From being an advocate to a freedom fighter, the legacy of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is nothing short of extraordinary. History remembers him as the man whose unflinching courage and persistence shook the British to the core. His message of peace, forgiveness, tolerance and freedom has never been more relevant than today. Let us take a walk in the shoes of the Mahatma who gave the world the gift of Ahimsa.

On 8th August 1942. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi addressed the masses from the Gwalior tank maidan in Bombay (now) Mumbai), during a historic session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). This marked the beginning of Bharat Chhodo Andolan or the Quit India movement.

Cooperation and World War II By 1939, events from other countries had begun to find their resonance in India. The Second World War had broken out and the Indian leaders fully sympathised with the victims of fascist forces. But an enslaved nation could not be drawn into the war.

Britain was pressured by the Allied forces (U.S., USSR and China) to exert its influence and seek Indian cooperation in their war efforts. Upon negotiation, the Indian political leaders agreed to comply. but only if they were guaranteed a complete transfer of power and independence in exchange.

On 8 August 1942, unable to reach a consensus with the imperialists, India's freedom movement headed towards its tumultuous final campaign. The Quit India Movement (also known as August Kranti) saw Gandhiji motivate the populous "to do or die" until the British quit India.

The Britishers ruthless response to this was imprisonment without trial. The entire Congress leadership including Gandhiji was arrested the following morning.

But the fight for liberation continued. The masses took to the streets to protest against the colonisers brutality By now, the freedom movement had inculcated a dominant feeling of oneness in the heart of the average Indian and a unique unity in diversity prevailed.

What followed was the entire country invigorated by the spirit of nationlism looking forward to end of colonial rule with a sense of urgency.

Unity in diversity

"I believe that in the history of the world, there has not been a more genuinely democratic struggle for freedom than ours...Once you realise this you will forget the differences between the Hindus and Muslims. and think of yourselves as Indians only, engaged in the common struggle for independence" (excerpt from the Quit India speech)

The Muslim League led by a Bombay based barrister Mohammad Ali Jinnah propagated the theory that Hindus and Muslims belonged to two different Nations

Gandhiji opposed this idea vehemently. For him, secularism was the foundation of India's freedom movement. He quoted that since ancient times our people have always been sensitive to the fact that the welfare of a society depended on a consensual and accommodative intercommunity network. According to him one's identity is never solely bound to the religion he or she subscribes to.

The power of ahimsa

7 and my Ahimsa are on our trail today in the present crisis, when the earth is being scorched by the flames of Himsa and crying for deliverance" (Excerpt from the Quit India speech)

Many scholars have drawn a parallel between Gandhiji's practice of ahimsa and the Christian ideology of tuming the other cheek. Historian Mridula Mukherjee looking back at Gandhiji's attempts to put an end to the 1947 Calcutta riots, suggests that his willingness to suffer for the sake of humanity had a tremendous moral appeal that inspired devotion in his followers.

Gandhiji's non-violence was conscious suffering of the flesh that demanded universal love and supported his vision of a free India Author Arundhati Roy calls Ahimsa India's greatest gift to the world.

The mantra

"Here is a mantra, a short one, that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: Do or Die. We shall either free India or die in the attempt we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery.. "(excerpt from the Quit India speech) Gandhiji's clarion call "Karo ya Maro", "Do or die" set in motion a series of events that finally ended the British Raj in India.

Did you know?

  1. The iconic 'Quit India' slogan was coined by socialist Congress leader and lesser-known hero of the Indian National movement Yusuf Meher Ali in 1942.
  2. Historians suggest that the title of Mahatma was bestowed on Gandhiji by Rabindranath Tagore.
  3. The title of Father of the Nation was given to the Mahatma by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
  4. Gandhiji was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times but was never bestowed with the honour.
  5. 0 Gandhiji's birthday (2nd October) is commemorated worldwide as International Day of Non-Violence.
  6. 30th January the day Gandhiji was assassinated is observed as Martyrs Day or Shaheed Diwas, in India.

Picture Credit : Google 


Which are the most important commemorative days of Gandhiji?

            The birthday of Gandhiji is celebrated in India as Gandhi Jayanti that is on 2nd October. It is one of the national holidays of the country.

            This day is also celebrated internationally as the Day of Non-Violence by the UN. Gandhiji was a man who believed in the power of universal brotherhood and harmony.

            Gandhi Jayanti is marked by prayer services and tributes all over India, and at Gandhiji's memorial in New Delhi where he was cremated.

            Popular activities include prayer meetings, commemorative ceremonies in different cities by colleges, local government institutions and socio-political institutions.

            Schools celebrate the day of complete cleaning and conduct various competitions on Gandhiji and Gandhian philosophies.

            The day of Gandhiji’s assassination, 30th January is observed as the Martyrs’ Day. 

What is the purpose of the Gandhi Peace Award?

          The Gandhi Peace Award is an award and cash prize presented annually since 1960. The Gandhi Peace Award was conceived by Promoting Enduring Peace’s founder, Yale professor Jerome Davis. Its main purpose is to promote international peace and goodwill. It is named in honour of Mahatma Gandhi. The award is presented to peace heroes. The award is also intended to recognise individuals for having made significant contributions, through cooperative and non-violent means in the true spirit of Gandhi. It recognizes the struggle to achieve a sustainable world civilization founded on enduring international peace.

          The Award consists of a medallion and a certificate with an inscription summing up the recipient’s work. The medallion features Gandhi’s profile and his words “Love Ever Suffers/Never Revenges Itself” cast in bronze. Some notable winners are Medea Benjamin, U Thant, Bill McKibben, Amy Goodman etc.


What makes the International Gandhi Peace Prize unique?

          The International Gandhi Peace Prize, named after Mahatma Gandhi, is awarded annually by the Government of India.

          The Government of India launched this prize in 1995, on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This is an annual award given to individuals and institutions. This award is open to all individuals, regardless of their nationality, creed or race.

          A jury consisting of the Prime Minister of India, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India, and two other eminent persons decides the awardee each year. The awardee gets an amount of 1 crore in cash, a plaque, and a citation.

          The first recipient of the award was Julius Nyerere, who was a political leader of Tanzania. Nelson Mandela received this award in the year 2000. 

In which movies does Gandhiji appear as a character?

            There are numerous documentaries and feature films centred on Gandhiji’s life. There are films that also have Gandhiji as a character. One such example is the film ‘Sardar’, where it fundamentally highlights how both Patel and Gandhiji together strived for Independence. 

            Jahnu Barua’s Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (I did not kill Gandhi), places contemporary society as a backdrop with its vanishing memory of Gandhi’s values. This film was released in 2005.

            Besides, there were many documentaries based on Gandhiji. One such famous documentary was ‘Mahatma: ‘Life of Gandhi’. The documentary was released by Vithalbhai Jhaveri in 1968.

            Another celebrated documentary on Gandhiji is ‘Mahatma Gandhi: 20th Century Prophet’. It is directed by Stanley Neal, and written by Quentin Reynolds. It features the life of the Mahatma.