Gandhi ji was a preacher of truth and ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence). He started the ‘Satyagraha’ movement for the Indian freedom struggle. He believed in living a simple life and in ‘Swadeshi’. He proved to the world that freedom can be achieved through the path of non-violence. Gandhiji is a symbol of peace and truth.
On this day, the President and Prime Minister, along with other eminent political leaders, pay homage at Raj Ghat – the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi. All the offices and schools, throughout the country, remain closed on this day.
Gandhi Jayanti: Origin
Memories of Gandhi Jayanti go back a long way, to the schooldays. Gandhi Jayanti did not invite any celebrations. Still, it filled us with excitement, because the week starting on October 2 was special. That was the time when there would be little homework and even less class work. Lessons effectively ended by lunch-hour, and in the second half of the day we would just ‘work’. We would dig up the earth at the back of the school and plant saplings, we would go around to the hutments and deliver free medicines, we would paint a few walls… a variety of odd jobs that kept changing by the day, by the year.
Later, when the week gradually dwindled and disappeared under the pressure of academics there was a twinge of regret at the loss of good times. But while it lasted, we didn’t know what it was all about, only that it was somehow connected with Gandhi Jayanti. We didn’t ask, either – we loved what we were doing, and that was enough. It was much later that I found out the reason for the service that we had done. It was our way of remembering the service that Mahatma Gandhi had rendered to the nation, our way of carrying forward his philosophy of helping oneself by helping others, his dream of acquiring self-sufficiency, his mission of building a strong nation. It was our pledge that we would remember Mahatma Gandhi and his contribution to the building of the Indian nation.
Gandhi Jayanti: History
If there was one man who was instrumental in acquiring independence for India, it was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This was the man – slight, bespectacled and mild in manner – who controlled the National Movement for nearly three decades. A mass leader, he believed that he must identify himself with the masses he leads.
M K Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, a small town on the Gujarat coastline.
After his early education in India, he was sent to London where he qualified as a barrister. After attempting practice in Bombay for a few months, he went to South Africa as counsel for a wealthy Muslim client. Though he was supposed to return after the case was sorted, he continued his stay there till 1914, leading the Indians there against the apartheid of the British. His stint in India took a turn when national leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale initiated him into the Indian freedom movement. Gandhi, with his ideals of ahimsa, non-cooperation and satyagraha, soon established himself as the front runner in the struggle for freedom.
From then, till India gained independence, Gandhi gathered an entire nation behind him in his relentless quest. But Partition was a big blow to his dreams and ideals, and Gandhi was a sad man on the night of India’s Independence.
Five months after independence, Gandhiji was assassinated by Nathuram Godse while on his way to his daily prayer meeting. The 78-year-old Father of the Nation had left a country that was just discovering its feet, orphaned. His birthday was recognized as a National holiday.
Gandhi was not just a political leader. In fact, he was never a keen politician. He was a leader of the masses and always identified himself with them. All his actions had the power to galvanize the people. When others walked out of the Assembly in protest, Gandhi walked 100 km to the sea at Dandi to make salt illegally.
In short, he would take a step that would involve the millions, a small step by itself, but which would magnify a million-fold. The British often wondered what it was about Gandhi that attracted so many to him. But the people had no such questions. They understood the way in which he identified with them. In fact, Gandhi took pains to learn to sign his name in all the major Indian languages.
Gandhi was also deeply spiritual, and believed that all religions showed the way to ultimate enlightenment. He also wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, a book that influenced him deeply.
Gandhi is also revered for his absolute belief in truth and ahimsa. It is this man’s birthday that we celebrate as the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation. His tolerance for other religions and support for the downtrodden are recognized and honored on this day.
Mahatma Gandhi was a simple man, with simple tastes and high values. Respecting that, even though Gandhi Jayanti is a national holiday, the festivities are minimal.
A prayer meeting is held at Rajghat, Gandhi’s samadhi in New Delhi. To mark the respect that Gandhi had for all the religions and communities, representatives from different religions take part in it. Verses and prayers are read out from the holy books of all the religions. Gandhi’s favorite song, Raghupati Raghava, is invariably sung at all the meetings associated with him. Prayer meetings are held in various state capitals as well. Gandhi Jayanti is observed all over the country, both in government and non-government forums.