Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”
Albert Einstein, On Gandhi’s 70th birthday
January 30 marks the martyrdom of Gandhi. 73 years ago, in 1948, he was shot thrice in point-blank by religious extremists. Gandhi was assassinated not by the colonial powers that he fought against but by the same people for whom he lived and breathed for four decades.
Renowned as an exponent of non-violence and truth, the leader lived a legacy that can only be defined as a moral saga. Throughout his strenuous life, Gandhi rebelled against the social evils and foreign oppression. His unique philosophy on politics and spirituality inspired and enlightened great minds around the world, through different generations.
But unfortunately, the world today has sided, not with the saint, but with his assassins. Though we pay lip service to the greatness of Gandhi, we disregard his ideals. Gandhian theories on minimalism, secularism, and the welfare of minorities are ignored and intentionally blotted out.
World after Gandhi
Majoritarianism is the evil of our times. Religious and racial minorities are subjugated everywhere and their please and cries are stifled. Democratic governments adopt a callous approach as they are funded by biased groups.
Even the country which gave birth to Gandhi and his ideals is crushed at the feet of majoritarianism and partial government. The poison of Hindutva spreads fast and has claimed the lion’s share of the population. On the other hand, most developed countries are tormented by the rising hatred, oppression and extreme right ideologies.
If we want to find the antidote for such evils, we have to lend our ears to the same icon whom we have ignored through the decades.
“My life is my message”
If we listen, we still can hear Gandhi’s appeals for love and brotherhood. Nevertheless, it discomforting to know that the values that Gandhi lived for — those which earned the sobriquet of Mahatma — are largely forgotten in the 21st century.
Though it is next to impossible to portray the proverbial many-sidedness of the leader, it would be a folly not to try. Hence, here are the values that made him the most influential leader in the last century, if not the whole of human history.
Truth and Non-violence
Gandhi was an inveterate pacifist who worshiped at the altar of non-violence. All his ideas and social theories were centered around the concept. He invented Satyagraha — an effective form of non-violent protest— and used it against the tyrannical colonial rule and brought it to its knees. Rooted in the ideal of truth, he demonstrated that love ultimately triumphs over hatred.
Though a devout Hindu, Gandhi was not a blind extremist like his assassin Godse. Mahatma imbibed the best qualities from all religions and believed in the equal rights of all. His spirituality was not confined by the faiths that he was bought up in. He walked his own path to spirituality and boldly proclaimed that God is nothing but Truth. (Read more)
Living the life of a sage, Gandhi was the epitome of simplicity. He rejected all paraphernalia and shunned the plush and pomp of those in the limelight. Modern minimalists will be stunned to learn that Gandhi possessed fewer than ten things, including his khadi loincloths that he spun himself.
Gandhi was known for his indomitable spirit. He stood firm for his ideals and never wavered from non-violence. His fearlessness and adherence to values earned him the respect of greats like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and so on.
Gandhi was always remembered as a true patriot and is revered as the father of the nation. Even when he invoked nationalism in his followers, he understood the dangers behind ultra-nationalistic ideologies and warned against them. If the modern world paid heed to the great soul, we might have gotten a better breed of broad-minded leaders today.
Gandhi traveled through the length and breadth of the country and tried to uplift the poor in the society. He fought against the class system, untouchability, illiteracy, and uncleanliness. Through movements like Sarvodaya and Swaraj, Gandhi educated the masses and single-handedly uplifted their social status.
Remembering the fallen hero
I deny being a visionary. I do not accept the claim of saintliness. I am of the earth, earthy . . . I am prone to as many weaknesses as you are. But I have seen the world. I have lived in the world with my eyes open”
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1920)
Gandhi led a strenuous life filled with rebellions against all forms of hatred and subjugation. He silently prompted the world to seek the high road and lead a spiritually inspired life. What makes the frail old man relevant even seven decades after his martyrdom is his ideals inspired by love and adherence to truth. They are the perfect antidotes for today’s hateful society.
Let us take this day to remember the great leader, and the values he lived and died for.
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