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Mohandas Gandhi 's Death

Mohandas Gandhi

The life and death of Mahatma Gandhi:

He's considered the father of modern India, and so much more. Mohandas Gandhi was a pacifist embracing civil disobedience, whose work in India inspired others in the struggle for civil rights elsewhere in the world, like Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. However, his struggle for India's independence from Great Britain led to an internal struggle that pitted Indian Hindus versus the country's Muslims. And when the subcontinent was portioned into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, one of his own shot him dead, thinking he'd been too accommodating to the Muslim side.

He was born Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi and raised a Hindu.

Mohandas Gandhi childhood photo

His family was part of the merchant caste and, because of this privileged status, was trained in the law in London.

Mohandas Gandhi early manhood

He first used non-violent civil disobedience working as an expatriate attorney in South Africa, working for the Indian community there in their fight for civil rights. Although some think it was his first name, "Mahatma" is an honorary title, which means venerable or respected and admired. It was first given to Gandhi in South Africa in 1914 and is now associated with him around the world.

He returned to India in 1915 and led protests by farmers, workers and peasants against high taxes on everything from land to salt and discriminatory practices.

Mohandas Gandhi around 1915

Gandhi used nonviolent civil disobedience to ease poverty, expand women's rights, to end the poor treatment of India's so-called Untouchables ( people considered and treated as less than human) and ultimately to gain self-rule for India. He led a movement to get Britain to quit India in 1942.

It was not an easy path. Gandhi was imprisoned several times and for many years in both India and South Africa. He lived modestly, ate a simple diet of vegetables and engaged in long fasts to both stage social protest and to purify his body.

He was revered for his simple way of speaking and spreading wisdom.

Mohandas Gandhi words of wisdom

He travelled the world to spread his message, here at London's Kingsley Hall in 1931.

He also granted interviews to journalists, like this one to Fox Movietone News, also in 1931.

It was his hope that India could be home to both Hindus and Muslims. However, it was not to be because a Muslim nationalism grew in the early 1940's. By the time British rule ended in 1947, its Indian empire was split into two sections: Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan.

Religious violence followed as the displaced people travelled to their newly designated territories. Gandhi visited the various areas, resorting to fasts to try to stop the violence. However, some Hindu's felt Gandhi was abandoning his own people.

A Hindu Nationalist, Natharum Godse…

Natharum Godse

…pumped three bullets at point blank range into the Mahatma's chest, while he was on his way to a prayer meeting. Gandhi's last words were reported to be "Oh God."

newspaper report of Mohandas Ganhdi's death

Godse and a co-conspirator were eventually tried and executed for the crime.

Gandhi was mourned around the world.

Mohandas Ganhdi dead

More than two million people joined his funeral procession.

Mohandas Ganhdi funeral

Hindu tradition called for his ashes to be dispersed on a river. Most were scattered at the Sangam at Allabad and some at the source of the Nile River in Uganda, where there's a memorial plaque.

Mohandas Ganhdi

Gandhi said his most important battle in life was to overcome his own fears, insecurities and demons, summarizing beliefs with the phrase "God Is Truth" and later altering it to "Truth is God." Although nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times between 1937 and 1948, he never won.

Two temples dedicated to Mohandas Ganhdi

Two temples are dedicated to Gandhi in India and his October 2nd birthday is a national holiday there.

In popular culture, Gandhi's life was portrayed in the 1982 film "Gandhi", starring Ben Kingsley in the title role.

Ganhdi movie poster

The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.