Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gandhi's Birthday and International Day of Non-Violence

Mahatma Ghandi (Wikimedia Commons)
Tomorrow, October 2, Mahatma Ghandi's birthday is commemorated (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948.) Ghandi was one of the leading spiritual and political leaders of his time, born in Porbandar, India, he became, after he moved to South Africa, an advocate for the rights of Indians in that country. When he returned to India twenty years later in 1914, he started a movement towards independence from Great Britain based on the Satyagraha philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience, and eventually he became the leader of the Indian National Congress party.  During this struggle for independence he ended up many times in prison. Although India and Pakistan achieved independence in 1947 and Ghandi had played an instrumental role in this process, it was not the independence he had foreseen. He had not wanted a partition of British India into a Hindu majority India and a Muslim majority Pakistan, as he believed in the unity of religions. However, during the migration on independence day of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs to their respective new homes in India or Pakistan, over half a million people were killed in clashes between these religious groups. When trying to stop the Hindu-Muslim conflict, Ghandi himself was killed in 1948 by a Hindu extremist, Nathuram Godse.

After Ghandi's death and up till today, he still is revered for his commitment to non-violence, support for the poor and downtrodden and for leading a simple life of vegetarianism and fasting. Ghandi also left a legacy of many books, thousands and thousands of pages and many quotes which are still often used today, such as "Be the change you want to see in the world", "In a gentle way, you can shake the world", "Find yourself by losing yourself in service" and "What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea." October 2 is celebrated as Ghandi Yayanti, a national holiday in India and as the International Day of Non-Violence around the world.

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