Some people have a knack for showing up in history at the exact time they are needed to.
Consider this: The turn of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century was filled with violence as nation states were colonizing and consolidating power. Wars were rampant and civil unrest occurred throughout much of the non European world.
Among this time one man stood for something else. Mohandis Gandhi showed there was a different way to show discontent and spark rebellion through nonviolent means.
It would have been easy, too easy, to follow suit and lead an armed revolution against the British (sounds familiar USA?).
His ability to lead an uprising through non-traditional means was remarkable, and his methods left him adored by many. His teachings are ones that can be applied in our daily lives and help to make our actions meaningful and full of purpose.
Here’s his story:
Name: Mohandis Gandhi
Nickname(s): Mahatma (“Great Soul”), Bapu (“Father”)
Birth: October 2, 1869 (Porbandar, India)
Death: January 30, 1948 (Age 78)
Height/Weight: 5’5” 110
Claim to Fame: Leader of the Indian Independence movement through nonviolent protests
Other Professions: Lawyer, Politician, Social Activist
Strengths: Patience, Leadership
Weaknesses: (Did he have any!?!)
Brief History of Gandhi
Believe it or not, Mohandis Gandhi was actually born into a fairly wealthy family. Gandhi was the fourth son of of the dewar (provincial minister) of Porbandar, and was a member of one of the higher castes (social classes) in India.
Characterized as a passive and timid boy, and an average student when he was young, he was also part of an arranged marriage at the age of 13 (13!?!).
Gandhi also went through a rebel phase during his adolescence. He practiced secret atheism, smoked, and even ate meat (a big no no with his religion). This behavior didn’t last long as he matured quickly and promised to never do such things again (he kept that promise).
While originally wanting to become a doctor, Gandhi ultimately decided to become a lawyer, and shipped off to London at the age of 19 to study.
He earned his degree and returned to India a few years later to set up a practice in Bombay (now Mumbai).
He found the lawyer field much tougher than he anticipated and experienced many failures while back in India, experiencing little success. Ultimately, he accepted an offer from an Indian firm in South Africa and moved his family to live and work there.
It is here where the Gandhi we all know emerged as a political and social activist.
His experiences with the inherent racism, prejudice and discrimination while in South Africa opened his eyes to the injustice that was wrought upon his Indian people.
While only originally only intending to stay in South Africa for a year, the timid boy blossomed almost overnight into an influential leader among Indians living in South Africa.
He would end up staying for the next 20 years.
His years here were wrought with challenges and few successes, though because he was standing and fighting the injustice, his name and methods of resistance spread. Namely, satyagraha (“devotion to truth”) was his method of nonviolent resistance.
One final victory he claimed in South Africa prior to returning to India was after several years of “fighting” a law that required registration of Indian people, it was finally repealed.
Return to India
Upon returning to India in 1915, Gandhi stayed on the outskirts of politics for a few years before finally wading in and becoming a significant leader.
His first major move was to organize a passive resistance and nonviolent protests against the British Rowlatt Acts (which allowed the British to imprison without trial anyone suspected of sedition).
Just a year later Gandhi was the dominant voice in Indian politics and completely reformed one of the Indian political parties to organize and bring change to the masses.
Gandhi was most visible and vocal as a leader for Indian independence. He called for boycotts of British goods, believing that economic independence was essential for an independent India.
After being arrested and sent to prison for 6 years (only lasted 2), he took a break from active politics.
Re-emerging on the scene in 1930, Gandhi organized a movement to campaign against the “Salt Tax” that affected the poorest people . Called the Salt March, it was a massively successful movement that lead to the arrests of over 60,000 people.
After yet another stint in prison, Gandhi turned his focus to improving the lives of the poorest people in rural communities. He focused on education and cottage industry such as weaving and hand spinning to improve their lives.
He returned to politics one final time during the outbreak of World War II stressing the India should not support the British unless granted independence.
Though India eventually was granted independence in 1947, Gandhi was not around long to see it.
In January 1948, Gandhi was shot and killed by a young Hindu fanatic on his way to his evening prayer. So ended the life of one of the most well known and influential people in world history.
Financial Wisdom with Mohandis Gandhi
Though Gandhi was extremely influential, he was never an individually wealthy man. When he did make good money from his law practice it was nearly all put towards his social platforms.
He practiced intentional minimalism and is said to have had less than 10 possessions at the time of his death.
Here are five quotes and wisdom from Gandhi that we can all take with us and reflect on in our own regular and financial lives:
The future depends on what you do today
This is an ultimate productivity message. How can you not be inspired to get out and do something today that will set you up for the future!? Whether that be career related, saving money, investing, etc – everyone can work on this daily.
There is more to life than simply increasing it’s speed
In the financial independence community, many of us are very focused on reaching that moment when we’re financially independent. I know I’m guilty of this. This is a good reminder that I need to make sure to enjoy life now, and not wish to speed through to financial independence.
To lose patience is to lose the battle
Learning patience is a tough pursuit for many, though it is a skill that can be invaluable once attained. Keeping your cool through any situation can help lead to a much less stressful life, period.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever
Two great pieces of advice here. It’s always good to remind yourself that tomorrow is never guaranteed, so you need to make sure to prioritize happiness today (while keeping the future in mind just in case you survive ;)). Another key is to continually engage in daily learning to help stimulate your brain and maximize your potential.
If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.
Lastly, always believe in yourself. Know that if you put your mind to something, truly believe and put all your energy and effort towards it, good things will likely happen.
Other Interesting Gandhi Facts
Gandhi was born into a family that practiced Vaishnavism
- Influenced by Jainism, this sect stresses self-discipline and nonviolence and well as strict vegetarianism.
Gandhi was known for fasting as a means of protest
- He did this many times through out his life as a means to quell violence and strike up a cause. Sometimes his fasts would last up to 21 days (seriously).
Before taking a vow of celibacy, Gandhi had 4 sons with his wife
- His family is still influential today and his ancestors have made names of themselves in Indian politics and the medical field.
Gandhi was killed in New Delhi, where he now has a memorial
- Over 2 million people attended his funeral. The epitaph on the memorial reads “Oh God” which were supposedly his last words.
Gandhi’s birthday (October 2nd) is now known as the International day of Nonviolence
- The United Nations officially declared this and it went into effect in 2007,
I hope you all enjoyed your brief history lesson.
If you enjoy these types of posts check out the History Annex where I have a few other posts on historical figures!
Passionate about history too? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear feedback!
Gandhi: The True Man Behind Modern India; by Jad Adams
Gandhi; by Jane Rollason