Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gandhi: one of India's most respected ideological and political leaders

Like Madonna, Cher, and Elvis, Gandhi is often referred to by a single moniker only, but his full given name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He hailed from West India, and was born in 1869 - the year the Suez Canal was inagurated, the first game of American college football was played, and the Folies Bergeres opened in Paris. 

Gandhi grew up in India, but eventually studied law in London and went on to spend 20 years in South Africa, opposing discriminations against the Indian minority living there. 

Gandhi was a pioneer of mass non-violent civil disobedience, known as Satyagraha, and became a major political and spiritual leader in his day.  Simplicity was at the core of Gandhi's lifestyle - including making his own clothes, enjoying a vegetarian diet, and taking part in fasting as an act of self-purification and at times, protest. 

In his mid 40s, Gandhi returned to India, becoming active in politics, supporting the independence movement (India was still under British rule), and aiming to help the disenfranchised - poor farmers and laborers who suffered under oppressive taxation, those living in poverty, and women. Gandhi stirred up much controversy with his view that the caste system should be put to an end. Gandhi met with much opposition and although his protest was non-violent, spent some time in prison on charges of conspiracy. 

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world" - Gandhi

Gandhi attempted to bring peace to the Hindu-Muslim conflict, and was disheartened to see the partition of India in 1947 and ensuing displacement of millions of people as well as the murder of hundreds of thousands in the tumultuous transitional time.
Shortly after - one evening in January of 1948 -  Ghandi was approached by a young man, Natharum Godse, while he was in the midst of greeting Namaste to the crowd. Godse bowed his head,  pulled a revolver from his pocket, and shot Gandhi three times in the chest.  

Gandhi's death did not end his global impact. Innumerable people have been inspired by his non-violent pursuit of peace. 

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others" - Gandhi