“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
On October 2, 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came into this world, and on January 30, 1948, he left it. His life was a testament to his philosophy and practice of peaceful civil disobedience, and has inspired others to similarly seek peaceful resolution of problems.
When only 13 years-old in India, Gandhi wed a woman named Kasturba in an arranged marriage, but he left for London in 1888 at the age of 19 to pursue a law degree. This move he made despite the objections of his elders, as the first of his four children was only a few months old. Gandhi was called to the bar in 1891, then returned to India that same year. After struggling with his law practice for a year, he accepted a position as legal advisor in South Africa, and remained there for over 20 years.
Gandhi began his political career in South Africa as a leader in the Indian community, and that is where his theory of nonviolent resistance, termed satyagraha in India, was first practiced. This practice would eventually take him back to his homeland to lead a nation in their fight for independence. In 1930, he led his people on the 250-mile Dandi Salt March, and later, in 1942, he called for all Indians to prepare to lay down their lives, to do or die, and asked that the British leave his homeland in the “Quit India Movement.”
Over his lifetime, Gandhi endured many incarcerations, and he fasted publicly in his fight for human rights. He led life as a committed vegetarian, clothed in the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, made from yarn he had handspun on a charkha. He believed in self-sufficiency and lived modestly. His simple way of life drew derision from his main political enemy in Britain, Winston Churchill, who called him a “half-naked fakir.”
By 1914 the honorific name of Mahatma, meaning Great Soul, was applied to Gandhi, and in India he was called Bapu, meaning “Father of Nation.” This frail little man with a big heart spent his entire life — and indeed, gave his life — in search of satya (truth). Bapu, who showed no fear in the face of a world power, was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist on January 30th in 1948, at the age of 78.
To this day, Mahatma Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence has given hope to the world. He definitely shook the world … gently.