Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – more commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi – was born on this day in 1869. In India, his birthday is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, a public holiday during which people pay tribute to the ‘Father of the Nation‘, remember his life, work and doctrine with religious songs and readings.
Gandhi was born in West India, in Portbandar, Kathiawar and studied law in London, working as a lawyer in South Africa for more than twenty years before returning to his native country in 1914. After World War One, he became involved in the Home Rule movement in India, leading a series of non-violent campaigns of civil disobedience. He was repeatedly arrested and indeed, imprisoned.
His negotiations with the British Government eventually paid off in 1947, when India was granted independence from the United Kingdom. The separate state of Pakistan was created for the Muslim minority but the continuing conflict between Muslims and Hindus caused Gandhi great distress in the last months of his life.
His advocacy of religious tolerance was resented by extremists and he was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic on 30 January 1948 – exactly thirty years before I was born. I wonder what he would make of the extremism we are currently witnessing…. He’s probably best off out of it.