Mahatma was born as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2, 1869, at Porbandar. Mohandas or Mohan was youngest of the three sons of Putlibai and Karamchand Gandhi. His father had been Prime Minister successively in three Kathiawar States. He was straight and true as steel, known for his steadfastness and loyalty. The little house were Gandhi was born is today known as the "Kirti Mandir".
Even as a child Gandhi was deeply influenced by his mother Putlibai’s deeply religious and austere beliefs. He did his primary schooling at Porbandar, and his high school at AlbertHigh School, Rajkot. Gandhi showed no particular brilliance, played no games, and was quite an introvert. He read little beyond text books, but respected his teacher, and was determined not to copy from his neighbour’s answer sheets.
Marriage with Kasturba, at the age of thirteen, was almost play. But Gandhi began as a jealous and possessive husband; he wanted to make his illiterate wife an ideal one. The other person he was much attached to was his eldest brother Laxmidas. When their father was no more, it was Laxmidas who helped to educate him and send him to England for legal studies.
Putlibai let Gandhi go abroad only after he vowed to lead a simple & religious life. For a while Gandhi was tempted to follow westerners. But soon he returned to simplicity. A vegetarian by tradition he soon became one by conviction, joining and working actively for the London Vegetarian Society. He was called to the Bar in June 1891.
In 1893, Gandhi went to South Africa to handle a case. But though his legal work was soon over, he stayed on for 21 years, fighting against racial discrimination and for the rights of the Indian Community. South Africa was the turning point of his life, where his perfectly normal life ceased to exist and he became a human rights activist, ever so staunch in his belief of achieving independence through ahimsa (non-violence).
In founding and running his Ashram settlement at Phoenix and Tolstoy farm, Gandhi was much influenced by Tolstoy and Ruskin towards leading a simple community life. The third of "the moderns" who impressed Gandhi was Raj Chandra, the Jain philosopher and intellectual.
Service in hour of need
During the Boer war and the Zulu rebellion he helped the British Raj at the hour of its need, by raising Indian Ambulance and Stretcher-barer Corps which served close to the line of fire. Gandhi was awarded medals for this service.
The India Struggle
The Natal India Congress founded by Gandhi in 1894, on lines similar to the Indian National Congress, and later the British Indian Committee in the Transvaal fought against restrictions on Indian trade, movement and residence. During the campaign against the ‘Black’ Registration Act, Gandhi lit a grand bonfire of thousands of the registration certificates.
The Passive Resistance Struggle was to be long-drawn-out. Thousands of satyagrahis suffered imprisonment, loss of property, trade. Tolstoy farm was built by Gandhi on land donated by Kallenbach, as a colony for housing satyagrahis families. They did farming, grew fruit, followed simple crafts and conducted school — all noble experiment in community living.
After Gandhi, Polka and Kallenbach were arrested and jailed. Woman too courted imprisonment. Later the government released them and set up the Solomon commission of inquiry C. F. Andrews and Person visited South Africa and interceded with the Government.
Gandhiji left South Africa in July 1914. In England, enroute to India, a great war broke out, during which time Gandhiji helped raise an Indian Volunteer Corps. In December, Gandhiji and Kasturba sailed for India
In India with Kasturba, clad in simple Kathiawadi clothes, Gandhi turned to Gokhale, his "Political Guru", for guidance. He was advised to closely study the political scenario in India, while refraining for making political speeches.
The man in South Africa, had striven valiantly, through satyagraha, for his peoples' honour and human dignity, received Hero’s welcome anywhere. He traveled widely north and south, mostly by third class of the railways. Visiting Shantiniketan to meet Gurudev—Rabindranath – Tagore – was like going on a pilgrimage.
Honoured by all
In Madras Natesan described Gandhi as the embodiment of godliness and the wisdom of the saint Kasturba as the incarnation of wifely virtue. In may 1915, Gandhi settled down at Kochrab, near Ahmedabad, where he founded the Satyagraha ashram. Honours came to him-the Kaiser-I-Hind and other medals for his ambulance services in war.
Outwards trappings meant little to Gandhi. At Banaras he blamed the Princes for their love of finery. At Allahabad he declared material progress of little worth without morality. Gandhi's first satyagraha test in India came in Champaran, Bihar in 1917 and it led to inquiry into the evil Indigo system and help to end it.
When in 1917 plague broke out at Kochrab, Gandhi move his Ashram to Sabarmati Hriday Kunj became his abode ; Kasturba lived in separate Kuti, bound by her husband’s vow of brahmacharya, close at hand were the grounds where Gandhi gathered Ashram inmates, morning and evening, prayer.
Lokmanya Tilak dominated Indian politics at this time. But, in 1918, Gandhi emerged into National Leadership through satyagraha – for remission of land revenue in famine-stricken Kheda district; also the Ahmedabad Mills-hands’ strike, during which he fasted lest strikers weaken. At prayer meetings under a tree, he called for discipline and concern for duties, not merely rights.
The end of the great war brought India no freedom, only more repression. Gandhi called for country-wide hartal to protest against the Rowlatt Act. Of 1919. in mosques and on beaches he preached Satyagraha; pacified rioters at Bombay and Ahmedabad; but Jallianwala in Punjab was to witness an unprecedented and cold blooded massacre.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
People massed in thousands, to protest against Govt. repressive policy, at Jallianwala Bagh. Determine to "Make an example of them", the Government ordered troops to fired on the unarmed crowd. Hundreds died. Martial low and a reign of terror followed. Deeply shocked Gandhi returned his war decorations, decided to non-cooperate with a government that was evil.
Non-cooperation is Born
The Indian National Congress at Calcutta approved of non-cooperation: boycott of law-courts, government educational institutions and foreign goods. Gandhi saw it as the only alternative to violence for redress of the Khilafats and the Punjab wrongs. The founding of Gujarat Vidyapith in November 1920 was a symbol of the national re-awakening.
"Swaraj in one year" was Gandhi’s slogan. Leaders of many shades came together, as at Madras, but few trusted Swaraj could came so quickly. The people rising to Gandhi’s call, raise a 10 million rupee memorial fund for Tilak who died on August1, 1920. a year, later a spectacular bonfire of foreign cloth ushered in the era of Swadeshi.
From Yerawada to Belgaum
1922 saw an eclipse: following violence at Chauri Chaura, Gandhi suspended non-cooperation. Arrested for seditious writings for Young India and tried, March 18, he was sentenced to six years, but an operation of appendicitis brought early release from Yerawada Prison. 1924 was to see him once again at helm at a Belgaum congress.
In September 1924, Gandhi imposed on himself at 21 days fast to end Hindu-Muslim tension, an act of religion which taught him to love all equally. It restored peace in the riot-ridden country, brought all leaders together, let to sum cleansing of hearts. It resulted in a communal truce.
1925 was a year of calamity: Deshbandhu C. R. Das, Swarajist leader, died in June at Darjeeling where Gandhi had just spent some days with him. It had brought nearer, the Mahatma who preached non-cooperation, and Deshbandhu who gave fight to the Government to the councils. Disconsolate at his death, Gandhi wrote a touching obituary in the glow of the funeral pyre.
1925-28 provided two landmarks of Gandhi’s leadership; Vaikom Satyagraha for giving untouchables use of temple roads, and the founding of All-India Spinner’s Association. For the rest the stage was occupied by Lajpat Ray, martyred during the Simon Commission boycott, hero of the Bardoli Satyagraha, Motilal Nehru, author of the Constitution Report, and Jawaharlal, champion of the "Complete Independence" resolution at the Calcutta congress.
And so the Wheel of time turned on. Gandhi’s use of the bicycle- a rare performance in order to punctual at meeting – indicated the lengths he was ready to go. And his constant companion, the spinning wheel, remained with him wherever he went, an instrument which spun the destiny of the country and symbolised his identification with the poor.
1929-30: "The Year of Grace". Gandhi was gathering his forces for onslaught on the citadel of authority. The "salt Satyagraha" was not merely a protest against taxing the poor man’s diet, or a disobedience of the salt lows. In Gandhi’s eyes it was a "battle or rights against might". While the world wondered, the "Dandi March" became the "First shot" in this unique fight.
Small through the chosen band, its 200 mile march to the sea recalled the other "Great March" of 1913 Gandhi had led in South Africa. He had sent viceroy Irwin an "Ultimatum" before embarking on civil disobedience. On "bended knees" he had asked "for bread and received a stone instead". On the knight of may 5, 1930, they stole of him like thieves in the night and arrested him.
India was a fire. Satyagraha, strikes, picketing, boycott of foreign goods and no-tax campaigns were the other of the day. Lakhs were jailed. Thousands suffered loss of limb, hundreds died on lathi charges, firing. Sapru, Jaykar helped to bring about a truce. Gandhi was released on June 25, 1931. while resting in Bombay, he took counsels with his associates, he wanted peace but with honour.
Drawn into the political struggle, largely under Gandhi influence, Motilal and Jawaharlal occupied the centre of the stage. At Allahabad they had presided over, addressed meeting attended by leaders like Kripalani, Tandon, Malavia. When in February 1931, Motilal died, Gandhi felt more than "Windowed", said, "What I have lost is loss for ever". Jawaharlal was a rich legacy.
The congress met at Karachi in March, adopted a resolution moved by Jawaharlal and secondary by Badshan Khan endorsing the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. It reaffirmed the goal of "Poorna Swaraj", authorised Gandhi to represent it at the Second Round Table Conference in London. Congress also extolled the bravery of Bhagat Singh and his associates who were martyrs in the country’s cost.
Official implementation of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was partial, trady. There was repression in the frontier province, tension in U. P. Gandhi stood by the pledge to honour the truce acquainted Viceroy Willingdon at Simla with official branches. After a second settlement, in August, Gandhi saw the way clear for the R. T. C. ; at Bombay the nation bade him speed on August 29.
Malaviya, Sarojini Naidu, Madhav and Pyarelal- his secretary Miraben, and son Devdas accompanied Gandhi. On board S. S. Rajputana he was in high spirits, chatted with other passengers, made friends and play with children, held prayer meetings, spoke, examined the ship’s instruments, dozed on the sunlit deck, and most of the time plied the spinning wheel.
At Suez and port side, Gandhi received Egypt’s greetings, met Indian deputations, talk to journalist, at Marseilles, European friends, like Deenbandhu C. F. Andrews. Arriving in London on September 12, Gandhi and party proceeded to the East End, the quarter of the poor coal miners and factory hands, live in their midst of Kingsley Hall, managed by Muriel Lester, his English hostess.
Scotland Yard had provided two top detectives to guard him, but he needed none. Wherever Mahatma went, children and woman, simple folk and sophisticated gentry flocked round him, as when Charles Chaplin, the famous comedian, called. And it is on record that it was Gandhi also who made him laugh.
Gandhi met many groups of intellectuals, social workers and students. Addressed many meetings. He visited coal miners cottages, east end children celebrated his birthday with candles and cakes, leaders of all shades of thought-social, political, religious- discussed India with him; for instance, the "Red Dean" of Canterbury, Dr. Hewlett Johnson.
Gandhi visited the cotton mills District, Lancashire, hard hit by foreign cloth boycott loom idle, chimneys unsmoking, men unemployed, woman miserable. But when he talked to them, explained theplight of India’s peasants, they understand him, they understand him, even cheered him. And he took time off to attend the Dairy Animal show at Islington and to pat the prize-winning goats.
And in the midst of all his social calls, Gandhi attend to his main business, the Round Table Conference; he pleaded fervently with the British leaders to give his country freedom, to avoid parting of ways …. But they listened him not, and he left Britain’s shores empty-handed. On the way home at Villeneuve in Switzerland Gandhi met Romain Rollands, the French savant.
1932: Returning to India, Gandhiji saw Willingdon’s Ordinance raj everywhere: close associates, colleagues arrested. Soon he himself was taken to Yeravda Prison. In September he fast against the Communal Award lying under the mango tree, stirred the Hindu conscience and led to the Yeravda Pact. On a second fast, in May 1933, for Harijan work, he was released.
In July 1933, after the solemn last prayer, Gandhi disbanded the Sabarmati Ashram. In September he moved to Satyagraha Ashram at Wardha. Henceforth, the morning walks were on Wardha’s plains. In November, commenced his country-wide Harijan tour, starting from Nagpur, for rousing the masses to a sense of their duty in regard to the abolition of untouchability.
The story of Gandhiji is the story of his tireless pilgrimage throughout the length and breath of the country for the emancipation of the dumb, downtrodden masses. The tour of 1934 had for its aim the uplift of the "untouchable" whom he called the "Hari Jans" or the children of god.
Gandhiji addressed meetings, spoke to people everywhere of the Blot of untouchability and the Hindus duty to remove it. When Bihar was devastated by the earthquake in January in 1934, he rushed their to organize relief, but he considered disaster God’s punishment for the sin of the Hindus.
In October 1934, at the Bombay congress parted company. He differed from congress in the interpretation of the goal: Poorna Swaraj for his was much more than independence. Means mattered as much as ends. The Congress session paved the way for the settings up the All-India Village Industrious Association.
Village work, Swadeshi claimed most of Gandhiji’s time and attention. Jamnalal Bajaj, J. C. Kumarappa were among those who teamed up behind. He addressed constructive workers from different parts of the country, showed keen interest in such basic things as compost-making, vital for rebuilding the village economy.
Harijan uplift dominated Gandhiji’s mind; he held counsel with trusted social workers as Thakkar Bapa. At the same time, he combined with thought and the dead the act of prayer, leading the tallest of his associates to mass prayers in the Bhangi or Harijan colony. Meanwhile, the Government of India Act of 1935 was on the anvil.
Relief to the plague-stricken had always a special appeal for Gandhiji weather in South Africa or in India. In 1935, Borsad and other GujaratVillages suffered an epidemic. With Morarji Desai, Sardar Patel and other trusted lieutenants, Gandhiji toured them, stressed sanitation, and educated the people in the riddance of rats.
In his dynamic programme for the reconstruction of rural India, Gandhiji had the support of intellectuals like Nehru and Azad. While, in 1936, he presided over the Literary Conference at Nagpur and extolled the virtues of literature, he lost no opportunity to stress the dignity of labour, setting an example himself.
Segaon: Symbol of Services
The village of Segaon near Wardha in which he settled down was to become Sevagram, the village of service. His simple mud hut was a landmark; it draw the lofty no less than the lowly, seeking guidance, a formula for peace among individuals, societies, nations; His benign presence was a benediction.
In October 1936, Gandhiji went to Banaras, but on a different sort of pilgrimage. He met Madan Mohan Malaviya, founder of the HinduUniversity, a temple of learning. But Gandhiji inaugurated there the Bharat Mata Mandir, the temple of love. Symbolic of his faith in the future, he planted a mango tree.
To Gandhiji the real India was rural India. The event of the year 1936 was the Faizpur Congress in village settings, starting, the mode for the future. Nandlal Bose of Shantiniketan toiled to picture rural culture. Seeing it, deeply impressed, Gandhiji wrote "The heart, having got a little, hankers for all".
1937 opened with Gandhiji's going on another pilgrimage, this time to the South. The TempleProclamation of Travancore had thrown open the Ananda Padmanabha temple to Harijans. Gandhiji hailed it as an "act of God". At Kanyakumari, where "three waters me and furnish a sight of unequalled in the world", he performed ablutions.
Congress came into power in seven provinces, rejected Federation, demanded a constituent assembly. Through "Harijan" Gandhiji spoke for the new era. In October 1937, he enunciated his concept of a new education. Staying with Subhash Bose in Calcutta at A. I. C. C. time, Gandhiji strove for release of political prisoners.
Poor health compelled Gandhiji to seek rest, relaxation at the Juhu beach. But, back in Sevagram in January 1938, politics pursued him; Congress ministries in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had resigned. The issue came up at Haripura Congress. With his usual solicitude, Gandhiji inspected a rural crafts show.
At Haripura, President Subhash Bose prayed that Gandhiji may be spared for keeping the Independence struggle above bitterness, hatred, for humanity's sake. Gandhiji arduously worked for political prisoners the frontier where Badshah Khan had wrought the miracle of converting warlike Pathans into non-violent Khudai Khidmatgar.
In the FrontierProvince, Gandhiji saw, at prayer meetings and others, perfect discipline, orderliness, the virtue of silence. It renewed his faith in non-violence, of which he repeatedly spoke to the Khudai Khidmatgars. He saw Badshah Khan's handwork every where, paid him tribute as a "man of God". The two came closer.
1939 saw Gandhiji face a fiery ordeal; the ruler of Rajkot, His committed a breach of his promise of constitutional reforms to the people. After fruitless negotiation, Gandhiji resorted to fasting, breaking it only when, aware of country-wide emotion, the Viceroy intervened, to ask the Chief Justice of India to adjudicate.
Before the Tripuri Congress, Gandhiji was busy in Delhi discussing with Working Committee members, Jawaharlal Nehru, his trusted guide in international problems. The Egyptian Wafd delegation to the Congress called on Gandhiji assured him of fraternal sympathy, good wishes in the freedom struggle.
Congress met at Tripuri in March 1939 without Gandhiji who was convalescing after the fast. In April he had a serried of interviews with the Viceroy over the State problem. The Rajkot award was issued on April 4; the Viceroy wrote, assured Gandhiji of its full implementation. But Gandhiji saw trouble ahead.
Gandhiji perceived in the Rajkot Award the taint of coercion and renounced it. Rajkot had robbed him of youth. His addressing a Women Graduates' Convocation at Bombay was the calm before the storm. In august 1939, seeing the gathering war clouds, the Working Committee declared its opposition to imperialist war.
Compassion for all living things was Gandhiji's characteristic, whether it was a new-born calf or leprosy-stricken-Parchure Shastri at Sevagram. He founded the one, tended the other. Keenly aware of the need to adopt a rational, common sense approach to leprosy, he even interested himself in studying the causes.
Gandhiji had considered multiplication of hospitals as an evil symptom of modern civilization. But the diseases had to be helped. And so, he gladly laid the foundation stone of a hospital at Allahabad in memory of Kamala, Nehru's beloved wife.
A Sacred Pledge
1940: Independence Day: Gandhiji explained significance, clarified role of students. In February, after fruitless talks with Viceroy, Gandhiji saw widening gulf between Britain and Nationalist – India, during visit to Shantiniketan, he pledged support to Tagore's truly international creation, the Vishva Bharati, "the vessel carrying the cargo of his life's best treasure".
At Ramgarh Congress, Gandhiji spoke of every Congress Committee as a Satyagraha-Committee. Britain suffered grave reverses in the war. As test of her good faith, Gandhiji demanded freedom to preach against war and participation in it. In October, with Gandhiji's blessings, Vinoba initiated the Satyagraha followed, after his arrest, by Jawaharlal Nehru. Soon thousands were in jail.
In December-1940, Gandhiji published a small, 25 page booklet "Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place", in the achievement of non-violent independence, a dynamic document and covering every important aspect of the country's social and economical life. The Working Committee, Meeting at Bardoli, absolved him from leadership, leaving him free for constructive and anti-war work.
The Voice of Conscience
Suspended when organising and conducting the Civil Disobedience movement, the Harijan group of weeklies resumed publication: Gandhiji used them as forum for the discussion of the problems thrown up by the war: week after week appeared searching articles on subjects like: "Price Control", "Plea for Calmness", "Desirability of Exodus", "Scorched Earth", etc.
In March 1942 Cripps came to India with an offer repeating the promise of a constitution making body after the war till then demanding effective execution of the war against the threat of mounting disaster in Asia, consequent of Japan's entry into the arena. Gandhiji described the offer as a postdated cheque; appealed to the British to withdraw from every Asiatic and African possession, at least from India. In other words: "Quit India".
Gandhiji appealed to Chiang-Ki Shek, President Roosevelt to see the truth behind his "Quit India" call to the British. In August first week, he groomed the historic "Quit India" resolution at the BOMBAY A I C C. "The freedom of India must be the symbol of and prelude to the freedom of all other Asiatic Nations…" Patel, Azad, Nehru lent eloquent support to the plea. Government's reply to Gandhiji's call to "Do or Die" was to unleash brutal violence, arrest leaders, rank and file.
Country in Revolt
India, deprived of her leads, whisked away to an unknown destination, replied to the organised violence of the British bureaucracy by denying cooperation and be acts of sabotage of railways, communication… The people believed sanction for this lay in some instruction linked up wrongly with Gandhiji: the Government replied with a heavy hand…
"Do or Die"
At the historic "Quit India" A.I.C. C Session in Bombay, on August 8 1942, Gandhiji asked the country to be ready to "Do or Die". Government unleashed repression, arrested Gandhiji and other leaders at dawn, whisked them away to an unknown destination. A few days later died Mahadev Desai, Gandhiji's Secretary, dearer than a son, at Aga KhanPalace.
Aga KhanPalace was to be more than a prison, a Place of Pilgrimage. For here passed away Kasturba on Mahashivratri day, February 22 1944. She had been the image of the noblest among Indian womanhood: simple, self denying, loyal: Gandhiji mourned the loss of a life long companion who had shared his battles, been unto him like a shadow.
Release from Ordeal
Jail life this time had been an agony. Bearing the cross, Gandhiji sought through a series of letters to vindicate himself against the charges of the bureaucracy which held him responsible for disturbances in the country. He accused it of hastily and leonine violence, went through the ordeal of a 21-day fast. Released, he recouped his shattered health at Juhu, hallowed by his prayer meetings.
Gandhiji met his colleagues in the Working Committee meeting in June 1945, which supported Congress participation in the Simla Conference: but the conference broke down. He toured Bengal, visited Shantiniketan to lay the foundation of the DeenabandhuMemorialHospital. Andrews on his death bed, had told Gandhiji, "Mohan, I see Swaraj coming".
During his tour of South India, Gandhiji's preoccupation was with the Rasthrabhasha: Hindustani; he presided over the Convocation of Hindi Prachar Sabha, he explained at a Worker's Conference, stressed the place of spinning in relieving-distress. Visiting the Meenakshi temple, he explained the implication of removal of untouchability.
Transfer of Power
The Country has passed through the crisis of the Bengal famine. The Labour Government in Britain sent a mission to India to discuss transfer of Power. Talks and conferences were held, but the problem remained unsolved. At last the Cabinet Mission announced its own plan, set a date for transfer of Power. The Congress accepted Interim Government, the Muslim League kept out.
Mission of Peace
The Muslim League declared "direct action", Calcutta ran rivers in blood in communal strife. Noakhali caught the virus. From Calcutta, after the miracle of his fast had restored peace there, Gandhiji went to Noakhali to restore harmony, to wipe the tear from every eye. He went from village to village on his mission of peace.
The lonely pilgrim of peace at Noakhali was passing through his finest hour, when he rose to his full stature as a humanist, above all politics and creeds. His doctrine of Ahimsa was being put to its severest trails; he even confessed his own failure in applying it and his groping for light. Nehru came to him in this hour of agony, could not change Gandhiji's determination to "do or die" in Noakhali.
Dark Clouds Ahead
After the epic tour of Noakhali, the call came from Bihar: The mission too was the same: restoring of peace to the land of Janaka and Tulsidas. With Badshah Khan Gandhiji toured troubled Bihar, bringing new hope and courage to the refugees, visiting ravaged homes and persuading the fleeing folk to return, pledging his own life for their safety. Portents came from Delhi of danger ahead.
The Message of Asia
Gandhiji met the Mountbattens for the first time in March 1947. The Asian Relations Conference provided him with an opportunity to remind representatives of Asia that her message of Atom Bomb. Asia, the cradle of religions, had through her great teachers showed the path of wisdom.
Brotherhood of man
Asian delegations called on Gandhiji during this time for a message of hope: Tibetans, Arabs, Jews, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Burmese tendered him their respect. All got the same counsel: the message of Buddha. Fraternization and not strife; non-violence and not violence, thus the sage spoke while he spun.
In August 1947, the fateful month, the call again came to Gandhiji to visit Noakhali on the eve of Independence. But Gandhiji tarried at Calcutta to "pour water over raging fire". He held talks with Suhrawardy and others for bringing peace to tormented city. On the of 14th, India awoke to "Line and freedom", as Nehru said when taking pledge.
Gandhiji strove hard to bring relief to the uprooted and homeless refugees wherever they were massed in camps; visiting them and talking to them about their grievances; at Kurukshetra, Hardwar, Purana Quila. For the first time, in November 1947 he was persuaded to broadcast to the refugees from All India Radio Station in Delhi.
The National tricolour at last flew on the historic Red Fort as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose has once planned. But the country had been derived and left a legacy of hatred, bitterness and feuds resulting from partition, which were soon to flare up in another form. Besides, the refugee problem, involving millions of people on the move, overshadowed all other problem.
Gandhiji had visited Jammu and Kashmir in August 1947. Communal harmony prevailed there and Gandhiji believed that it would be a lesson to the whole of India. But soon that fair land was to suffer fire and rapine, invaded by raiders from across the border, inspired, instigated and led by Pakistan. Kashmir had acceded to India and the latter was bound to defend it.
Fasting for communal peace
Communal frenzy enveloped the capital of India too and for some time complete lawlessness prevailed. Gandhiji saw that he had no choice but to resort to the last weapon in the armoury of Satyagraha. He under-took a fast until communal amity was restored. It stirred the conscience of all communities, and the leaders met and signed the pledge for communal peace.
Touched to the quick by Gandhiji's ordeal, India gave the 55 crore cheque to Pakistan which it had withheld. This and Gandhiji's solicitude for the Muslim minority, part of his broad humanity, roused fanatical Hindu hatred. At an evening prayer, on January 20, a bomb exploded, damaging a wall. The would be assassin was arrested, but released at Gandhiji's insistence. Gandhiji would have no security measures around and on the prayer ground.
The Final Act
January 30 1948: the evening temple bell and the mezzin's voice call the faithful to prayer. Bapu wends his way to the prayer ground. A man steps forward, pretending to offer obeisance. Gandhiji salutes him. Three shots ring out. Bapu falls, still smiling, with the words "Hey Ram" on his lips. They take him into the house. The light that led India for decades is extinguished, Nehru broadcasts. A gloom darker than darkness descends on the world.
The World Mourns
They Kept the last vigil over the mortal remains of a man who had shed the fear of death and defied all vigilance to protect him. Tired of fraternal strife, where brother killed brother he had invited death as a long lost friend. It had come, making of him a martyr, the like of whom the world sees once in ages. The United Nations lowered its flag.
The Last Journey
They carried him through a million-strong crowd of weeping men, women and children. To all of them he was Bapu, father, in an almost personal way. He had so long dominated the country's landscape and life that he was part of it, and it was impossible to think of them without his uplifting, elevating benevolent presence. To the world at large India was always the land of Gandhi.
"Bapu Amar Hogaye"
He was laid on pyre of sandalwood and roses. But little did he need their fragrance whose own aroma would persist till the end of time as the world's gentlest, kindliest leader of men whose sanction was only love. High and low, royalty and commoner grieved as the flames consumed the earthly tabernacle of great soul. And none more disconsolate and orphaned than his political heir, Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Holy Ashes
They gathered the ashes and filled urns with them and carried them in procession. Thousands filed past showering flowers on the ashes of one who, in life, had wanted none of them, refusing all adoration and honours. He claimed to be no more than the least among them, made of the same flesh and blood. Yet he had a spark of divinity that distinguished him from all the rest.
To the Sangam
The urns were transported over thousands of miles covering the land, as in life he had done in countless journeys to his people, his tireless feet worn out in the pilgrimage of their service. And wherever the flower bedecked train halted, once again the multitudes teemed in as they had done before, shouting "Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai".
Consignment to Holy Waters
And at Prayag, the confluence to Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, the Triveni, Jawaharlal Nehru and Devdas Gandhi consigned to the holy waters the ashes which rendered them holier still. And so the ancient tradition of the last Teerthan Sanskar, speeding the soul to Moksha, was completed for a man who saw and sought no Moksha except in the salvation of people.
The World's Homage
And at Rajghat men and women of all nations came to pay their silent homage to a man who was no royalty, whose universal mind went out across narrow barriers of race and country, who belonged to no single nation though they in India called him the Father of the Nation, who stood for all mankind and all that was noble in the human spirit. And they planted the saplings of plants and trees from all climes. "Let the winds of all cultures blow around me", he had said.
And over the simple earthen mound where his body had rested on its last bed and where the ashes had mingled with the elements of the earth, the men whom he had led to freedom in the unique bloodless way, paid homage to the Master; scattering flowers. Chanting the hymns of all religions to him whose highest religion was the love of man.
He had believed not in palaces and mansions; he had lived among the hovels of the lowliest and the lost. He had wanted no statues, no memorials built to him. He little needed homage and hallelujahs. And yet they built around the little earth of his cremation, a Mausoleum.