Thursday, October 2, 2014

October 2nd 1869: A Glimpse Back in History



Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man. - Mahatma Gandhi

Today is October 2nd 2014 and marks the 145th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.  The honorific Mahatma in Sanskrit means "high-soul", venerable, great soul";  also widely referred to in India as "Bapu" or father. 2nd October is also recognized world-wide as International Day of Non-Violence and on this occasion, I would like to share with you a glimpse back in history about the life of this legendary soul, peacemaker and freedom fighter - Mahatma Gandhi.


October 2nd 1869, in the rural village of Porbander, Kathiawar District, West Gujarat, a preeminent leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India was born.   

Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathiawar_Agency#mediaviewer/File:Baroda_state_1909.jpg
His name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.  Gandhi's parents were Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibai, a Hindu merchant caste family in Gujarat.  After completing his primary and secondary education in India, Gandhi took interest to become a barrister.  Barristers specialize in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings, and giving expert legal opinions.  So, he traveled to England in 1888 for his education in law.  He earned his degree in law and returned to India in 1891.  Upon his return, he found himself  unsuccessful in setting up his law practice. He observed that the local "vakils" or lawyers, homegrown and well versed with Indian law were charging far less for their services than their British educated counterparts. In a futile attempt upon the advice of his friends & elders, he heads to Bombay to fill his gap by getting educated on Indian Law. His success in the courtrooms of Bombay as a lawyer is short lived and when he received a job offer as a legal advisor for an Indian company in Durban, South Africa, he readily accepts it.


He moved to SouthAfrica in 1893 when Africa's Apartheid movement was in full force. He continued to work and live here for over 20 years during which time he witnessed and felt the pain, the suffering and racial discrimination the Indians and Blacks were going through in South Africa.  Soon Gandhi found himself at the receiving end of such abuse and he vowed to take up the baton on behalf of the Indian community. He organized the expatriate Indians and protested against the injustices meted out by the African government. After years of disobedience and non-violent protests, the South African government finally conceded to Gandhi's demands and an agreement to this effect was signed in 1914. A battle was won, but Gandhi realized the war that was to be waged against the British awaits his arrival in India. Hence, he returned to India the following year.


Between the years of 1858-1947, the Indian subcontinent was under the British Raj ("rule"). His early movements for freedom started in South Africa - Satyagraha, meaning "truth" and "firmness". In 1915 he started his mission for freedom for the people of India by participating and organizing various movements that were already underway, under the guidance of his political mentor - Mr. Gopal Krishna Gokhale.  Gandhi always advocated a path of truth and non-violence through the Satyagraha movement. Some of his famous campaigns led for India's freedom struggle were: the Non-cooperation movement, civil disobedience movement , the Salt Tax abolition campaign - Dandi March and the Quit IndiaMovement. He got arrested on several occasions. His slogans "Quit India" , "Do or Die" were very popular.  Gandhi's vision for a free India was based on religious pluralism, however this was challenged during the early 1940's by a new Muslim nationalism that was demanding a separate Muslim homeland carved out of India. As a result, the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, a Hindu majority India and a Muslim dominant Pakistan. All these movements led to the British East India Company to set foot back out and India declared Independence on August 15th, 1947

Mahatma Gandhi continued his peace campaigns and calming tensions in the new nation between the Hindus and Muslims.  His life in the newly independent country was short-lived when he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist, Nathuram Godse on 30th January1948 during a prayer meeting.


His birthday, 2nd October, is commemorated as a national holiday in India and celebrated as Gandhi Jayanthi and is also recognized worldwide by the UnitedNations as International Day of Non Violence.  Mahatma Gandhi inspired the world with his relentless faith in truth and justice for all mankind through Ahimsa.  He was a great soul - Mahatma - who loved even those who fought against his ideals to bring about peace with non-violence or 'Ahimsa'. 

His life was a message - a message of peace over power, of finding ways to reconcile our differences and living in harmony with respect and love even for our enemies.  Dear friends, I encourage you to recognize that "Non-violence, which is the quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.." and to consider becoming champions of love and peace to spread this message of Ahimsa. 

-Shabana
Presented at Ozaukee Toastmasters Club #3510
October 2nd 2014

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