India has produced a number of great men like Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha, Lord Mahavira, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekanand, Vinoba Bhave, etc.
Mahatma Gandhi was an illustrious son of India. Throughout his life, he fought for the independence of India. He preached love, non-violence and truth. He was a saintly person like Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha and Guru Nanak who were able to change the course of human history by their teachings.
Like Socrates, Mahatma Gandhi had a great passion for truth. He believed that ultimately truth always triumphs over falsehood. He wanted people to speak the truth regardless of its consequences. His book My Experiments with Truth shows how he became a devotee of truth.
He was born on 2nd October, 1869 at Porbunder in Gujarat. His full name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. However, people called him Mahatma Gandhi. He deserved the epithet “Mahatma” because of his saintly qualities. Some people loved him like a father. They also lovingly called him “Bapu”. He was truly the Father of our Nation. He believed in simple living and high thinking. He was great but humble. He commanded the love and affection of all sections of people
Gandhiji imbibed saintly qualities from his mother, Putli Bai. She was a very religious lady. She was responsible for kindling religious fervour in Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji was a mediocre student in his school days. He was also not much interested in extra-curricular activities. After passing his matriculation examination in 1888, he went to England for studying law. He was called to the Bar in 1891.
After returning to India, he practised law, first in Bombay and then at Rajkot. In 1893, he went to South Africa in connection with a legal case. He stayed in that country for about 20 years. He helped the Indians settled in that country in their struggle against injustice and tyranny. Soon he became their leader. It is in South Africa that he evolved his ideas regarding truth, nonviolence and Satyagraha. His efforts resulted in the grant of some facilities to the Indians settled in South Africa.
Gandhiji returned to India in 1915. He settled down at Sabarmati which later became the nerve centre of his activities. He led the people’s struggle for India’s independence by resorting to Satyagraha. His Satyagraha was peaceful and non-violent. It was called Satyagraha because it was based on truth.
India’s first struggle against the British rule was launched in 1857. But as it was an armed struggle, the Britishers had no difficulty in putting down this rebellion with an iron hand. But Gandhiji’s Satyagraha was non-violent. It shook the foundations of the British regime which had to grant independence to India in August, 1947. Gandhiji was a relentless crusader against injustice and tyranny everywhere.
He was steeped in religion. He was a believer in truth and God. He was a great humanitarian. He hated the evil but not the evil-doer. He did not nurse any ill-will even against his worst opponents.
Gandhiji was a pragmatist. He practised whatever he preached. He respected all the religions of the world. In his life and teachings, he assimilated the good points of all religions. He adopted non-violence from the Jain and Vaishnava saints, love and sacrifice from the life of Jesus Christ and Karmayoga from the Gita.
He treated truth at par with God. According to him, God and truth are two sides of the same coin. They are inseparable. One cannot realise God without sepking truth. He believed that the service of man is the service of God. He saw God even in the poorest of the poor. He called the poor people as “Daridra Narayan”.
Gandhiji was one of the greatest reformers of the country. He believed that the social evil of untouchability was a curse. He wanted that the Hindus should treat the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as their brothers, inter-mingle with them in all spheres of life and inter-marry with them. He exhorted the Hindus to throw open their temples to them. He called these people “Harijans” i.e., sons of God. He was certain that unless these people were brought within the mainstream of society, our country would not be able to achieve any worthwhile progress.
He also preached eradication of other social evils like casteism, communalism, drinking, gambling, dowry etc. He breathed his last on 30th January when Nathuram Godse, a religious fanatic, shot him dead. He died a martyr’s death.