Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Last week the United States celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. Dr. King who is known for his community action and non violent ways was influenced by Mohandas Gandhi. Nelson Mandela was also inspired by Gandhi. With all the fighting in the world these days, I very much admired these three for their nonviolent ways of dealing with problems.
Last week I discussed the life of Dr. King, this week I’d like to remember the work of Gandhi.
Gandhi was born in India on October 2, 1869 into a privileged caste. He was able to receive a comprehensive education but was a mediocre student. At the age of thirteen he was married to Kasturba Makhanji who was also thirteen. It was an arranged marriage which was customary in India.
At the age of 18, he had the opportunity to study at University College in London. Determined to adhere to Hindu principles, which included vegetarianism as well as alcohol and sexual abstinence, he found London difficult initially, but once he had found kindred spirits he flourished, and pursued the philosophical study of religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and others, having professed no particular interest in religion up until then. Following admission to the English Bar, and his return to India, he found it hard to find a job so 1893 he accepted a year’s contract to work for an Indian firm in Natal, South Africa.
Gandhi spent the next 21 years in South Africa rallying against the system of apartheid. On one occasion he was thrown from a first class train carriage, despite being in possession of a valid ticket. Witnessing the racial bias experienced by his countrymen served as a catalyst for his later activism, and he attempted to fight segregation at all levels. He founded a political movement, known as the Natal Indian Congress, and developed his theoretical belief in non-violent civil protest into a tangible political stance.
On his return to India in 1916, Gandhi developed his practice of non-violent civic disobedience still further by encouraging oppressed villagers to improve their own circumstances, leading peaceful strikes and protests. His fame spread and he became widely known at ‘Mahatma’ which means Great Soul. By 1921 he was leading the Indian National Congress and encouraging ‘Swaraj’ which meant political independence from the British.
During his life, Gandhi spent time in prison for civil disobedience and aslo suffered six assassination attempts. In 1930 when the British introduced a tax on salt, Ghandi famously led a 250-mile march to the sea to collect his own salt. Recognizing Ghandi’s political influence nationally, the British authorities negotiated various settlements with Gandhi over the following years, which resulted in the alleviation of poverty, granted status to the ‘untouchables’, enshrined rights for women, and led inexorably to Gandhi’s goal of ‘Swaraj’: political independence from Britain.
In 1948, Gandhi was on his way to a prayer meeting when he was shot and killed by an assassin’s bullet. Gandhi’s birthday is celebrated as a National Holiday in India every year.
Fisher Hill has a workbook series called English Reading Comprehension for the Spanish Speaker. This is an excellent series for Spanish-speaking teens and adults who want to improve their English reading comprehension. The book includes many stories about famous people from the United States and around the world.
Visit our website at www.Fisher-Hill.com to learn more about our series English Reading Comprehension for the Spanish Speaker and other work books for Spanish-speaking teens and adults.