Facts to know about Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th Birthday

"If we want real peace in this world, we should start educating children." 
  -Mahatma Gandhi 

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – often known by the honorific “Mahatma”, meaning “great soul” – who led the struggle for India’s independence from British rule. His non-violent campaign was based on civil disobedience and peaceful protest in line with Gandhi’s philosophy of “Satyagraha” or “insistence on truth”.

However, Gandhi was a complex figure whose opinions varied wildly throughout his life. Until 1918, he was an admirer of the British Empire and only came to advocate full independence after the Amritsar Massacre of 1919.

Gandhi was not the best student. Although he was known for being highly ethical with good English skills, he was considered a mediocre student in math and poor in Geography. He also had bad handwriting, which he was embarrassed about.
  • Gandhi spoke English like an Irishman. (One of his first English teachers was from Ireland.)
  •  Gandhi was a teenage newlywed. He was only 13 years old when he married his 14-year-old bride Kasturba in 1882. The young couple weren't too fond of each other but later found common ground. The death of their first child made him a strong opponent of child marriage.
  • Gandhi's civil disobedience was inspired by American Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, whose famous essay "Civil Disobedience," he read while he was in prison.
  • Gandhi's activism started in South Africa. Having a hard time finding work as a lawyer in India, Gandhi traveled to South Africa in 1893, where he was given legal work through an Indian firm. It was there that he and his fellow Indians encountered constant discrimination by the Dutch and the British, which in turn, inspired him to fight for their rights. During his time in South Africa, where he was imprisoned many times, he developed his concept of peaceful resistance and "satyagraha" (firmness in truth).
  • Gandhi didn't like his photograph taken, yet he became the most photographed person of his era.
  • In 1930 Gandhi became the first and only Indian (so far) who has been distinguished with the "Time Person of the Year" title.
  • Gandhi never won a Nobel Peace Prize, despite being nominated five times. In 2006 the committee publicly admitted its regret at having never honored him with the award.
  • Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy regularly corresponded with each other.
  • Following that bloodstained event, when Gurkha soldiers under the command of General Reginald Dyer killed at least 379 Indian demonstrators, Gandhi said the dead were “definitely not heroic martyrs. Were they heroes, they would have unsheathed the sword or at least used their sticks, or they would have bared their breast to Dyer and died bravely when he came there in all his insolence. They would never have taken to their heels.”
  • Gandhi lived in South Africa between 1893 and 1915, leading a series of campaigns for the rights of the Indian minority. At that time, he was no advocate of racial equality. His aim was to ensure that Indians were not treated on the same level as Africans, who he referred to in his writings as “kaffirs”.
  • Shortly after returning to India, he proposed a toast to the British Empire at a dinner of the Madras Bar Association in March 1915, saying: “I discovered the British Empire had certain ideas with which I have fallen in love and one of those ideals is that every subject of the British Empire has the freest scope for his energies and efforts.”
  • Gandhi supported Britain during the First World War and, as late as 1918, joined a government campaign for Indians to volunteer for the British Army.
  • In July 1918, Gandhi said: “India would be nowhere without Englishmen. If the British do not win, to whom shall we go claiming equal partnership? Shall we go to the victorious German or Turk or Afghan for it? The liberty-loving English will surely yield after seeing that we have laid down our lives for them.”
  • After the Amritsar massacre, Gandhi’s views changed and he decided that India must achieve full independence. He led the mass protests of 1919-22 and then the salt march of 1930. This caused the British to promise India a measure of self-government in 1931, but not full independence.
  • Gandhi had an ambiguous attitude towards Hitler, denouncing him for “domination” and “conquest” but also urging Britain to reach a peaceful settlement with Nazi Germany.
  • Gandhi wrote to directly to Hitler to appeal for peace, addressing the Fuehrer as “Dear Friend” in a letter on December 24 1940. “We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents,” wrote Gandhi. “But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in universal friendliness.”
  • Gandhi opposed the British war effort and launched the “Quit India” campaign in 1942. However, when independence came in 1947, it coincided with India’s partition and the birth of Pakistan. Gandhi refused to celebrate the event, devoting Independence Day to prayer and fasting.
  • Gandhi's funeral procession was almost 5 miles long.

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