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The Life Of Mahatma Ghandi

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Mahatma Gandhi Introduction Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism and the prophet of nonviolence in the 20th century, was born, the youngest child of his father's fourth wife, on Oct. 2, 1869, at Porbandar, the capital of a small principality in Gujarat in western India under British suzerainty. His father, Karamchand Gandhi, who was the dewan (chief minister) of Porbandar, did not have much in the way of a formal education but was an able administrator who knew how to steer his way between the capricious princes, their long-suffering subjects, and the headstrong British political officers in power. Gandhi's mother, Putlibai, was completely absorbed in religion, did not care much for finery and jewelry, divided her time between her home and the temple, fasted frequently, and wore herself out in days and nights of nursing whenever there was sickness in the family. Mohandas grew up in a home steeped in Vaishnavism (Vaisnavism)--worship of the Hindu god Vishnu (Visnu)--with a strong tinge of Jainism, a morally rigorous Indian religion, whose chief tenets are nonviolence and the belief that everything in the universe is eternal. Thus he took for granted ahimsa (noninjury to all living beings), vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance between adherents of various creeds and sects. (see also Index: ahimsa, or ahimsa) Youth. The educational facilities at Porbandar were rudimentary; in the primary school that Mohandas attended, the children wrote the alphabet in the dust with their fingers. Luckily for him, his father became dewan of Rajkot, another princely state. Though he occasionally won prizes and scholarships at the local schools, his record was on the whole mediocre. One of the terminal reports rated him as "good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting." A diffident child, he was married at the age of 13 and thus lost a year at school. He shone neither in the classroom nor on the playing field. He loved to go out on long solitary walks when he was not nursing his by now ailing father or helping his mother with her household chores. He had learned, in his words, "to carry out the orders of the elders, not to scan them." With such extreme passivity, it is not surprising that he should have gone through a phase of adolescent rebel... ... middle of paper ... ...reading John Ruskin's Unto This Last, a critique of capitalism, he set up a farm at Phoenix near Durban where he and his friends could literally live by the sweat of their brow. Six years later another colony grew up under Gandhi's fostering care near Johannesburg; it was named Tolstoy Farm after the Russian writer and moralist, whom Gandhi admired and corresponded with. Those two settlements were the precursors of the more famous ashrams (ashramas) in India, at Sabarmati near Ahmedabad (Ahmadabad) and at Sevagram near Wardha. South Africa had not only prompted Gandhi to evolve a novel technique for political action but also transformed him into a leader of men by freeing him from bonds that make cowards of most men. "Persons in power," Gilbert Murray prophetically wrote about Gandhi in the Hibbert Journal in 1918, "should be very careful how they deal with a man who cares nothing for sensual pleasure, nothing for riches, nothing for comfort or praise, or promotion, but is simply determined to do what he believes to be right. He is a dangerous and uncomfortable enemy, because his body which you can always conquer gives you so little purchase upon his soul."
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