Mahatma Gandhi, the power of nonviolence

Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi was called Mahatma, which literally means “great soul”.

Gandhi means grocer, since his ancestors, before fulfilling important positions, worked as spice sellers. He was Hindu and, in particular, he believed in Vishnu.

Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, western India. In the first 20 years of his existence he behaved exactly like a descendant of a wealthy family: High School, College in Mumbai and then he sailed to London to obtain the entry qualification to the legal profession.

After coming back to India, he went to South Africa on business, where for the first time he came to know how Indians were subjugated: he was forced to get down from a train and couldn’t rent a room.


Because of the humiliation he suffered in 1894, when he was 24, he started the Natal Indian Congress, an organization that aimed to fight discrimination against Indians in the Union of South Africa.

By reading many religious texts, he realised that the highest degree of religiousness is sacrifice; that’s why when he was 37 he decided to take vows in agreement with his wife, but against his religion.

In the same period, he started to fast as a means of self-purification and political motivation.

These purification practices are included in his non-violent approach, known as satyagraha, which means truth force and they are the only weapons that it is possible to use; some said that non violence is the weapon of the weak, but Gandhi, on the contrary, used to say: “Non violence is a weapon of the strong”.

Gandhi’s political commitment

He was arrested many times. In September 1906 he led his fellow Indians in a nonviolent protest against the policemen who wanted to keep a file on every one of them and he was put in jail for seven years; between 1921 and 1923, he was again imprisoned because he promoted civil rebellion; in 1930 he was put in jail for one year because he illegally produced salt from saltwater to protest against the government monopoly on salt production.

He supported peace armies during both World Wars, was against the independence of Pakistan from India and wanted Indian religious communities (Hindu and Muslim) to coexist peacefully. That’s why he was assassinated at the age of 78, on 30 January 1948, by a militant Hindu nationalist.

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