Short Biography Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas K. Gandhi studied law in England, then spent 20 years defending the rights of immigrants in South Africa. In 1914 he returned to India and became the leader of the Indian National Congress. Gandhi urged non-violence and civil disobedience as a means to independence from Great Britain, with public acts of defiance that landed him in jail several times. In 1947 he participated in the postwar negotiations that led to Indian independence. He was shot to death by a Hindu fanatic in 1948.
Gandhi was given the prefix “Mahatma” which means Great Soul by his admirers. However Gandhi himself was not too keen on the prefix. Gandhi was one of the leading Indian politicians of the Indian independence movement. However he was much more than a politician. He was a committed Vegetarian and was devoted to the principles of non-violence and pacifism. At the age of 36 Gandhi adopted the life of a brahmacharya – spiritual and practical purity – largely associated with celibacy. Also Gandhi placed great emphasis on his spiritual practises, prayer, meditation, fasting and observance of silence once a week. It is said his last words were “Hey Ram” – “O God”
Gandhi was also devoted to promoting the underlying harmony of the different religious traditions. Although brought up in the Vaishnava Hindu tradition Gandhi had tremendous respect for other spiritual teachers and religions such as Islam, Jainism and Christianity. Gandhi made great personal efforts to heal the rift between Hindu’s and Muslims that occured in the period following independence. During the internal strife between Muslims and Hindus