Immortal Image of Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi, a man with determination and courage of convictions was a crusader of non- violence. He stood erect throughout his life and inspired generations together with his principles of truth and non-violence, proved politics and violence can be separated by spiritualizing politics. He promoted religious tolerance and united all religions under one thread in his struggle for Independence.
Born on 2nd October 1869 at Porbandar he believed in simple living and followed truthful life from childhood.
Throughout his life he was influenced by many, amongst whom he considered Gopal Krishna Gokhale as his political guru. The writings of Leo Tolstoy also influenced him immensely. He spiritualized politics by reading Geeta, Quran and Bible and struggled to bring all faiths together in the freedom movement.
G.K. Gokhale, a great politician, social reformer, economist, orator and a humanist of his time was among the founding members of Indian National Congress. He belonged to moderate school of thought. He was a mentor and guide to Gandhi which Gandhi mentioned in his autobiography. Gandhi met Gokhale at Ferguson College at Pune on 12th October 1896, Gokhale examined Gandhi keenly and advised and directed Gandhi how to approach and whom to approach to achieve his goal in South Africa. On his advice he met many leaders to seek their support and win their favor. Working with Gokhale itself was a great education to Gandhi. Gandhi learned how to work for the good of the society fearlessly, truthfully and sincerely. Gokhale’s loyalty towards the nation and his selfless work for the good of society had a great impact on Gandhi.
When Gokhale visited South Africa on the invitation of Gandhi, Gokhale provided personal guidance and helped Gandhi to increase his knowledge and understanding of Indian struggle and colonial rule, however Gandhi did not agree with Gokhale on his faith on western institutions.
Gandhi was also influenced by Leo Tolstoy and his writings. Tolstoy’s book ‘The Kingdom of God within you’ encouraged Gandhi to seek his inner voice. The essays on Christianity and Patriotism were other writings by which Gandhi was impressed. He adopted the idea of simplicity of life and purity of purpose and accepted Tolstoy’s concept of pure universal love that solves many problems to establish peace.
The theory of Bread and Labor of Tolstoy influenced Gandhi. Tolstoy and Gandhi aimed for the weak and downtrodden alike. Gandhi’s peaceful violation of draconian existing laws, mass court arrests and occasional strikes were all from Tolstoy. Undoubtedly, Tolstoy profoundly influenced Gandhi in his simplicity of life, the fearlessness of his utterances and the nature of his teachings on war and work.
Gandhi was influenced by all religious philosophies. He was a born Hindu and assimilated Hinduism with all other religions. He adopted the principle of Ahimsa from Jainism and developed Satyagraha from religious principles. He regarded religion as self-realization and the striving force of human personality to express itself in service, suffering and sacrifice. He emphasized that all religions preach morals and promote love, truth and peace. He considered compassion as guidance for peaceful co-existence. His religious values became the guiding force for his philosophy that gave him strength.
There were many who influenced Gandhi and in the same manner there were many whom Gandhi influenced. Among them Acharya J.B. Kripalani was avowed follower of Gandhi. After Gandhi’s assassination Kripalani took upon himself the task of promoting Gandhi’s principles of non-violence. He always practiced and supported the ideal non-violent protest to achieve his goal. He strived to remove untouchability, worked for Hindu-Muslim unity, equal status for women and elimination of drugs and drinks. He supported decentralization of industries, encouragement for Khadi and Village Industries and establishment of Village Republics.
Martin Luther King Jr. was another personality who led his activities on Gandhian principle of non-violence. He led the civil rights movement and inspired millions of African Americans to fight for their rights. Inspired by the teachings and principles of Gandhi Martin Luthar King Jr. prepared his own strategies and speeches for civil rights movement. He said “Christ gave us goals and Mahatma gave us tactics”.
Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, popularly known as Frontier Gandhi inspired by Gandhi’s non- violence adopted non-violent army in his region, perhaps the only non-violent army. His community (Pashtu) known for invasions, massacres and conquest gradually accepted him as their leader. He worked for eighty long years for the rights of the people without raising arms. He encouraged people to serve humanity to serve God. He developed self-respect and human dignity with simple living and spiritual path.
Nelson Mandela was another great personality who was inspired by Mahatma in his vision and thinking. He was called as South African Gandhi. He followed the principles of Satyagraha and Ahimsa to oppose the practice of apartheid and colonialism.
Vinodba Bhave was the first individual Satyagrahi and was the spiritual successor of Gandhi. He was a man of simple living but with high achievements. He participated in freedom struggle along with Gandhi. He took up the spinning wheel for churning out khadi. After Gandhi’s death he started Bhoodan movement and devoted his time for upliftment of harijans. He was also influenced by Bhagavat Gita and promoted religious unity and encouraged self-sufficiency of women.
Aung San Suu Kyi a Burmese (Myanmar) national leader who fought for freedom from military dictatorship followed non-violent methods. She considered Gandhi as her inspiration through his writings. She rose to prominence as a non-violent protester and Gandhian agitator. She developed compassion and sacrifice with a commitment to achieve her goals.
Jay Prakash Narayanan was attracted by Gandhian thought and adopted it for social reconstruction. He joined Sarvodaya movement. Later he gave a call for total revolution to change the autocratic and corrupt rule with the principle of non-violence He believed in peaceful methods to uplift the poor and ensure equality and freedom.
In addition to these, there are many others who were influenced by Gandhi both at national and international levels. Gandhi is immortalized in the world with the principles he preached and practiced.
The Constitution of India reflected his principles indirectly. The incorporation of equality, liberty, fraternity and secularism are reflection of his ideas. One can see Gandhi’s principles in establishment of Panchayati Raj System, Empowerment of Women, creation of Khadi and Village Industries Commission.
Thus, Gandhi lives as a crusader of non-violence and a victim of violence; a symbol of communal harmony but a target of communal hatred.
Retired P.G.T, Political Science
Oxford Senior Secondary School