Aarti Natarajan Sharma
Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated as a National Holiday in the country on 2 of October, the birth date of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was born in 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat. He spearheaded India’s freedom movement against British rule and is known as one of the most important spiritual and political leaders of India.
He was an evolved soul who believed in the twin principles of truth and non-violence because of which the Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore named him Mahatma’, meaning ‘a great soul.’ Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose called him the ‘Father of the Nation.’ His concept of ‘Satyagraha’ was the foundation on which the Indian freedom movement was built. The word literally means ‘holding firmly onto truth.’
Gandhiji was a lawyer and he left for South Africa in 1893 to represent an Indian merchant in a lawsuit. Enroute, he was thrown off the train in Pietermaritzburg railway station after a white man objected to his travelling in a first-class coach, stating his brown skin as the reason. This incident proved to be the turning point for Gandhiji. He spent 21 years in South Africa campaigning for civil rights, fighting injustice, class division, and discrimination on the basis of skin colour.
Gandhiji returned to India in January 1915 by which time India had been under British rule for over 250 years. He then commenced his non-violent battle to overthrow the yoke of the British.
He introduced the concept of simple living and high thinking and it is this which is celebrated on Gandhi Jayanti. On this day prayers and commemorative services are held throughout the country with special emphasis on the events of Gandhiji’s life and the principles he eulogized. Cultural plays are performed depicting his life and values.
Gandhiji gave an impetus to spinning his charkha and weaving khadi which came to be equated with fighting for independence from British rule. Khadi is still adopted as the national fabric of India and is indigenous in composition. On Gandhi Jayanti, the Khadi Gram Udyog’s across the country offer good discounts on khadi products.
One of the most important events which took place under Gandhiji was the Dandi March, also known as the Salt March and Salt Satyagraha. The March was in protest to the steep taxes levied on salt by the British government. It started at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad to a village called Dandi, covering close to 390 kms. This was a major event in the history of non-violent civil disobedience.
Gandhiji also launched the Quit India Movement in 1942 and finally through his concerted efforts India gained independence on 15 August 1947.
There are statues of Gandhiji across the country. These are garlanded on Gandhi Jayanti and vows are taken in schools to follow his principles of non-violence. Gandhiji’s favourite bhajan is sung which was Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, Patit Pavan Sita Ram. He believed in the very essence of secularism. Gandhiji was also responsible for abolishing untouchability in India and giving Harijans the right to lead a life of dignity. He believed in the adage ‘Cleanliness is Godliness.’ On Gandhi Jayanti, cleanliness drives are undertaken in each colony as a mark of respect to him.
Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated as the international day of non-violence in the United Nations. On 15th June, 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution reaffirming “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence.” Martin Luther King Junior fought against apartheid using Gandhian strategies of satyagraha and non-violence.
Gandhiji is known for several famous quotations which hold relevance even today.
‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’
‘An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’
‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world’
‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever’
Gandhiji was assassinated by Nathuram Vinayak Godse on 30th January 1948. This day is universally acknowledged as ‘Martyr’s Day.’ His Samadhi is at Rajghat and on Gandhi Jayanti political leaders across the spectrum go to Rajghat to pay homage to the man who was instrumental in getting India her independence.