Mohandas Gandhi

The Man Who Changed the World With Only Words

By: Maya Shapiro

Who Was Mohandas Gandhi?

“You can't shake hands with a clenched fist,” stated Mohandas Gandhi. He’s right! You can't shake hands with someone that wishes to hurt you. Mohandas Gandhi, also known as Mahatma, which means “great soul,” was a man of peace and religion. Gandhi organized peaceful boycotts against British institutions and became the leader of India’s independence movement. In this article you will learn about Gandhi’s childhood, his teenage years, his religious acts, and the last years of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”

Gandhi's Childhood

In the early morning of October 2nd, 1869 in Porbandar, Kathiawar, India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born to Putlibai and Karamchand Gandhi. The Gandhi family was an average household. Gandhi’s father was a chief minister in Porbandar and other states in Western India. They worshiped the Hindu god Vishnu and followed Jainism. Jainism is a religion that advocates vegetarianism, non-violence, meditation, and fasting. Fasting is not eating on purpose. In school, Gandhi was an average, timid student. He was so timid, he slept with the lights on even as a teenager. If Gandhi needed lights to sleep as a teenager, how would he face the struggles that were not far ahead of him? “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.”

Gandhi Is Growing Up

At age 13, Gandhi wed to Kasturba Makhanji, a merchant’s daughter, in an arranged marriage. During the consequent years, Gandhi smoked, ate meat, and even stole change from household servants. After that rebellious phase had passed, the year was 1885 and Gandhi’s father and first baby boy had passed away. In 1888, three years after Gandhi had recovered from the loss of his father and son, he traveled to London, England to study law at University College London. Later that same year, Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba, gave birth to the first of four surviving sons. After his three year stay in London, Gandhi returned back to his home in India in 1891. When Gandhi returned home, he learned that just weeks before his return, his beloved mother had passed away. Before the birth of his second son, Gandhi received a contract to perform legal services in South Africa. After the baby was born, Gandhi traveled to Durban in South Africa in the state of Natal in April of 1893. While in Africa, Gandhi experienced racial discrimination for the first time. So, along the way for fighting for Indians’ rights, Gandhi was physically attacked. However, Gandhi refused to fight back violently, That was on of the first ever moments that Gandhi fought back for his beliefs - peacefully. “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Gandhi's Religious Acts

Besides the fact that Gandhi was a father, husband, and son, he was also a spiritual leader. Gandhi lead many marches and boycotts such as the Salt March and the fight for Indian liberation. Gandhi also went on hunger strikes to protest India’s poorest classes and injustices and was arrested several times for his pursuit of non-cooperation. In the early 1900s, Gandhi started activism as an Indian immigrant in South Africa. In the years following, World War l became a great reason in India’s struggle to gain independence from Great Britain. Although life was tough for many Indians, Gandhi peacefully fought for what was right for the freedom of his peers. “Non-violence is a weapon of the strong.”

The Last Years of Mohandas Gandhi

After the Partition in 1947, Gandhi continued to make peace between Hindus and Muslims. Around a year later, on January 30, 1948, Gandhi was on his way to New Delhi’s Birla House to a prayer meeting. Although he didn't know it, Nathuram Godse, Hindu fanatic, was planning to end Gandhi’s life for good that very afternoon. So, when Gandhi stepped into the Birla House, “BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!” Nathuram Godse shot Gandhi three times at point-blank range. The 78 year-old Gandhi was rushed nowhere and died within half an hour. Along with his co-conspirator, Godse was killed by a hanging in November of 1949. The other conspirators were sentenced to life in prison. “If I am to die by the bullet of a madman, I must do so smiling.”

Remembering An Indian Hero

Gandhi spent his whole life preaching against violence. However, he was killed by gunshots. In this article you learned not only about Gandhi’s early life, his religious acts, and his last years, but also about how special this man really was. He wanted peace between everyone, he let others torture him while he fought back in only words, and how he followed through on his beliefs so that he could make the world a more peaceful place. Gandhi’s grave is located at the Birla House in New Delhi. Even if you can't visit his resting place physically, you can remember him mentally. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
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Gandhi's Grave Located at the Birla House in New Delhi

Vocabulary Words

Activism- "the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change"

Boycott- to protest peacefully (not buying or using)

Conspirator- "a person who takes part in a conspiracy; plotter"

Fanatic- "a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm, as in religion or politics"

Fasting-"to forgo from all food"

Hindu- "a person, especially of northern India, who practices to Hinduism"

Immigrant- "a person who migrates to another country"

Institution- "a society or organization founded for a religious, educational, social, or similar purpose"

Jainism- a religion advocating non-violence, meditation, fasting, and vegetarianism

Liberation- "the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression"

Meditation- "the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression"

Muslim- "a follower of the religion of Islam"

Partition- "the action being divided into parts (especially with reference to a country with separate areas of government)"

Point-Blank Range- shooting at something within a close distance

Racial Discrimination- when a person is treated with less equality because of their skin color

Spiritual- someone who has strong beliefs

Vegetarianism- "does not believe in eating meat, fish,fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain, etc."