Mohandas Karamchandi Gandhi (1869-1948)


Figure 1.--This photograph dated Deptember 17, 1931, shows Ghandi on his way to London to attend the 1931 conference on India. The caption read, "A happy moment for Ghandi aboard ship enroute to London: One of the mot pkleasant moments for Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader, aboard the 'S.S. Rajputna' at seawhile him from India to London to attend the Round Table Conference. The genial Gandhi enjouyed his sea voyage very much, romping with the children, caressing babies and joking with the parents. He wore a loin cloth during the entire voyage. A most unusual study of Gandhi, smiling broadly, as he [played] with this tot aboard ship." Source: AP.

Mohandas Gandhi is perhaps the greatest of all Indian leaders. Mohandas was born in Porbandar, a small town along the western coast of India (1869). It was actually a tiny principality in Kathiawar. This was a microcosim of the pathwork construction that made up the British Raj. His middle-class family was part of the Raj. They were of the Vaishya caste. His granfather was the Dewan (Prime Minister) of Porbandar and Mohandas' father essentially inherited the post. His mother, Putlibai, was by all accounts a loving, gentle, almost saintly person. Mohandas attended the local primary school, but did not particularly impress his teachers. He was not good at math. At ahe 7, the family moved to Rajkot. This was another pricipality in Kathiawar. His father was apointed Dewan. There Mohandas coninued his primary education and continued on in the local seconary school. Despite working hard he was still a rather mediocre student. He was also a very shy and timid youth. It was from this not very auspicious beginning that Gandhi went on to become the genius of the independence movement, developing a tactic of non-violence. He is today the most beloved of all India's leaders.

Family

Mohandas was born into a middle-class family was part of the Raj. They were of the Vaishya caste. His granfather was the Dewan (Prime Minister) of Porbandar and Mohandas' father essentially inherited the post. His mother, Putlibai, was by all accounts a loving, gentle, almost saintly person.

Childhood

Mohandas was born in Porbandar, a small town along the western coast of India (1869). It was actually a tiny principality in Kathiawar. This was a microcosim of the pathwork construction that made up the British Raj.

Education

Mohandas attended the local primary school, but did not particularly impress his teachers. He was not good at math. At ahe 7, the family moved to Rajkot. This was another pricipality in Kathiawar. His father was apointed Dewan. There Mohandas coninued his primary education and continued on in the local seconary school. Despite working hard he was still a rather mediocre student. He was also a very shy and timid youth, but perhaps a little on the stuborn side. One school incident has impressed biographers. During a spelling test set by a British school inspector, his teacher saw a mistake on his slate copy book and tried to get him to copy from the boy next to him. Mohandas refused. His teacher later referred to his "stupidity". He completed his education in London.

Character

Mohandas from an early age acquired the need to reform others. His first attemp was to reform a friend of his brother, a youth named Sheikh Mehtab. Monandas was concerned about his lack of religious commitment. The only problem was that Sheikh reformed Mohandas. He convinced him tht eating meat gave the British an advantage. So for a while Mohandas took to secretly eatng meat.

Marriage

Mohandas married as a young teenager. He was only 13 years old. His wife was Kasturbai who was the same age. Marriages wwre not consumated at that age. Rather for the young people it meant feasts and fancy new clothes. Also it meant that Mohandas had a new rather docile companion. He would later refer to child marriage as a "cruel custom".

Legal Career

Gandhi was admitted to the bar (1899). He made a name for himself fighting for the civil rights of Indians in South Afrika where the Aparthaid system was developing. His action there was noted in India. The British in South africa were very pleased to finally rid themselves of him.

Independence Movement

Gandhi returned to India during World war I to assist with the colon's fledling independence movement (1915). Here he decided to first under cut the hold that Brirain had oin middle-class Indians. He did this by rejecting Western culture. He began ton lead an aesthetic life. This was embracing Indian Hindu culture and ethical system which greatly valued aesticism. He advocated the revival of cottage industry, especially weaving which he practiced himself. He was not, however, a Hindu religious leader. He saw the religious division of India as thret to independence and later a threat to independent India. He sought to promore religious thought fusing India's different religious traditions. He began to preach Christin, Muslim, and Hindu teachings that supported the unity of man under one god. He also rejected one important Hindu trdition--untouchibility. He became a force within the Inndian National Congress, elected leader several times. The British did not at first take him seriously, but this began to change as hos tsactics began to cause problems. He adopted a strategy of non-violence which he referred in Sanskrit as "truth force". Other leaders, such as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, would later adopt a military approach to achieving independence. Gandhi's first major effort was to attack the British fiscal position--the salt monopoly. In awell publicized march to the sea to collect sea salt, Gandhi publicized the boycott. He was arrested for this (1930). The British released him to attend an Imperial conference on India in London (1931). He caused a sensation, appearing dressed in his home-spun loin cloths. By this time he had becomed a revered figure in India, transcending politica and religion. He used this to stage fasts to extract political concessions.

World War II (1939-45)

India played an important part in the British war effort. In was the source of raw materials. Indian troops also played a key role in the Middle East, both in Iraq and the Western Desert. Gandhi offered to cooperate with the British if India was granted independence. The British refused and arrested him (1942-44). He was held under gentel circumstances.

Independence (1947)

The victory of the Labor Party in the British General Election replaced Churchill with Clemet Atlee (1945). This meant that Britain would grant independence. Atlee chose Lord Mountbatten as the last viceroy to oversee the transition to independence. Gandhi was a major figure in the conferences that planned independence. The major questin was no longer independence itself, but the future of ndia as an independent state. Many Muslims leaders were concerned about life n a majority Hindu state. Gandhi did his best to address those concerns. He even convinced Nehru and other Congress leaders to offer major concessions. The Muslim League led by Muhammed Ali Jinnah demanded partition and an independent Muslim majority state--Pakistan. Gandhi was deeply disappointed, but finally resigned himsel to it. Terrible sectarian rioting followed and the greatest movement of populations in history as Muslims in India moved into Pakistan and Hindus in Pakistam moved to India. Only a fast by Gandhi managed to stop the rioting and killing.

Assasination (1948)

Gandhi was assainated by a Hindu nationalist who blamed him for partition (1947).







HBC



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Created: 8:38 AM 10/19/2008
Last updated: 8:38 AM 10/19/2008