Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma (great souled one) as he is better known, was an advocate for equality and the liberation of India. He became a famous worldwide as a symbol of non-violent resistance as he never took up arms against his and his country’s oppressors. Although many concentrate on his later life when he passively resisted the colonial rule of India by the British, his life of activism started many years before. Here are some things that history books might forget to mention about the great souled one.
He Was an Advocate Against The British (in South Africa)
Upon his return to Bombay with a law degree from Inner Temple, he found it difficult to establish his practice and accepted a job with a firm that sent him to the Colony of Natal in South Africa. Seeing the appalling way Hindus were treated not only by the colonists, but also by other Muslim Indians in South Africa, prompted him to begin his advocacy of civil rights. He was even subjected to violence when he was kicked out of first class seating on a train and later on beaten for not giving his seat to a European passenger.
This movement of social disobedience in order to protest oppressive policies lasted for the better part of eight years. During that period, Indians were imprisoned, flogged, tortured and even shot by the colonial authorities in both South Africa and India. The most tragic event of the passive resistance or social disobedience movement was on April 13th 1919 when unarmed demonstrators and pilgrims (which due to a religious holiday where coincidentally in Amritsar) were surrounded by British troops that proceeded to then shoot directly into the crowd killing 379 people and injuring 1.200.
He Walked Out of Court
During his stint in South Africa, a judge asked him to take off his turban which refused to do. Instead, he walked out of the courtroom in protest.
He ‘fought’ in the Zulu Wars of 1906
Thinking that recruiting Indians to participate in the British War against the Zulu Nation would help their struggle for rights Gandhi not only participated as a stretcher-bearer in the Indian Ambulance Corps, but also commanded a detachment of 20 other Indian soldiers. He later lead a recruitment campaign for Indian combatants to participate in WWI on the side of the British. Over one million Indian soldiers served overseas and although they were previously considered unfit for ‘manly’ duties, they became famous for their courage and ferocity as warriors and allies to the war effort.
One of His Sons Stood in Full Opposition to Him
While Mahatma Gandhi’s life may have been mandated by a strict moral code, abstinence and resistance against Imperialism, the same cannot be said of his children. Harilal Gandhi was a well-known alcoholic that enjoyed to gamble and imported British made clothes while his father was prompting his countrymen/women to boycott British products. Shortly before his death Harilal even converted to Islam. The reasons why he reacted in such a fashion and in opposition to his father are wide are varied. However, more often than not it seems that the father of a nation wanted his children, as his wife states it: “…to be saints before they are men.”
He Turned Down a Scholarship for his Sons
A friend of Gandhi offered two of his sons a scholarship in England, but Gandhi asked if he gave them the scholarship because they were the most deserving or because they were Gandhi’s sons. The scholarship was then awarded to two other youngsters suggested by Gandhi over his sons. Maybe that is a lost lesson for contemporary politicians, that are hand-pick from the bosom of the elite class.
See Also: Inspiring Quotes by Confucius
Is there anything else that you might know about Gandhi but wasn’t on the list? Well, let me know in the comment section below.