More than 150 years ago on October 2, a boy was born in a small Indian village, the son of a successful though uneducated father and his fourth wife. He was the fourth child and third son from the marriage, so it would have been understood if he had stayed close to home all his life.
And yet, this boy grew to become one of the world’s most influential, memorable, and revered advocates for freedom. He was so loved and revered, he was called “Mahatma”, which is a name of respect and honor in Sanscrit.
His legacy lives on, and his influence is still felt, and appreciated, to this date.
Let’s take a deep dive into the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi.
Watson Museum, Rajkot, Gujarat, India
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in a small town in western India. When he was a young boy, his family moved to Rajkot in what is today Gujarat.
Here, he was married (in an arranged marriage) when he was 13. He graduated from high school, and at 19, left his wife and young child to attend law school in London.
The Watson Museum in Rajkot is an outstanding museum, with amazing collections of crafts, coins, sculptures, and temple statues, and other artifacts from the Indus valley. It provides a wonderful education of India’s history and context for the man who changed the country, and the world.
Railway Station Memorial, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
As a young lawyer, Gandhi moved to South Africa. Here, he was often forced to confront racial discrimination. While traveling, he was beaten and kicked off a train for refusing to leave his seat among the “European” passengers to sit on the floor. Later, outside Pietermaritzburg, he was kicked off the train for refusing to leave first class.
In South Africa, he, like all other Indians, was not permitted to walk on the sidewalk. This inequality enraged Gandhi, and he spent more than 20 years in South Africa fighting for the rights of Indian immigrants and others. Motivated by progress, and a longing to return home, he eventually decided to move back to continue the fight for equality in India.
This monument to Gandhi outside the Pietermaritzburg Train Station, was dedicated by Bishop Desmond Tutu, himself a great advocate for equality and human rights.
KwaZuluNatal Museum, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
An amazing educational experience, the KwaZuluNatal Museum in Pietermaritzburg has exhibits focused both on the natural history of the region, as well as the cultural history.
It also includes an exhibit on the significant Indian population of the region, which grew in numbers during the hundreds of years that both countries were British colonies.
Yerwada Central Jail, Maharashtra, India
Gandhi moved back to India and immediately began agitating for India’s freedom from Great Britain. He preached a message of non-violent protest. He encouraged all Indians to stop working with the British government, and to be willing to suffer and die for the cause of independence for India, all without harming another person or property.
This policy deeply frustrated leaders, and Gandhi was often singled out for punishment. He was jailed at the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune twice over his protests.
The jail is still used today, and is often reported to be overcrowded and unsanitary. It is a great reminder that Gandhi’s sacrifices were real, the struggle for freedom was easy, and is not over.
Assassination Site, New Delhi, India
Gandhi and the people of India sacrificed a great deal, and shortly after World War II, Britain agreed to leave India. India, the second-largest country in the world, is made up of devout religious followers of many traditions, which haven’t always gotten along. Gandhi hoped Indians could find a way to coexist, but shortly after independence, the country broke up along religious lines, creating what is now India, Pakistan, and later Bangladesh.
Millions of people moved between the countries, much to Gandhi’s dismay. On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was gathered at a mansion in New Delhi, part of a multi-religious prayer session. He was approached by a Hindu nationalist, who shot him three times up close. He died shortly thereafter.
The site at Birla House, renamed Gandhi Smriti, is marked with a beautiful canopy that evokes peace and acceptance.
Raj Ghat Memorial, New Delhi, India
Followers of Hindu teachings are often cremated, to release their soul as quickly as possible, so they can be reborn. Gandhi was cremated the day after he was assassinated, in downtown New Delhi. At the site of his cremation, a memorial was later created to honor India’s “Bapu” or father.
The memorial represents a funeral pyre, with a black platform and eternal flame.
National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi, India
A museum to Gandhi is nearby, helping Indians and visitors to learn more about the man, his mission, and his impact around the world. It is also a treasure of information and history of the country Gandhi lived, and died, to create.
Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai, India
After his death, people in India wanted to honor Gandhi, and elected to build a museum in his honor. The funds for the grand structure were collected by citizens of India, from the poorest to the richest.
It was dedicated by then-former president Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959. The museum includes a piece of the cloth Gandhi was wearing when he was killed, as well as pictures, artifacts, and information about Mahatma, the sage of India.
These days, there are so many things we can learn from Gandhi, from his desire to treat people equally, to choosing non-violence to achieve his goals, and his desire for religious cooperation. On this anniversary of his birth, let us strive to adopt the best parts of Gandhi, and make our world a better place.