On October 2, India and the world celebrate Gandhi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement and the pioneer of non-violence. Gandhi Jayanti is one of the three national holidays of India, along with Republic Day and Independence Day. It is also observed as the International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations, in recognition of Gandhi’s philosophy and practice of peaceful resistance.
Who was Mahatma Gandhi?
Mahatma Gandhi, whose full name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, a coastal town in Gujarat. He studied law in London and became a barrister. He moved to South Africa in 1893, where he faced racial discrimination and oppression. He began to fight for the rights of the Indian community in South Africa, using the methods of civil disobedience, such as boycotts, strikes, and marches. He also developed his concept of Satyagraha, which means “truth force” or “soul force”, based on the principles of truth, non-violence, and self-reliance.
In 1915, Gandhi returned to India and joined the Indian National Congress, the main political party that opposed British colonial rule. He became the leader of the Congress and launched several campaigns of mass civil disobedience against the British government, such as the Non-Cooperation Movement, the Salt March, and the Quit India Movement. He also advocated for social reforms, such as the abolition of untouchability, the empowerment of women, and the promotion of communal harmony. He inspired millions of Indians to join his cause and follow his example of non-violent resistance.
Gandhi’s efforts and sacrifices paved the way for India’s independence from British rule on August 15, 1947. However, he was deeply saddened by the partition of India and Pakistan, which resulted in communal violence and the displacement of millions of people. He tried to stop the bloodshed and bring peace between the two nations, but he was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic on January 30, 1948, in New Delhi. He died with the words “Hey Ram” (Oh God) on his lips.
Why is Gandhi Jayanti celebrated?
Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated to honour the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, who is revered in India as the Father of the Nation. He is also respected and admired by people around the world for his courage, compassion, and wisdom. His teachings and actions have influenced many leaders and movements for freedom, justice, and peace, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Gandhi Jayanti is marked by various events and activities across India and abroad, such as:
- Prayer services and tributes at Gandhi’s memorial, Raj Ghat, in New Delhi, and other places associated with him, such as Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Sevagram Ashram in Wardha, and Mani Bhavan in Mumbai.
- Cultural programs, exhibitions, seminars, and lectures on Gandhi’s life, philosophy, and achievements.
- Essay, speech, painting, and quiz competitions for students and children on Gandhi’s ideals and values.
- Cleanliness drives, tree plantation drives, blood donation camps, and social service initiatives as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Gandhi Jayanti in 2014.
- Singing of Gandhi’s favourite devotional song, Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, and other patriotic songs.
- Spinning of the charkha, or the spinning wheel, which was a symbol of Gandhi’s self-reliance and simplicity.
- Observance of silence, fasting, and abstinence from alcohol and meat, as a mark of respect and homage to Gandhi.
How can we follow Gandhi’s example?
Gandhi Jayanti is not only a day to celebrate and remember Gandhi, but also a day to reflect and act on his message and vision. Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” He also said, “My life is my message.” He lived by his words and showed us the way to live with dignity, integrity, and harmony. He challenged us to rise above our differences and prejudices, and to embrace our common humanity. He urged us to resist injustice and oppression, but without hatred and violence. He taught us to love and serve others, especially the poor and the oppressed. He encouraged us to seek truth and peace, but without compromising our principles and values.
We can follow Gandhi’s example by:
- Practicing non-violence in our thoughts, words, and deeds, and resolving conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation.
- Standing up for our rights and the rights of others, and participating in democratic and civic processes.
- Respecting and celebrating diversity, and promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue and cooperation.
- Living simply and sustainably, and reducing our consumption and waste.
- Caring for the environment and the animals, and supporting ecological and animal welfare causes.
- Volunteering and donating for social and humanitarian causes, and helping those in need.
- Learning and spreading Gandhi’s teachings and values, and inspiring others to follow his footsteps.
Gandhi Jayanti is a day to honour and thank Mahatma Gandhi, the man who gave us freedom and hope. It is also a day to renew our commitment and responsibility to his legacy and vision. It is a day to celebrate and practice his ideals and values, and to be the change that we wish to see in the world. Happy Gandhi Jayanti!