On January 30, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead. Today we remember this fateful day as Martyr's Day. His philosophy continues to be relevant today. Let's take a look at the influences that shaped his ideas and views.
From Porbandar, a sleepy little port town, Gandhiji's family moved to Rajkot when he was four. Through his mother and the people in the neighbourhood young Mohandas learnt about Vaishnavism and Jainism, faiths that held all creatures as sacred. He would later record in his autobiography “Jain monks would pay frequent visits to my father”. He grew among people who would not kill or harm any wildlife, animals or birds, even if they destroyed their crops. There were also Muslim and Parsi friends of his father dropping in. These many influences combined to give Gandhiji an understanding and tolerance for all faiths.
It was in Rajkot that Moniya, as Gandhiji was called by the family, came face to face with the British Raj. Rajkot was the headquarters of the Resident, the official representative of British rulers. He went to Alfred High School where the students learnt in English medium and played cricket. Gandhiji realised the difficulties in learning through a language that is not your mother tongue. He called this “the tyranny of English”. Not only language, in other aspects also, such as dress, Gandhiji supported things Indian and despised the craze for western habits.
During his first year, an Inspector of Schools visited his class and gave a dictation. Gandhi misspelt the word “kettle”. The class teacher standing behind Gandhiji asked him to take a peek at the slate of the next student, who had written the word correctly. Gandhiji refused to do so and faced the consequence. Even as a student he had a strong sense of honesty.
Much of what we know about Gandhiji, his weaknesses and mistakes, we know through his own words.
When he was 12, he along with a few friends, gathered cigarette stubs thrown by an uncle and began smoking. Then they started stealing coins from the servants to smoke.
However, Gandhiji all along felt he was doing something terribly wrong. He had an urge to confess to his father. He wrote what he did clearly on a piece of paper and gave it to him, asking for forgiveness. The father, who was in his sick bed, did not get angry but shed tears, moved by his son's honesty.
Many years later, Gandhiji recalled it as an act of ahimsa on the part of his father. Mahatma Gandhi began thinking about non-violence. He recorded that he did not think killing bugs and scorpions in the house was wrong.
In 1926 in a textile factory campus in Ahmedabad, the management destroyed about 60 stray dogs. Some people complained to Gandhiji. He supported the action of the factory and said that stray dogs should be put down.
He wrote articles in his magazine Young India, explaining the decision and his idea of ahimsa. Many ideas of Gandhiji began to take shape even when he was a school student.