and Karamchand Gandhi paid the price for the courage of their convictions. Uttamchand Gandhi had his house besieged and shelled by the ruler's troops and had to flee the state. Karamchand Gandhi also left Porbunder than compromise with his principles.


Adulthood

Gandi’s father had died in 1885. A friend of the family suggested that if the young Gandhi hoped to take his father's place in the state service he had better become a barrister which he could do in England in three years. Gandhi jumped at the idea. The mother's objection to his going abroad was overcome by the son's solemn vow not to touch wine, women and meat while in England.


Gandhi was admitted to the English bar in 1889 and practiced law unsuccessfully in India for two years. In 1893 he went to South Africa, where he was later joined by his wife and children. There he became a successful lawyer and leader of the Indian community and involved himself in the fight to end discrimination against the country's Indian minority. While in South Africa he organized (1907) his first satyagraha [holding to the truth], a campaign of civil disobedience expressed in nonviolent resistance to what he regarded as unjust laws. So successful were his activities that he secured (1914) an agreement from the South African government that promised the alleviation of anti-Indian discrimination.

He returned (1915) to India with a stature equal to that of the nationalist leaders. Gandhi actively supported the British in World War I in the hope of hastening India's freedom, but he also led agrarian and labor reform demonstrations that embarrassed the British. The title Mahatma [great soul] reflected personal prestige so high that he could unify the diverse elements of the organization of the nationalist movement, the Indian National Congress, which he dominated from the early 1920s.

When violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims, Gandhi resorted to fasts and tours of disturbed areas to check it. On Jan. 30, 1948, while holding a prayer and pacification meeting at New Delhi, he was fatally shot by a Hindu fanatic who was angered by Gandhi's solicitude for the Muslims. After his death his methods of nonviolent civil disobedience were adopted by protagonists of civil rights in the United States and by many protest movements throughout the world.