Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was one of the most prominent freedom fighters and political activists of India who fearlessly fought against the British rule. He firmly believed in ‘ahimsa’ (non-violence) and played a monumental role in India’s independence movement through passive resistance against the British. It earned him the title of ‘Mahatma’ (extraordinary soul).
Gandhi’s persistent non-violent protest against the British continues to be a source of inspiration for people across the globe. His simple life and valuable teachings have profoundly influenced civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. His fame is so far-reaching that he is known as just ‘Gandhi’.
We have compiled various facts and information on the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi for children to understand this great man better.
Where Was Mohandas Gandhi Born?
Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, a city now in the Indian state of Gujarat. He was born into a wealthy family. His father Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi worked as a ‘diwan’ or Chief Minister in the same state. His mother Putlibai was a homemaker.
Childhood And Family
Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Kaba Gandhi (1), and his wife Putlibai had four children. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, lovingly known as ‘Monia’, was the fourth child.
As a young boy, Gandhi grew up learning the teaching of the two Indian religions – Hinduism and Jainism. An extremely shy boy, Gandhi often sought companionship in books and lessons. (2)
At the age of 13, his parents arranged his marriage to a girl named Kasturba. They were married for around 60 years until Gandhi’s death in 1948.
In school, Gandhi was an average student, and graduated in 1887. To fulfill his parent’s dream, he went to study law at the University College, London, England. After he returned to India in 1891, he started his independent practice but was not successful. Gandhi later joined an Indian law firm in South Africa.
Influence Of Religion On Gandhi’s Beliefs
Since childhood, Gandhi worshipped the Hindu God, Vishnu, and practiced the principles of Jainism. Jainism is known for its rigorous rules and traditions, such as fasting, strict vegetarianism, and meditation. Non-violence is one of the most important teachings of Jainism.
Gandhi lived in London for about three to four years. He followed a vegetarian diet and even became a part of the London Vegetarian Society. During this period, he started reading different sacred texts and studied a great deal about all religions. Even after he moved to South Africa in 1893, he continued to study world religions.
Racial Discrimination In South Africa
In South Africa, which was under British rule back then, Gandhi faced and witnessed racial discrimination by Europeans. Once on a train voyage to Pretoria, Gandhi was asked to vacate his seat for a white man due to his dark-colored skin. When Gandhi refused, he was thrown out of the train and beaten up by white people. The incident had left a huge impact on him and served as a turning point in his life.
He soon began developing the concept of ‘Satyagraha’ (truth and firmness). ‘Satyagraha’ was a method of passive resistance or non-cooperation. Despite the harsh punishment for the protestors, Gandhi managed to negotiate terms with the government regarding the recognition of Indian marriages and cancellation of toll taxes on Indians in South Africa.
Mahatma Gandhi And The Fight For India’s Independence
After living in South Africa for more than two decades, Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and continued his fight for Indian rights against the British Empire. He led several protests against the British and soon rose to prominence. By 1920, his philosophies and pursuit of independence became all too well known across the country.
In one protest, he gave a call to boycott expensive British cloth and promote Indian goods. He himself spun cloth on the spinning wheel known as ‘charkha,’ urging citizens to wear only Indian clothes to support the Indian economy. Gandhi even took up to wearing only a loincloth and a shawl throughout his later life. Following Gandhi’s ideologies, his followers boycotted British goods and strongly supported Indian goods, also known as ‘swadeshi’ goods. Indian citizens even refused to step foot in British courts and schools.
In 1930, Gandhi spearheaded the ‘Dandi March’ or ‘Salt Satyagraha’ against the salt tax levied by the British on Indians. The 24-day historic salt march saw Gandhi and his trusted followers walk over 240 miles from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi to collect their own salt and make it for free.
By 1934, Gandhi had retired from active politics. However, engulfed in World War II, the British sought India’s aid in the war. Gandhi and other Indian political leaders demanded independence in return for their support.
After arduous efforts by Gandhi and several other Indian leaders, India finally got independence on August 15, 1947.
About Mahatma Gandhi’s Death
Although loved and revered by most Indians, a group of individuals was opposed to Gandhi’s ideology. This opposition led to Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948, in the garden of the former Birla House in Delhi during a prayer meeting. His funeral was attended by two million people.
Facts About Mahatma Gandhi For Kids
- Mahatma Gandhi is addressed as ‘Gandhiji’ with the honorific ‘Ji’ used to show respect. Some affectionately addressed him as ‘Bapu,’ which means father. He is called the ‘Father of the Nation’.
- It is believed that the title ‘Mahatma’ was given to him by poet and Nobel Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
- His birthday is celebrated as a national holiday in India and commemorated as the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’
- Albert Einstein was a huge admirer of Gandhi. After Gandhi’s death, Einstein was quoted as saying, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” (3)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. adopted Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence to fight for the civil rights movement in the US.
- He was named the Time Magazine Man of the Year in 1930.
- Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and 1948, but was never awarded the honor.
- The movie ‘Gandhi’ won the Academy Award for the Best Motion Picture in 1982.
- An avid writer, ‘My Experiments With Truth’ is the autobiography of Gandhi. ‘The Young India’ English weekly journal was published by Gandhi from 1919 to 1931.
- Gandhi always carried a spinning wheel with him. He often held contests in his ashram (a spiritual hermitage) to encourage people to spin cotton.
- In his later years, Gandhi owned only a few possessions that included his sandals, reading glasses, wooden spoon, bowl, and a pocket watch.
- Mahatma Gandhi had four children – Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, and Devdas.
- The Reserve Bank of India issued the first Gandhi series currency notes in 1996 with a smiling portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.
- Britain released a stamp in honor of Gandhi 21 years after his death.
- Through letters, Mahatma Gandhi corresponded with Leo Tolstoy, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, and several eminent personalities.
- Numerous roads in and outside India are named after Gandhi.
- Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple Inc., was a huge admirer of Gandhi. He wore round glasses similar to that of Gandhi as a tribute to him.
- Gandhi was a strict vegetarian and often experimented with his diet. Once he went on a diet consisting of only nuts, fruits, and seeds.
- Gandhi also authored a book titled ‘The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism.’
- It is widely believed that Mahatma Gandhi’s last words were ‘Hey! Ram’ translated as ‘Oh! God.’
An epitome of truth and honesty, Mahatma Gandhi is missed dearly by those who feel the world needs more strong and peace-loving leaders like him. This post attempts to give important insights into the life and teachings of Gandhi, the practice of non-violence, and Satyagraha. The message and legacy that Gandhi has left still find resonance even to this day. World history is incomplete without the mention of Gandhi. Like several other great leaders, let your child draw inspiration from this great soul.
2. Childhood; An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth
3. Tributes To Mahatma Gandhi By Indian and Global leaders; M.K. Gandhi
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