“Not all will agree as to whether Gandhi was primarily a saint or a politician. Gandhi himself said that `people describe me as a saint trying to be a politician, but the truth is the other way around,”‘ Homer A. Jack. People may not be able to agree if he was a saint or politician, but almost everyone can agree that Mohandas Gandhi was one of the most influential people in history. He led the Indian Independence Movement during a time when India was struggling. The British Empire was rising and took control of India and many Indians were being discriminated all over Asia. Gandhi really saw brutal demonstrations of segregation when he went to South Africa, and it changed his life forever.
Mohandas Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, and was named Mohandas, but he was eventually referred to as Mahatma or great soul. As a child, Gandhi was very close to his mother, Putlibai, and she was very religious and influenced some of his future choices. His father, Karamchand, was Prime Minister of a small state in India. When Gandhi was a child many families in India arranged marriages for their children. His parents arranged a marriage when he was just 13 years old, to a girl named Kasturba, who was 12 at the time. They eventually ended up having three children. His father died when he was just 17 and getting ready to chose a college. He went to college in India for a year but did not like it so, in 1888 he decided to go to the University College of London to study law, like his father. Before he left he promised his mother that he would still follow Hinduism and stay away from meat, alcohol, and women.
Gandhi left for college when he was 19, during a time where the British Empire had control of his home country, India, and was at its peak, ruled by Queen Victoria. However, people in London were not used to Indians living there. When Gandhi went to London his landlady did not know what to feed him because she had never met a vegetarian. Gandhi eventually found a vegetarian restaurant in London and it helped him feel at home. While in London Gandhi met many theosophists interested in Hinduism an Buddhism, and eventually read a Hindu text, The Bhagavad Gita. After reading The Bhagavad Gita, Gandhi became very interested in religion. He became interested in religions other than just Hinduism and found himself also studying Buddhism and Christianity. Even though he was studying religion, Gandhi was still in college to study law, he went back to India in 1891 upon graduation. He tried setting up his own law practice in India but was not successful. Eventually, he got an offer to work for a law firm in Natal, South Africa and he took that offer.
When Gandhi took the offer to go to South Africa his whole life changed. Before he went to South Africa he had no idea how bad things were for Indians there. During the 1890s there were more Indian Muslims living in Natal than Europeans. This caused the Europeans to have a Hatred towards the Indians, and Indians started to get discriminated against. Gandhi was unaware of all the discrimination what was going on when he decided to buy himself a first-class train ticket. When he got onto the train a European complained and he got kicked off the train. He spent the cold night at the train station trying to process what had just happened. He had never experienced something like that before, and he did not know what to think of it. As he stayed in South Africa, he experienced more examples of discrimination, like when he tried to ride a stagecoach and was forced to sit on the footboard because a European wanted the bench. Gandhi was not the only Indian having these troubles, Indians all over South Africa had to be off the streets by a certain time, had to pay extra taxes, and had a very hard time buying land.
Once Gandhi realized what was going on in South Africa, he described it as Humiliating he decided to start organizing campaigns and protests in South Africa, and very quickly became someone that the Indians in South Africa looked up to. The government in Natal was trying to pass a bill that would forbid Indians to vote and the Indian community asked Gandhi to lead protests against the bill. His protests were not successful, but it drew attention to their cause. In 1896 he went back to India to bring his wife and Children with him to South Africa, but his ship to go back was delayed three weeks. When he finally arrived back in South Africa, a European mob was waiting with eggs and rocks to throw at him. Even after he was pelted with eggs and rocks, Gandhi refused to press charges. His whole protest was based on satyagraha, which is a nonviolent insistence on truth in the political realmthe term is derived from two Sanskrit words highlighting his central beliefs: satya, truth, and agraha, firmness. The message he was spreading throughout South Africa was being noticed back in his home country of India. Once he started to gain support and popularity in the Indian community, he quickly became one of the most well-known leaders in India.
After his time in South Africa, Gandhi returned to India and continued his protest there. He went on to lead one of the biggest movements Asia had ever seen. During all of his protests, he tried to teach non-violence and passive resistance. He played a significant role in freeing India from The British Empire and his non-violence tactics proved to be very successful. His life was taken when he was assassinated by a Hindu in New Delhi on January 30, 1948, but his legacy lived on and he inspired other leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela
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