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. 

What made ‘The Making of the Mahatma’, a unique film?

             The Making of the Mahatma, Shyam Benegal’s film, portrays Gandhiji’s transformation from an introverted lawyer to a freedom fighter.

             This film was about Gandhi’s experiments with truth and non-violence in colonial South Africa and was produced by India and South Africa jointly.

             It was based on the book ‘Apprenticeship of a Mahatma’ by Fatima Meer, and was directed by one of India’s most respected directors, Shyam Benegal.

             ‘The Making of the Mahatma’ premiered in November at New York’s Guild Theatre. The film deliberately lacks the panoramic proportions and epic scale of Attenborough’s “Gandhi”.

               The film documents Gandhi’s 21 years in South Africa, from age 19, and the changes which came over this Anglicized, London-trained advocate as he encountered the racial discrimination and bias of the colonists in South Africa.

               Rajit Kapur gives a solid performance as Gandhi, and Pallavi Joshi portrays his wife Kasturba. The Hindi title is ‘Gandhi se Mahatma Tak’. 

Why is ‘Gandhi’ more than just an outstanding film?

          ‘Gandhi’, released in 1982, was directed by Richard Attenborough and is the story of the life of Mahatma Gandhi. It is an epic movie, covering Gandhiji’s life from his days as a struggling lawyer in South Africa, fighting against racism, to becoming the leader of the non-violence movement that won India freedom from British rule.

          ‘Gandhi’ is without doubt, one of the finest biographical epics ever made. The film shows that Gandhi was not just a simple, humble man in a loincloth, but a shrewd, practical man as well. Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Mohandas K. Gandhi is amazing.

          The film won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. ‘Gandhi’ is not just an outstanding film. Its importance lies in the fact that it brings a deeper message to its viewers-that peace, justice, and equality for all people can best be achieved through non-violent means. 

Why is Gandhiji’s autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”, an inspiration to generations?

            Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’ is indeed a great work written with a mighty pen that was his life.

            It was not first published in book form, and appeared in weekly installments, in his journal ‘Navjivan’ from 1925 to 1929.

            This was written originally in Gujarati, and later translated to English by his notable disciple, Mahadev Desai.

            It has chapters on his childhood, experiences in England, and in South Africa. It records the events of his life from his childhood till 1921. He melted the hearts of thousands of people with his story about his principles of Satyagraha. He regarded it as a tale of experiments with life, and with truth.

            In the present era of chaos and falsehoods, this work stands out as a symbolic representation of truth and order. He talked about his own philosophy of life that stood the test of time. 

Which were the books written by Gandhiji?



              Gandhiji was a good writer and a voracious reader. Gandhiji wrote many articles on various topics from hygiene to the development of villages. But he wrote only three books.

               Most prominent among them are Gandhiji’s autobiography ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’, which covers Gandhiji’s life from his early childhood to 1921. 







                  The second book was ‘Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule’. This was written in 1909. In this book, Gandhiji expresses his views on various subjects such as Swaraj, modern civilization, mechanization etc. The book was originally written in Gujarati, and it was banned by the British. Gandhiji later translated it into English, but the translated version was not banned by the British. 









                       The third book was ‘The Key to Health’ which was written by Gandhiji while he was in the Aga Khan Palace at Pune during 1942-1944. The book was written in Gujarati, and later translated to English by Dr. Sushila Nayyar under Gandhiji’s own guidance.


Why is Maulana Azad considered as a loyal follower of Gandhiji?

            Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was one of the most influential independence activists during India’s freedom struggle. He was also a noted writer, poet, and journalist.

            He was a prominent political leader of the Indian National Congress, and was elected as Congress president in 1923 and 1940.

            He was elected as the president of the special session of the Congress in Delhi in 1923. Maulana Azad was arrested in 1930 for the violation of the salt laws as part of Gandhiji’s salt Satyagraha. He was put in Meerut jail for a year and a half.

            Maulana Azad became the President of the Congress in 1940, and remained in the post till 1946. Maulana Azad started a weekly called AlBalagh with the same mission of propagating Indian nationalism based on Hindu-Muslim unity. Azad was a staunch opponent of partition, and supported a confederation of autonomous provinces having common defence and economy.

                Like Gandhiji, partition hurt him greatly, and shattered his dream of a unified nation. Azad was the first education minister of Independent India. 

Why is it said that Gandhiji and Rabindranath Tagore shared a unique relationship?

          Rabindranath Tagore played a significant role in our freedom movement. He wrote the national anthem for our country.

          Even though Gandhiji and Tagore had differences over various matters, their patriotism connected them.

          Tagore was the one who first addressed Gandhiji as the Mahatma, which means great soul. Gandhiji called Tagore, Gurudev. Tagore and Gandhiji met for the first time on March 6, 1915.

          Gandhiji changed the system of the Congress and introduced new methods such as the non-cooperation movement and civil disobedience. Rabindranath Tagore had some differences of opinion regarding these movements, and he opposed the burning of foreign clothes. In spite of his differences with Gandhiji, Tagore respected Gandhiji for his great influence on the life of Indians. 

Why is Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan known as Frontier Gandhi?



            Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, more popularly known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’ in India, and ‘Bacha Khan’ in Pakistan was the pioneer of a Gandhian-style, non-violent struggle against the British.

            He was a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, and also a political and spiritual leader of the Muslims and the rest of the country. Ghaffar Khan met Gandhi and entered politics in 1919, during the agitation over the Rowlatt Act, which permitted the confinement of political protestors without trial. During the following year, he became part of the Khilafat Movement, and in 1921, he was elected president of a district Khilafat committee in his native province. 




          Soon after attending a Congress meeting in 1929, Ghaffar Khan founded the Red Shirts movement among the Pashtuns. It championed non-violent nationalist agitation in support of Indian independence, and sought to awaken the Pashtuns’ political consciousness.

          By the late 1930s, Ghaffar Khan had become a member of Gandhi’s inner circle of advisers.

          Ghaffar Khan, who had opposed the partition, chose to live in Pakistan. His memory, ‘My Life and Struggle’, was published in 1969.

Why Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is considered a loyal believer in Gandhiji and his ideas?

            Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. Patel’s meeting with Gandhiji brought a significant change in his life and brought him into the Indian freedom struggle. He met Gandhiji for the first time at the Gujarat Political Conference in Godhra. On Gandhi’s encouragement, Patel became the secretary of the Gujarat Sabha and later led the Kheda Satyagraha.

            Patel supported Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement. Not only that, he supported Gandhiji’s decision of calling off the non-cooperation movement after the Chauri Chaura incident. He considered Gandhiji as a role model, and worked against alcoholism, untouchability, and caste discrimination, as well as for the empowerment of women. Gandhiji and Patel developed a close bond of affection, trust, and frankness. Their relationship could be described as that of an elder brother and his younger brother.

            Patel was intensely loyal to Gandhiji, and both he and Nehru looked to him to arbitrate disputes. 

Why is Jawaharlal Nehru prominent among Gandhiji’s contemporaries?

            Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had an indissoluble bond of love, reverence, and a common cause. “Jawaharlal will be my successor. He says that he does not understand my language, and he speaks a language foreign to me. This may or may not be true. But language is no bar to a union of hearts. And I know that when I am gone, he will speak my language”, wrote Gandhiji.

            In spite of his admiration for Gandhiji, Nehru was never a blind follower of Gandhiji. To Nehru, freedom, dignity of man, refinement and ethical values were as important as economic development for raising the standard of living.

            Nehru believed in the ideals of socialism and democracy, and he said, “I am a convinced socialist and believer in democracy, and have, at the same time, accepted wholeheartedly the peaceful technique of non-violent action which Mahatma Gandhi has practiced so successfully”. 

Why is it said that Gandhiji remains as an inspiration for many renowned personalities even today?

            Gandhiji’s memory lingers in the minds and hearts of admirers all over the world.

            Indians can take great pride in the fact that some of the most well-known personalities of the 20th and 21st centuries cite Mahatma as their role model.

            Barack Obama, the former president of the United States of America had once talked about Gandhi as his ‘real hero’. Dalai Lama, Pearl S. Buck, and Steve Jobs are a few among the long list of his admirers.

            American historian, Will Durant, best known for his great work, The Story of Civilization, was an admirer of Gandhiji. 

            The inspiration for Attenborough’s film Gandhi was ‘The Life of Mahatma Gandhi’, the book written by the celebrated American journalist Louis Fischer. He was a follower of Gandhi. He said on Gandhi’s assassination, “Just an old man in a loin cloth in distant India. Yet when he died, humanity wept”.

            It is no wonder Gandhiji is admired even today. The ardent expression of his will goes beyond the spirit of his Age.