It has been seventy years since Mahatma Gandhi departed from our midst. But his life and soul continue to animate humanity transcending national and international boundaries. His contribution to human development is far too great and varied to have been forgotten or to be overlooked. The world today recognizes him as a far more compelling social innovator than humanity ever realized.
The life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is a story of heroic effort to establish the values of Truth and Non-violence in human life. In pursuing this objective Gandhiji became a Mahatma from a mere ‘Monya’. He became a messenger, for the people of the world surrounded by fire of violence in the twentieth century. He also became ‘The Father of The Nation’. He saved India and Britain from mutual hate and revenge by resorting to the experiment of Truth and Non-violence in India’s struggle for freedom. This created an atmosphere which made it possible for other countries of Asia and Africa to free themselves without bloodshed from the hold of the European countries which had subdued them in the nineteenth century.
Being born in a middle class Vaishnava family and brought up in that atmosphere till he joined school and received instruction according to the system then prevailing, he lived, dressed and dined in the way all children of that class did. Later, he went to England for studies and changed his dress to suit the conditions of that country. But in food and certain other matters, he remained true to the lesson he had learnt early in life. On his return to India after being called to the Bar, he passed through difficult times as all beginners in the profession of the law have to do and it was as a lawyer that he went to South Africa to help a client. He had, however, to spend many years there as the condition of Indians and the treatment they received demanded that he should serve them rather than return to India. His struggle with the authorities brought about a considerable change in his life and by the time he returned to India, he had already become a Mahatma. His dress in India on his return was different from what he used to wear when he was practicing as a Barrister and conformed to the old Kathiawadi type.
If in South Africa it was the Railway Ticket Collector who paved the way for the birth of a Satyagrahi, in India it was a poor peasant from Champaran, Rajkumar Shukla, who provided him a platform to test the power of Satyagraha on the Indian soil. His campaign in favour of the non-co-operation movement brought about another change which identified his outward appearance with that of the humblest and lowliest of the land and he stuck to the loin cloth till he departed with the name of God on his lips.
Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned several times in his pursuit of non-cooperation and undertook many ‘fasts’ to protest against the oppression of the down trodden in India.
He invented the techniques of mass –civil disobedience in South Africa which were later emulated in India and across the world.
On January 30th, 1948, the assassin’s bullet ended the physical existence of Mahatma Gandhi and made him immortal who left an indelible legacy to the mankind –‘My life is my Message’.