Study Material : History- Gandhian Era

CAPF-AC (Assistant Commandant) Exam Study Material : History- Gandhian Era

Mahatma Gandhi was born on 2 October, 1869 at Porbandar of Kathiawar in Gujarat. His full name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. At the age of 13 only, his marriage was solemnised with Kasturba. In 1887, he went to England for higher education and returned to India in 1892 after becoming a Barrister. In 1893, he went to South Africa to plead for a case. In fact, he had gone there on a contractual assignment for a year but spent almost twenty-two years in that country. In January 1915, when he returned to India, he found the whole country involved in the war efforts of the British. Gandhi’s political thoughts were based on religion. But he did not adopt religion in a communal sense. He had firm belief in Hinduism but his Hinduism was more in the form of humanism. He used to give importance to truth, non-violence, morality, universal brotherhood, sacrifice and self-confidence in politics. Gandhi recorded his initial thoughts in 1909 in Hind Swaraj. These thoughts were based on his personal experiences. The original version of these thoughts were written in Gujarati.


Mahatma Gandhi had laid great stress on satyagraha in his thoughts. Satyagraha means pursuance of truth. It means striving for truth even by undergoing physical pain. Gandhi relied on the methods of non­violence to strive for the truth. Thus, it was agreeable to him to suffer physical hardship for the sake of truth. He used to accept Satyagraha not simply as a means but as a principle by itself. He himself had written “Satyagraha is (such) a spiritual principle which is based on love for the mankind. There is no feeling of hatred in it towards the opponents”. Mahatma Gandhi considered four preconditions as necessary for a satyagrahi to fulfil. He stated: “After a great deal of experience, it seems to me that those who want to become passive resisters for the service of the country have to observe (1) perfect chastity, (2) adopt poverty, (3) follow truth, and (4) cultivate fearlessness.”

Mahatma Gandhi used to give enough stress on morality. In his view, truth wad the essence of morality. Mahatma Gandhi laid great stress on­non-violence alongside truth. He used to consider non-violence as a symbol of strength rather than of cowardice. In his book Satyagraha in South Africa he was to detail the struggles of the Indians to claim their rights, and their resistance to oppressive legislation and executive measures, such as the imposition of a poll tax on them, or the declaration by the government that all non­Christian marriages were to be construed as invalid. In 1909, on a trip back to India, Gandhi authored a short treatise entitled Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, where he all but initiated the critique, not only of industrial civilization, but also of modernity in all its aspects.

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Speaking on non-violence He has said: “I believe that non-violence has the power to solve all problems. At the same time, I had this faith that if any country in the world can find a solution of all problems through non-violence, it is only India.” His saintliness was not uncommon, except in someone like him who immersed himself in politics and by this time he had earned from no less a person than Rabindranath Tagore, the title of Mahatma, or ‘Great Soul’. Gandhi had ideas on every subject, from hygiene and nutrition to education and labor, and he relentlessly pursued his ideas in one of the many newspapers which he founded. Indeed, were Gandhi known for nothing else in India, he would still be remembered as one of the principal figures in the history of Indian journalism. His Techniques of Mass Mobilization

Gandhi became the undisputed leader of the Congress and the leader of masses within a short span of 5 years, i.e. from 1915 to 1920. Was this phenomenon an outcome of a skillful political game on the part of Gandhi or was it due to the circumstances? The personality of Gandhi and his simple and saintly habits were also responsible. Gandhi had a good knowledge of the people and hence deliberately cultivated certain simple and saintly habits. Satyagraha was based on truth and non­violence. It was influenced by Thoreau, Emerson and Tolstoy. The literal meaning of Satyagraha is invitation or holding on to truth. He was anxious to distinguish Satyagraha from passive resistance (the method adopted by the extremists). The technique of Satyagraha, being based on non-violence, could easily attract the masses. However, as a politician, Gandhi in practice sometimes settled for less than complete non-violence.

The Gandhian model proved acceptable to business groups as well as to the relatively better-off or locally dominant sections of the peasantry, all of whom stood to lose something if political struggle turned into uninhibited and violent social revolution. Non-Cooperation: To Gandhi, non-cooperation with the evil-doers was the duty of the virtuous man. It was considered by Gandhi as a mild form of agitation, and it was resorted to by him between 1921-1922. This technique had an immediate appeal to the masses. Civil Disobedience: Civil disobedience of the laws of the unjust and tyrannical government is a strong and extreme form of political agitation according to Gandhi, this technique can be more dangerous and powerful than armed rebellion and, hence, should be adopted only as a last resort. To the masses whose suffering reached the extreme point in the late 1920’s due to the worldwide economic crisis, this technique seemed to be the only way to remove their sufferings.

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