Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most remarkable men in modern history, was assassinated on 30th January 1948, following a career that produced transformational changes in India, doing much to pave entry into the modern world.
Gandhi was a Hindu, born in 1869 in western India, but trained as a lawyer in London. He then practiced in South Africa where he championed the cause of the resident Indian community before returning to India in 1915.
A man of high intellect and profound sense of justice he became the leader of the Indian National Congress in 1921, addressing what he saw as some of the major issues impeding the progress of Indian society. These included the alleviation of poverty, the expansion of women’s rights, the building of religious and ethic tolerance, the breakdown of the social caste system, and above all the promotion of independence from the British Empire.
Gandhi’s techniques were manifestly non-violent and employed peaceful non co-operation to further his aims. A famous example this was on display in the so called “Dandi Salt March” in 1930, a 24 day 400 km trek led by Gandhi protesting against the British tax on salt. Starting with some 80 followers the march swelled to epic proportions and attracted world-wide attention – all without violence being employed.
Gandhi’s lifestyle was simple and free from the excesses of modern society. A vegetarian diet, modest accommodation and traditional hand spun clothing were his trademarks, and this, combined with his regular prayer rituals made him a beloved figure across much of India.
Gandhi’s greatest challenge came with the British granting of independence to India in 1947 but doing so through the religious partitioning of the country, subdividing it into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. He was a key figure in all the associated discussions but his tolerant attitude towards Pakistan infuriated many hardline Hindu nationalists. One of these, Nathuram Godse, shot and killed Gandhi on 30th January 1948, triggering a period of national mourning across all of India.
“I offer you peace.
I offer you love.
I offer you friendship.
I see your beauty.
I hear your need.
I feel your feelings.
My wisdom flows from the highest Source.
I salute that Source in you.
Let us work together. For unity and peace.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Image: Gandhi spinning yarn in the traditional way, c. late 1940s, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.