Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born into the Hindu Modh family in Porbandar, in 1869. The son of Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibai he went on to become not only a leader of the masses during the Indian independence movement but also a spiritual guru of sorts for people world over. He inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world and is commonly known as “Mahatma Gandhi” to the world and as “Bapu” to the indian population. He has been officially accorded the honour of “Father of the Nation” and October 2nd, his birthday, is commemorated each year as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday. On 15 June 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring October 2 to be the “International Day of Non-Violence.”
Truth, nonviolence, vegetarianism, brahmacharya, simplicity and faith were his guiding principles in life. Throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to non-violence, even in the most extreme situations. A student of Hindu philosophy, he lived simply, organizing an ashram that was self-sufficient in its needs. Making his own clothes—the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl woven with a charkha—he lived on a simple vegetarian diet. He used rigorous fasts, for long periods, for both self-purification and as a form of protest. Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for the alleviation of poverty, for the liberation of women, for brotherhood amongst differing religions and ethnicities, for an end to untouchability and caste discrimination, and for the economic self-sufficiency of the nation, but above all for Swaraj—the end of foreign rule in India. Gandhi as he always did, led by example when he broke the salt law after the 400 kilometre (248 miles) Dandi Salt March in 1930. The famous ‘do or die’ speech given in 1942 served as an ultimatum to the British to Quit India. He was imprisoned for many years on numerous occasions in both South Africa and India. Non-cooperation and peaceful resistance were Gandhi’s “weapons” in the fight against injustice. In Punjab, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of civilians by British troops caused deep trauma to the nation, gixing birth to a wave of public anger and acts of violence. Gandhi had the courage to not only criticize the actions of the British Raj but also the retaliatory violence of his own counrtymen. He authored the resolution offering condolences to British civilian victims and condemning the riots, which after initial opposition in the party, was accepted following Gandhi’s emotional speech advocating his principle that all violence was evil and could not be justified. But it was after the massacre and subsequent violence that Gandhi’s wholly devoted himslef to obtaining complete self-government and control of all Indian government institutions, maturing soon into Swaraj or complete individual, spiritual, political independence. Gandhi was arrested on March 10, 1922, tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years imprisonment. Beginning on March 18, 1922, he only served about two years of the sentence, being released in February 1924 after an operation for appendicitis.
By 1944 the Indian struggle for independence was in its final stages, the British government having agreed to grant independence on the condition that the two contending nationalist groups, the Muslim League and the Congress party, should resolve their differences. Gandhi stood steadfastly against the partition of India but ultimately had to agree, in the hope that internal peace would be achieved after the Muslim demand for separation had been satisfied. India and Pakistan became separate states when the British granted India its independence in 1947. During the riots that followed the partition of India, Gandhi pleaded with Hindus and Muslims to live together peacefully. Riots engulfed Calcutta, one of the largest cities in India, and the Mahatma fasted till disturbances ceased. On January 13, 1948, he undertook another successful fast in New Delhi to bring about peace.
. On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was shot and killed while having his nightly public walk on the grounds of the Birla Bhavan in New Delhi. Gandhi’s death was regarded as an international catastrophe. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, was a Hindu radical with links to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, who held Gandhi responsible for weakening India by insisting upon a payment to Pakistan. Godse and his co-conspirator Narayan Apte were later tried and convicted; they were executed on 15 November 1949. Gandhi’s memorial at Rāj Ghāt, New Delhi, bears the epigraph “Hē Ram”, which may be translated as “Oh God”. These are widely believed to be Gandhi’s last words after he was shot, though the veracity of this statement has been disputed. Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation through radio:
Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.
According to his wish, the majority of Gandhi’s ashes were immersed in some of the world’s major rivers, such as The Nile, Volga, Thames, etc. A small portion was sent to Paramahansa Yogananda by Dr. V.M. Nawle. The ashes were then enshrined at the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine within a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus from China.