Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated on the 2nd of October every year. It is a special day that commemorates Mahatma Gandhi, that is, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s birthday anniversary. 2nd October is recognised as a national holiday all over the nation in India, and it was first celebrated after his death in 1948.
Since Mahatma Gandhi was a flag-bearer of non-violence and endurance and during his freedom struggle in India he stayed true to his beliefs and despite all adversities he stuck to his path of non-violence and satyagraha, therefor 2nd October had also been declared to be the International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations General Assembly, on 15th of June 2007.
Mahatma Gandhi was not only one of the most prominent figures in the freedom struggle of India against the British rule, he was also a revolutionary and a spokesperson, who inspired thousands of civilians to join the freedom struggle.
Some of the most memorable quotes by Gandhi happen to be “If they slap you on one cheek, have courage to put forward the other” and “If we all begin to believe in an eye for a policy, the whole nation will go blind”. This instilled the spirit of non-violence and tolerance among the people of India.
Brief History of Mahatma Gandhi
Born as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi was the son of Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibai Gandhi born on the 2nd of October 1869, in Gujarat. Gandhi’s father was married four times prior to his marriage to Gandhi’s mother Putlibai. All the previous three marriages failed due to various unfortunate reasons.
Karamchand’s first two wives passed away at a very tender age, and bore him one daughter each. His third wife however did not bear him any children. Hence his fourth and final wife bore him his only son, Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi belonged to a Hindu family.
At that time child marriage was a ritual that was prevalent in the Indian society, among the orthodox Hindu families. Coming from a Hindu background, even Gandhi was no exception. He was married off to Kasturbai Kapadia, of age 14, when he was only 13 years of age.
Later in life Gandhi described that his marriage at such a tender age was beyond his comprehension and at that time it had all seemed like an event of mere dressing up, fun and games and celebration, unaware of the gravity that the bond held. Gandhi’s life had been full of struggles. He lost both his father Karamchand and his first child, in 1885, at the age of only 16.
Gandhi went to school during his lower, middle and high school days, in a local school in Rajkot, in his hometown Gujarat. After finishing with high school he went to London for his education for three years. Coming from a poor family, he couldn’t afford education from the best of schools, and hence he had to opt for the cheapest one. In London he had his training in Law under the Inner Temple law school.
Before coming to India permanently, Gandhi went to South Africa after finishing his law degree from London in the year 1893, just a few years after his wife gave birth to their first living son in 1888. Gandhi spent 21 long years in South Africa.
In South Africa Gandhi worked full time as a lawyer and motivated the Indian civilians living there to organise a non-violent civil-disobedience movement to fight for their civil rights and stand up against discriminations. On reaching South Africa, Gandhi had to face several adversities.
He faced a lot of discrimination on the basis of his skin colour, which was very prevalent in that era. Although an educated and well-off lawyer at that time, Gandhi was refused a seat in the stagecoach alongside European passengers.
Instead he was forced to take the seat on the floor beside the driver. When he refused to succumb to such baseless discriminations, he was thrashed and beaten and forced to obey orders. Other such events included disallowance of walking near public houses or travelling in train compartments which were primarily reserved for white citizens.
These 21 years taught Gandhi a great deal about the mentality of the British and how they openly look down upon people of colour and treat them like animals. It moulded his mind set and made him question the British Rule in his home country, India. Gandhi realised while in South Africa, that no good will come out of the British Rule in India and the simple Indian civilians should be warned against it.
Gandhi returned to India from South Africa is 1915, bringing with him the periodical called “Indian Opinion” which he began to publish in India. When Gandhi returned to India he was already well known worldwide as a social and political activist.
Role in the Freedom Struggle in India
Gandhi played one of the most active roles in the freedom struggle in India. When he landed in India, in 1915, he was introduced to the Indian political scenario by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a member of the Indian National Congress which was founded in 1885.
Gandhi became an active politician and a member of the INC and soon became its leader in 1920. From 1915 to 1947, Gandhi struggled to provide India its freedom through acts of civil-disobedience and non-violence. His most memorable campaigns were the following:
Champaran was a village in Bihar where the British were forcing the Indian farmers to plant Indigo in their land, a corrosive plant that was used to manufacture die and left the cultivated land barren after plantations. The farmers were tortured and beaten when they refused to plant Indigo. Gandhi organised a non-violent protest along with the poor farmers and managed to emerge victorious and put a ban on such exploitative plantations.
In 1918, Kheda, a village in Gujarat was facing severe adversities due to floods. The villagers pledged the tax collecting officials to pardon the tax due to huge shortages of produce due to the floods. However their pledges went unnoticed and they were being subjected to severe torture. Gandhi started a social boycott and non-violent protest movement along with the villagers and finally the government gave in and excused the taxes for that season.
The Non-Cooperation movement was started by Gandhi along with the INC, demanding the absolute freedom of India. Gandhi called for non-violent means of non-cooperation with the British until “swaraj” or the right of self-governance was given over to India. He called for mass boycott of British and motivated the civilians to refuse to give in to any of their demands until absolute freedom was provided.
Dandi March or the Salt Satyagraha was another very important freedom campaign that was started and lead by Gandhi. Gandhi protested against the levitation of salt taxes by the British on only the Indian civilians by marching up to the beach of Dandi and breaking the salt law by making salt on the beach along with his huge band of followers in 1930.
The Quit India Movement was the final campaign by Gandhi started on 9th August 1942. The British were recruiting Indian soldiers in their army to fight for them in World War 2. This was firmly opposed by Mahatma Gandhi when he spoke out saying that these act by the British displays the hypocrisy of colonialism as the British were recruiting Indian soldiers to fight for a democratic cause when they themselves didn’t grant India the freedom it rightfully deserved. He demanded freedom from the British Rule and refused to lend an ear to any consolation.
End of freedom struggle and death of Gandhi
Although complying with the British in the beginning, Gandhi and the Congress withdrew their support in 1939 when the British began to demand recruitment of Indian soldiers to fight for them in the World War. In 1942 when he started the Quit India Movement, asking for immediate and absolute freedom, the British imprisoned him and his followers.
Finally in 1947, the British gave India its Independence and partitioned India and Pakistan into two separate countries to which Gandhi vehemently opposed as he was a strong believer of unity. Gandhi died in 1948 due to assassination by firearm.
Celebrations of Gandhi Jayanti
On the 2nd of October nationwide prayers are said to pay tribute to the immense contributions of Mahatma Gandhi and his role in the freedom struggle of India. His favourite bhajan “raghupati raghav raja ram” is also sung to celebrate his memory and pay respect to his efforts.
Essay writing and painting events are held and several cultural events are organised at government and educational institutions all over the nation. This day not only celebrates Gandhi’s birthday, but also tolerance, endurance, mental strength and non-violence, all of which Gandhi aimed to teach us through the course of his life.