You are on page 1of 4

Mahatma Gandhi was a famous civil rights leader from India that fought for equal rights in India

ruled by the British government. Mahatma Gandhi also strived for civil rights in South Africa which was under apartheid while working as a lawyer. Gandhi was a small, feeble old man who changed governments with nonviolent protest. Gandhi struggled for peace and stated An eye for an eye leaves the world blind. Gandhi did not have much money or a high rank in government but was still able to influence people throughout the world. He fought against inequality with prayer, fasting, and peaceful protest (Schraff 5). Mahatma Gandhi was born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2, 1869 (Schraff 6). He was born in the town of Porbander in Western India (Schraff 6). He would live in a big household with his uncles and their families. Gandhi was born to his father, Karamchand Gandhi, who was a government official. His mother, Putlibai was twenty two years old at the time of his birth while his father was fifty. His father and mother actually married when Putlibai was thirteen years old. It was common for Indian men to marry very young wives at the Tim e. Gandhi was born into the middle class in India. Their family was devout members of the Hindu religion. When Gandhi was born, India was ruled by Britain in a caste system (Schraff 7). The caste system was a hierarchy of scholars, warriors, traders, and peasants. The peasants also known as the untouchables could not walk outside in the street and could not touch other people. The peasants would also have to clean out the higher classes waste pots. Gandhi belonged to the trader class in which his names means grocer (Schraff 8). The trader class could also work for the Indian government as Gandhis father did.

Karamchand Gandhi was a stern, hard-working man. Mahatma Gandhi would fear being on the wrong side of his father. One time, Mahatma Gandhi tried smoking cigarettes even though it is against Hindu custom. With guilt in his mind, he ate poisonous datura seeds but those only made him go to sleep. Gandhi did not fear his mother, Putlibai who he dearly loved. Putlibai was a very religious woman and would pray before every meal. She would also go to the Hindu temple every day so this rubbed off on Mahatma Gandhi. Putlibai was very caring and kind to her children. At age 13, Mahatma Gandhi became married to Katsurba Nakanji with their parents arrangement (Schraff 11). It is Indian custom for children to be married at a young age (Schraff 11). After the marriage ceremony, Katsurba went to live in Mahatma Gandhis household. When Gandhi was 15, he befriended a Muslim teenager and ate goat meat together with him. Gandhi, being a lifelong vegetarian, threw up the food after eating it. The next year would be a very tumultuous time for the young man. His father, Karamchand was bed sick and died. Katsurba was in labor at the time and had a baby a couple weeks later (Schraff 15). The baby passed away after a few days. At the age of 18, Gandhi decided to go t o Britain for law school to become a lawyer. This decision was a very momentous one. Gandhi was very poor at the time so his uncle sold his rubys to pay for Gandhis education. By crossing the ocean on a ship, he disobeyed one of Hindus taboos. He was cut off from the Hindu religion but was accepted back upon returning to India. While at London University, Ghandi read the Bhagavad-Gita, the holy book of Hindu for

the first time. He also read the New Testament of the Bible and admired the chronicle of Jesus Christ (Schraff 20). Once he was done with university, Gandhi left right away back to India. Indias job market was saturated with lawyers so Gandhi found work in South Africa in 1893. South Africa was segregated at the time and was very racist against people of color. Indians were considered servants in South Africa and did not have the right to vote. Gandhi sought to change that and fight for Indians civil rights. After a few years, Gandhi published a pamphlet called The Grievances of the British Indians in South Africa, an Appeal to the Indian public (Schraff 29). This became known as the popular Green Book but the whites disliked it and Gandhi was pelted with rocks and garbage. In 1908, Gandhi was arrested for not wearing his registration card that was exclusive for Indians. By the time of his jail release in 1909, Gandhi was famous throughout the world. In 1914, World War I broke out and Britain was at war. Gandhi formed an ambulance corps and asked Britain for home rule of India (Schraff 45).When fifteen thousand Indians held a peaceful demonstration for home rule, shots were fired and 379 people died. Gandhi joined the Indian Home Rule league and began touring the country, supporting the traditional way of life. When World World II began, Gandhi promoted peaceful resistance the Axis powers. The British government accused Gandhi of sedition and arrested him and his wife which they did numerously. Katsurba Gandhi was affected by pneumonia in 1943 and died by her husbands side in prison. In May of 1944, Gandhi became sick with malaria so the British let him go. In 1946, violence in India escalated with thousands of Muslims and Hindus dead. The following year,

India would split into two different countries. This caused millions of refugees in both countries. Gandhis last fast for peace resulted in the end of the bloodshed but Gandhi would be shot down by Nathuram Godse on January 25, 1948 (Schraff 51). In conclusion, Mahatma Gandhi was a powerful figure in politics despite being a frail, weak man with no political office. Gandhi was one of the most influential people of the 20 th century and inspired Martin Luther King (Schraff 61). Without the life of Gandhi, the Civil Rights movement would not have been successful in the 1950s and 1960s. It definitely may have been more violent and chaotic but not more successful. Even General Douglas MacArthur, the famous war general of World War II, accepted Gandhis philosophy for a better world (Schraff 61).