Life Chronology of Mahatma Gandhi
“I am a Hindu not merely because I was born in the Hindu fold, but I am one by conviction and choice. As I know it and interpret it, it gives me all the solace I need both here and hereafter.” – Mahatma Gandhi, 1933. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as “Mahatma Gandhi”, was arguably the most influential leaders India and the rest of the world has ever seen. He is considered the father of the Indian Independence movement. In the eyes of millions of Indians, he is known as “The Great Soul.” However, Gandhi was not born a leader. His personality was influenced by many experiences throughout the course of his life.
Born on October 2nd, 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat, Gandhi was always a shy boy throughout his childhood. As a young adult he began studying law in London. However, the posh and glamorous lifestyle did not suit his personality. He wanted to live a simple lifestyle.
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After completing law, Gandhi got an opportunity to practice in South Africa. However, he did not realize that racial discrimination against people of color was daily in South Africa. Gandhi experienced this prejudice firsthand after he booked a first-class train ticket to Pretoria. When a white person complained that Gandhi was seated in first class, Gandhi refused to give up his seat. The conductor viciously threw Gandhi off the train at the first stop.
After experiencing this humiliation, he realized that night that discrimination was very prevalent in society. A defining moment in his life, Gandhi made the decision to fight against the discrimination. This was the first step in his transformation into becoming a mass leader.
Gandhi spent the next 20 years in Africa fighting for the rights of Indian people. Even after multiple assaults and suffering, Gandhi continued to fight discrimination. His activism made him popular in Europe and India as well. By 1896 Gandhi had established himself as a political leader in South Africa.
Additionally, during this time, Gandhi heavily studied religion and spirituality. He was highly influenced by the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and tried to incorporate its teachings and values into his life. Reading over 80 books about religion during his stay in Pretoria alone, he came under the influence of Christianity as well. He began attending weekly Bible classes but could not embrace Christianity fully.
In 1906, Gandhi developed the concept of satyagrah during a mass protest in Johannesburg. Coupled with ahimsa, which is a method of protesting injustice using non-violent resistance, satyagrah addressed resistance with peaceful assertion and observation. According to the principles of satyagrah, one should fight against injustice by using peaceful non-cooperation instead of rancor and violence. Gandhi applied these concepts successfully in Africa and repeated the same after returning to India in 1914.
By 1914, already very well known in India, Gandhi travelled around for a year to acquaint himself of the conditions, struggles, and most importantly connect with the people of India.
Gandhi advocated self-reliance and his technique of satyagrah as ways to gain independence from the British. He asked the people of India to boycott British goods, textiles, and even the language. Gandhi was a firm believer in equality of people. He could not tolerate the racial discrimination that happened in Africa and therefore did not want to see religious persecution between Hindus and Muslims in India. The Muslim community feared that their rights will be compromised if India gained independence. Tensions and riots erupted all over the country. Gandhi made efforts to stop the violence, but it was too widespread during the partition. Using his last resort, Gandhi went on a fast until death unless the violence between sides stopped. Shortly after the independence of India, Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse for being supportive towards Muslims even though he was a Hindu.
Overall, there is no one leadership style that can fully describe Mahatma Gandhi. For example, Gandhi was a transformational leader while he dealt with the masses. He empowered them and motivated them to peacefully protest. Additionally, Gandhi practiced servant leadership. He fought and worked all his life with full dedication to the masses. Gandhi was an ethical charismatic leader. He was driven by a set of high moral values and code of conduct which he followed throughout his life.
Connection to Hinduism
“Gandhi’s formulation of Hinduism was highly complex as well as unconventional. His idea of equality of all religions was evidently rooted in his deep attachment to Hinduism, which, according to him, was the most tolerant, peaceful and inclusive religion. Projecting himself simultaneously as an orthodox as well as reformist Hindu, he positioned himself at the center of what may be described as Hindu religious and cultural arena while, at the same time, striving to build good relations with all other religions and create lasting unity among different religions.”