Kalpana Chawla (March 17, 1962[lower-alpha 1]
February 1, 2003) was the ﬁrst Indian-American
and ﬁrst Indian woman in space.
ﬂew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission
specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In 2003,
Chawla was one of the seven crew members killed in the
Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
1.1 Early life
Kalpana Chawla was born on March 17, 1962 in Karnal,
Haryana state, India. She completed her earlier schooling
at Tagore Baal Niketan Senior Secondary School, Kar-
nal and completed her Bachelor of Engineering degree in
Aeronautical Engineering at Punjab Engineering College
at Chandigarh in 1982. She moved to the United States
in 1982 where she obtained a Master of Science degree
in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas
at Arlington in 1984.
Determined to become an astro-
naut even in the face of the Challenger disaster, Chawla
went on to earn a second Masters in 1986 and a PhD
in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of
Colorado at Boulder.
In 1988, she began working at the NASA Ames Research
Center as Vice President of Overset Methods, Inc. where
she did Computational ﬂuid dynamics (CFD) research on
Vertical/Short Takeoﬀ and Landing concepts.
held a Certiﬁcated Flight Instructor rating for airplanes,
gliders and Commercial Pilot licenses for single and
multi-engine airplanes, seaplanes and gliders.
Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 1991,
Chawla applied for the NASA Astronaut Corps.
joined the Corps in March 1995 and was selected for
her ﬁrst ﬂight in 1996. She spoke the following words
while traveling in the weightlessness of space, “You are
just your intelligence”. She had traveled 10.67 million
km, as many as 252 times around the Earth.
Her ﬁrst space mission began on November 19, 1997, as
part of the six-astronaut crew that ﬂew the Space Shut-
tle Columbia ﬂight STS-87. Chawla was the ﬁrst Indian-
born woman and the second Indian person to ﬂy in space,
following cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma who ﬂew in 1984
on the Soyuz T-11. On her ﬁrst mission, Chawla trav-
eled over 10.4 million miles in 252 orbits of the earth,
logging more than 372 hours in space.
87, she was responsible for deploying the Spartan Satel-
lite which malfunctioned, necessitating a spacewalk by
Winston Scott and Takao Doi to capture the satellite. A
ﬁve-month NASA investigation fully exonerated Chawla
by identifying errors in software interfaces and the de-
ﬁned procedures of ﬂight crew and ground control.
After the completion of STS-87 post-ﬂight activities,
Chawla was assigned to technical positions in the astro-
naut oﬃce to work on the space station, her performance
in which was recognized with a special award from her
Chawla in the space shuttle simulator
In 2000 she was selected for her second ﬂight as part of
2 CHAPTER 1. KALPANA CHAWLA
the crew of STS-107. This mission was repeatedly de-
layed due to scheduling conﬂicts and technical problems
such as the July 2002 discovery of cracks in the shut-
tle engine ﬂow liners. On January 16, 2003, Chawla ﬁ-
nally returned to space aboard Columbia on the ill-fated
STS-107 mission. Chawla’s responsibilities included the
microgravity experiments, for which the crew conducted
nearly 80 experiments studying earth and space science,
advanced technology development, and astronaut health
Main article: Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Chawla died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
which occurred on February 1, 2003, when the Space
Shuttle disintegrated over Texas during re-entry into the
Earth’s atmosphere, with the death of all seven crew
members, shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its
28th mission, STS-107.
• Congressional Space Medal of Honor
• NASA Space Flight Medal
• NASA Distinguished Service Medal
• The girls hostel in NIT Bhopal (Maulana Azad
National Institute of Technology) was renamed to
Kalpana Chawla Bhavan.
• The Kalpana Chawla ISU Scholarship fund was
founded by alumni of the International Space
University (ISU) in 2010 to support Indian stu-
dent participation in international space education
• The Kalpana Chawla Memorial Scholarship pro-
gram was instituted by the Indian Students As-
sociation (ISA) at the University of Texas at El
Paso (UTEP) in 2005 for meritorious graduate
• The Kalpana Chawla Outstanding Recent Alumni
Award at the University of Colorado, given since
1983, was renamed for Chawla.
• In Karnal, Chawla’s birthplace, at least 30,000
school children and citizens joined hands to make a
36.4-km-long human chain to support the demand
for a Kalpana Chawla Government Medical Col-
lege in the city, which was announced by Health
Minister of India C. P. Thakur and later promised
by Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh. The
Kalpana Chawla Medical College Nirman Commit-
tee, backed by volunteers and activists of various or-
ganizations, supported by students from 34 schools,
swarmed the roads and formed a chain along the
roads in Karnal to demonstrate that they continued
to revere Chawla as an outstanding astronaut.
November 18, 2013, the foundation stone of the col-
lege was laid in her memory by the state government.
• Asteroid 51826 Kalpanachawla, one of seven
named after the Columbia's crew.
• On February 5, 2003, India’s prime minister an-
nounced that the meteorological series of satellites,
MetSat, was to be renamed as “Kalpana”. The ﬁrst
satellite of the series, “MetSat-1”, launched by India
on September 12, 2002, is now known as "Kalpana-
1". "Kalpana-2" was expected to be launched by
• 74th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York
City has been renamed 74th Street Kalpana Chawla
Way in her honor.
• The University of Texas at Arlington, where Chawla
obtained a Master of Science degree in aerospace
engineering in 1984, opened a dormitory named
Kalpana Chawla Hall in 2004. 
Kalpana Chawla Hall, University of Texas Arlington
• The Kalpana Chawla Award was instituted by the
government of Karnataka in 2004 for young women
• The girls’ hostel at Punjab Engineering College is
named after Chawla. In addition, an award of INR
1.7. NOTES 3
twenty-ﬁve thousand, a medal, and a certiﬁcate is in-
stituted for the best student in the Aeronautical En-
• NASA has dedicated a supercomputer to
• One of Florida Institute of Technology's student
apartment complexes, Columbia Village Suites, has
halls named after each of the astronauts, including
• The NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission has
named seven peaks in a chain of hills, named the
Columbia Hills, after each of the seven astronauts
lost in the Columbia shuttle disaster. One of them is
Chawla Hill, named after Chawla.
• Steve Morse from the band Deep Purple created the
song “Contact Lost” in memory of the Columbia
tragedy along with her interest in the band. The song
can be found on the album Bananas.
• Novelist Peter David named a shuttlecraft, the
Chawla, after the astronaut in his 2007 Star Trek
novel, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dis-
• The University of Texas at Arlington dedicated the
Kalpana Chawla Memorial on May 3, 2010, in
Nedderman Hall, one of the primary buildings in the
College of Engineering.
• The Government of Haryana established the
Kalpana Chawla Planetarium in Jyotisar,
• The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur,
named the Kalpana Chawla Space Technology Cell
in her honor.
• Delhi Technological University named a girls’ hostel
• A military housing development at Naval Air Sta-
tion Patuxent River, Maryland, has been named
Columbia Colony, and includes a street named
• The girls hostel in SIRT Bhopal (Sagar Institute
of Research and Technology) is named Kalpana
• The girls hostel in Pondicherry Central University is
named Kalpana Chawla Hostel. 
1.6 See also
• List of Asian American astronauts
• List of female astronauts
 Though her birth date has sometimes been reported as July
1, 1961, that date entered her oﬃcial records because it
was used to enroll her in school at a younger-than-normal
 “Life facts”. NASA. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
 Basu, Biman (May 2012). “Book Review: Biography
of Kalpana Chawla” (PDF). Science Reporter: pp.40–41.
Retrieved 2013-07-06. Born on 17 March 1962 in Kar-
 Salim Rizvi (December 11, 2006). “Indo-US astronaut
follows Kalpana’s footsteps”. New York: BBC. Retrieved
November 20, 2012. Almost four years after the death
of the ﬁrst Indian-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla in
the Columbia space shuttle disaster, Nasa has sent another
woman of Indian origin into space.
 Nola Taylor Redd. “Kalpana Chawla: Biography &
Columbia Disaster”. Space.com (Tech Media Network).
Retrieved November 20, 2012.
 “Kalpana Chawla”. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
 Chawla, Kalpana (1984), MS Thesis Optimization of cross
ﬂow fan housing for airplane wing installation., University
of Texas at Arlington, p. 97
 Chawla, Kalpana (1988), PhD Thesis Computation of dy-
namics and control of unsteady vortical ﬂows., University
of Colorado at Boulder, p. 147
 “Kalpana Chawla (PH.D)". Biographical Data. NASA.
Retrieved September 14, 2014.
 “Kalpana Chawla”. I Love India. Retrieved September
 Correspondent, A. “Space Shuttle Explodes, Kalpana
Chawla dead”. Rediﬀ.
 Kalpana Chawla International Space University Scholar-
 “Kalpana Chawla Memorial Scholarship”. UTEP. Re-
 “Kalpana Chawla Award”. University of Colorado. Re-
 "www.tribuneindia.com". The Tribune. India. Retrieved
 “Tribute to the Crew of Columbia”. NASA JPL. Re-
 “ISRO METSAT Satellite Series Named After Columbia
Astronaut Kalpana Chawla”. Spaceref.com. Retrieved
4 CHAPTER 1. KALPANA CHAWLA
 Rajghatta, Chidanand (Jul 12, 2004). “NY has Kalpana
Chawla Way”. The Times of India. Retrieved 27 February
 “Kalpana Chawla Hall”. University of Texas at Arlington.
 “Kalpana Chawla Award instituted”. The Hindu (Chennai,
India). 2004-03-23. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
 “Punjab Engineering College remembers Kalpana”. The
Indian Express. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
 “NASA Names Supercomputer After Columbia Astro-
naut”. About.com. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
 “Space Music – Rock/Pop”. HobbySpace. 2005-08-31.
 David, Peter; Star Trek: Next Generation: Before Dis-
honor; Page 24.
 “Kalpana Chawla Display Dedicated at Nedderman Hall”.
The University of Texas at Arlington. Retrieved 2013-05-
 “IBN News”. Ibnlive.in.com. 2010-02-03. Retrieved
 Saxena, Ambuj. “Kalpana Chawla Space Technology Cell
| Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
 “Space Technology Cell”. Kcstc.iitkgp.ernet.in. Re-
1.9 Further reading
• Among The Stars-Life and Dreams of Kalpana
Chawla by Gurdeep Pandher
• India’s 50 Most Illustrious Women (ISBN 81-88086-
19-3) by Indra Gupta
• Kalpana Chawla, a life (ISBN 0-14-333586-3) by
• The Edge of Time: The Authoritative Biography of
Kalpana Chawla by Jean-Pierre Harrison
1.10 External links
• Kalpana Chawla Family Foundation
• Celebrating Life of Kalpana Chawla
• Kalpana Chawla Excellence Awards 2012
• Kalpana Chawla proﬁle in India Currents 1998
“Kamaraj” redirects here. For the village in Iran, see
Kamaraj, Iran. For the administrative subdivision of
Iran, see Kamaraj Rural District. For the AIADMK
politician, see Dr. K. Kamaraj.
In this Indian name, the name Kumarasami is a
patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be
referred to by the given name, Kamaraj.
Kumarasami Kamaraj , better known as K. Kama-
raj, (15 July 1903
– 2 October 1975
) was an Indian
politician from Tamil Nadu widely acknowledged as the
“Kingmaker” in Indian politics during the 1960s. He was
the chief minister of Tamil Nadu during 1954–1963 and
a Member of Parliament during 1952–1954 and 1967–
1975. He was known for his simplicity and integrity.
He was involved in the Indian independence move-
As the president of Indian National Congress, he
was instrumental in navigating the party after the death
of Jawaharlal Nehru and bringing to power two Prime
Ministers namely Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964 and Indira
Gandhi in 1966. In Tamil Nadu, his home state, he is still
remembered for bringing school education to millions of
the rural poor by introducing free education and the free
Midday Meal Scheme during his tenure as chief minis-
ter. He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the
Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1976.
The domestic ter-
minal of the Chennai airport is named “Kamaraj Termi-
nal”, Chennai’s Beach Road renamed “Kamarajar Salai”,
Bangalore's North Parade Road as “K. Kamaraj Rd.” and
the Madurai Kamaraj University in his honour.
2.1 Early life
Kamaraj was born on 15 July 1903 to Kumarasamy Nadar
and Sivakami Ammaiar at Virudhunagar in Tamil Nadu.
His father Kumarasamy Nadar was a merchant. In 1907,
four years after the birth of Kamaraj, his sister Nagammal
was born. At age 5 (1907), Kamaraj was admitted to a
traditional school and in 1908 he was admitted to Yenadhi
Narayana Vidhya Salai. In 1909 Kamaraj was admitted
in Virudupatti High School. Kamaraj’s father died when
he was six years old and his mother was forced to support
her family. In 1914 Kamaraj dropped out of school to
support his family.
During this time he started joining processions and at-
tending public meetings about the Indian Home Rule
Movement. Kamaraj developed an interest in prevailing
political conditions by reading newspapers daily.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was the decisive turning
point in his life, and at this point he decided his aim was
to ﬁght for national freedom and to bring an end to for-
In 1920, at the age of 18, he became active
as a political worker and joined Congress as a full-time
In 1921 Kamaraj was organising public meet-
ings at Virudhunagar for Congress leaders. He was eager
to meet Gandhi, and when Gandhi visited Madurai on 21
September 1921 Kamaraj attended Gandhi’s public meet-
ing and met him for the ﬁrst time in person. He visited
villages carrying Congress propaganda.
In 1922 Congress was boycotting the visit of the Prince
of Wales as part of the Non-Cooperation Movement. He
came to Madras and took part in this event.
ipated in the famous Vaikom Satyagraha led by George
Joseph against the atrocities of the higher caste Hindus
against the Harijans.
In 1923–25 Kamaraj participated
in the Nagpur Flag Satyagraha .
In 1927 Kamaraj
started the Sword Satyagraha in Madras and was cho-
sen to lead the Neil Statue Satyagraha, but this was given
up later in view of the Simon Commission boycott.
Kamaraj led almost all the agitation and demonstration
against British rule.
Kamaraj was ﬁrst jailed in June 1930 for two years in
Alipore Jail, Calcutta, for participation in the “Salt Satya-
graha” led by Rajagopalachari at Vedaranyam; he was re-
leased early in 1931 in consequence of the Gandhi-Irwin
Pact before he could serve his full term imprisonment.
In 1932 Section 144 was imposed in Madras prohibiting
the holding of meetings and organisation of processions
against the arrest of Gandhi in Bombay. In Virdhunagar
under Kamaraj’s leadership processions and demonstra-
tions happened every day. Kamaraj was arrested again in
January 1932 and sentenced to 1 year’s imprisonment.
In 1933 Kamaraj was falsely implicated in the Virud-
hunagar bomb case. Dr. Varadarajulu Naidu and
6 CHAPTER 2. K. KAMARAJ
George Joseph argued on Kamaraj’s behalf and proved
the charges to be baseless. 
Kamaraj was conducting a vigorous campaign through-
out the State asking people not to contribute to war funds
when Sir Arthur Hope the Madras Governor was collect-
ing contributions to funds for the Second World War. In
December 1940 he was arrested again at Guntur under
the 'Defence of India rules’ for speeches opposing contri-
butions to the war fund and sent to Vellore Central Prison
while he was on his way to Wardha to get Gandhi’s ap-
proval for a list of Satyagrahis. While in jail, he was
elected as Municipal Councillor of Virudhunagar. He
was released 9 months later in Nov 1941 and resigned
from this post as he thought he had greater responsibility
for the nation. 
His principle was “One should not
accept any post to which one could not do full justice”.
In 1942 Kamaraj attended the All India Congress Com-
mittee in Bombay and returned to spread propaganda ma-
terial for the “Quit India Movement” called by Gandhi.
The Police issued orders to all the leaders who attended
this Bombay session. Kamaraj did not want to get ar-
rested before he took the message to all district and local
leaders. He decided not to go to Madras and decided to
cut short his trip; he saw a large number of policemen
waiting for the arrest of Congress leaders in Arakonam
but managed to escape from the police and went to Ra-
nipet, Tanjore, Trichy and Madurai to inform local lead-
ers about the Programme. He reached Virdhunagar after
ﬁnishing his work and sent a message to the local police
that he was ready to be arrested. He was arrested in Au-
gust 1942. He was under detention for 3 years and was
released in June 1945. This was the last term of his prison
Kamaraj was imprisoned six times by the British for
his pro-Independence activities, accumulating more than
3,000 days in jail.
On 13 April 1954, Kamaraj became the Chief Minister of
Madras Province. To everyone’s surprise, Kamaraj nom-
inated C. Subramaniam and M. Bhakthavatsalam, who
had contested his leadership, to the newly formed cabi-
As Chief Minister, Kamaraj removed the family vocation
based Hereditary Education Policy introduced by Rajaji.
The State made immense strides in education and trade.
New schools were opened, so that poor rural students had
to walk no more than three kilometres to their nearest
school. Better facilities were added to existing ones. No
village remained without a primary school and no pan-
chayat without a high school. Kamaraj strove to eradi-
cate illiteracy by introducing free and compulsory edu-
cation up to the eleventh standard. He introduced the
Midday Meal Scheme to provide at least one meal per
day to the lakhs of poor school children ((The Mid-day
Meal Scheme, was ﬁrst introduced in 1920 by the Madras
Corporation with the approval of the legislative council,
as a breakfast scheme in a corporation school at Thousand
Lights, Madras for the ﬁrst time in the world)) Later it was
expanded to four more schools. This was the precursor
to the free noon meal schemes introduced by K. Kamaraj
in 1960’s and expanded by M. G. Ramachandran in the
1980s.. He introduced free school uniforms to weed out
caste, creed and class distinctions among young minds.
Kamaraj Statue in Marina Beach, Chennai depicting his contri-
bution to education in the state
During the British regime the education rate was only 7
per cent. But after Kamaraj’s reforms it reached 37% .
Apart from increasing the number of schools, steps were
taken to improve standards of education. To improve
standards, the number of working days was increased
from 180 to 200; unnecessary holidays were reduced;
and syllabuses were prepared to give opportunity to vari-
ous abilities. Kamaraj and Bishnuram Medhi (Governor)
took eﬀorts to establish IIT Madras in 1959.
Major irrigation schemes were planned in Kamaraj’s pe-
riod. Dams and irrigation canals were built across higher
Bhavani, Mani Muthar, Aarani, Vaigai, Amaravathi,
Sathanur, Krishnagiri, Pullambadi, Parambikulam and
Neyyaru among others. The Lower Bhavani Dam in
Erode district brought 207,000 acres (840 km2
) of land
2.1. EARLY LIFE 7
under cultivation. 45,000 acres (180 km2
) of land bene-
ﬁted from canals constructed from the Mettur Dam. The
Vaigai and Sathanur systems facilitated cultivation across
thousands of acres of lands in Madurai and North Arcot
districts respectively. Rs 30 crores were planned to be
spent for Parambikulam River scheme, and 150 lakhs of
acres of lands were brought under cultivation; one third of
this (i.e. 56 lakhs of acres of land) received a permanent
In 1957–61 1,628 tanks were de-silted under the Small Ir-
rigation Scheme, and 2,000 wells were dug with outlets.
Long term loans with 25% subsidy were given to farmers.
In addition farmers who had dry lands were given oil en-
gines and electric pump sets on an instalment basis. He
then was caught for a case for selling harmful fertilizers.
Commerce and Industry
Industries with huge investments in crores of Rupees were
started in his period: Neyveli Lignite Corporation, BHEL
at Trichy, Manali Oil Reﬁnery, Hindustan raw photo ﬁlm
factory at Ooty, surgical instruments factory at Chennai,
and a railway coach factory at Chennai were established.
Industries such as paper, sugar, chemicals and cement
took oﬀ during the period.
Kamaraj’s First Cabinet
Kamaraj’s council of ministers during his ﬁrst tenure as
Chief Minister (13 April 1954 – 31 March 1957):
• Following the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, A.
B. Shetty quit the Ministry on 1 March 1956 and his
portfolio was shared between the other ministers.
Kamaraj’s Second Cabinet
Kamaraj’s council of ministers during his second tenure
as Chief Minister (1 April 1957 – 1 March 1962):
Kamaraj’s Third Cabinet
Kamaraj’s council of ministers during his third tenure
as Chief Minister (3 March 1962 – 2 October
Kamaraj remained Chief Minister for three consecutive
terms, winning elections in 1957 and 1962. Kamaraj no-
ticed that the Congress party was slowly losing its vigour.
Kamarajar Statue situated in Tirumangalam PKN Higher Sec-
On Gandhi Jayanti day, 2 October 1963, he resigned from
the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Post. He proposed that
all senior Congress leaders should resign from their posts
and devote all their energy to the re-vitalization of the
In 1963 he suggested to Nehru that senior Congress lead-
ers should leave ministerial posts to take up organisational
work. This suggestion came to be known as the Kama-
raj Plan, which was designed primarily to dispel from
the minds of Congressmen the lure of power, creating
in its place a dedicated attachment to the objectives and
policies of the organisation. Six Union Ministers and six
Chief Ministers including Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan
Ram, Morarji Desai, Biju Patnaik and S.K. Patil followed
suit and resigned from their posts. Impressed by Kama-
raj’s achievements and acumen, Prime Minister Jawahar-
8 CHAPTER 2. K. KAMARAJ
Kamaraj statue at East Tambaram, Chennai
lal Nehru felt that his services were needed more at the
national level. In a swift move he brought Kamaraj to
Delhi as the President of the Indian National Congress.
Nehru realized that in addition to wide learning and vi-
sion, Kamaraj possessed enormous common sense and
pragmatism. Kamaraj was elected President, Indian Na-
tional Congress, on 9 October 1963.
The King Maker
After Nehru’s death in 1964, Kamaraj successfully navi-
gated the party through turbulent times. As president of
the Indian National Congress, he refused to become the
next prime minister himself.
Split of Congress
When the Congress split in 1969, Kamaraj became the
leader of the Indian National Congress (Organisation) in
Tamil Nadu. The party failed poorly in the 1971 elections
amid allegations of fraud by the opposition parties. He re-
mained as the leader of INC(O) till his death in 1975.
2.1.2 Electoral history
Kamaraj memorial in Chennai
Kamaraj memorial in Chennai
Kamaraj died at his home, on Gandhi Jayanti day (2 Oc-
tober 1975), which was also the 12th anniversary of his
resignation. He was aged 72 and died in his sleep. He was
awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna
posthumously in 1976.
2.1.4 Popular culture
In 2004 a Tamil ﬁlm titled Kamaraj was made based on
the life history of Kamaraj. The English version of the
2.1. EARLY LIFE 9
ﬁlm was released on DVD in 2007.
 Revised edition of book on Kamaraj to be launched, The
Hindu, 8 July 2009
 Crusading Congressman, Frontline Magazine, hinduon-
net.com. 15–28 September 2001
 He raised the bar with simplicity, The Hindu 16 July 2008
 The commonsense politician, Frontline Magazine, 17–30
 “Padma Awards Directory (1954–2007)" (PDF). Ministry
of Home Aﬀairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4
March 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
 Man of the people, The Tribune, 4 October 1975
 Kapur, Raghu Pati (1966). Kamaraj, the iron man.
Deepak Associates. p. 12.
 Kandaswamy, P. (2001). The Political Career of K. Ka-
maraj. Concept Publishing Company. p. 23.
 Kandaswamy, P. (2001). The Political Career of K. Ka-
maraj. Concept Publishing Company. p. 24.
 Freedom Movement In Madras Presidency With Special
Reference To The Role Of Kamaraj (1920–1945), Page 1
 Early Life of K. Kamaraj. p. 25.
 Freedom Movement In Madras Presidency With Special
Reference To The Role Of Kamaraj (1920–1945), Page 2
 Bhatnagar, R. K. “Tributes To Kamaraj”. Asian Tribune.
Retrieved 3 February 2014.
 Kandaswamy, P. (2001). The Political Career of K. Ka-
maraj. Concept Publishing Company. p. 30.
 Remembering Our Leaders. p. 145.
 Freedom Movement In Madras Presidency With Special
Reference To The Role Of Kamaraj (1920–1945), Page 3
 George Joseph, a true champion of subaltern
 Remembering Our Leaders. p. 146.
 Encyclopedia of Bharat Ratnas. p. 88.
 Encyclopedia of Bharat Ratnas. p. 89.
 Stepan, Alfred; Linz, Juan J.; Yadav, Yogendra (2011).
Crafting State-Nations: India and Other Multinational
Democracies. JHU Press. p. 124. ISBN 9780801897238.
 A Review of the Madras Legislative Assembly (1952–
 Kandaswamy, P. (2001). The Political Career of K. Ka-
maraj. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 62–64.
 The Madras Legislative Assembly, Third Assembly I Ses-
 The Madras Legislative Assembly, Third Assembly II
 Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through
the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information
and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 164.
2.1.6 External links
• Kamarajar Blog From Kamaraj’s Family with rare
• The oﬃcial website about Perunthalivar Kamaraj by
“Gandhi” redirects here. For other uses, see Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (/ˈɡɑːndi, ˈɡæn-/;
Hindustani: [ˈmoːɦənd̪aːs ˈkərəmtʃənd̪ ˈɡaːnd̪ʱi]; 2 Octo-
ber 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the preeminent leader
of Indian independence movement in British-ruled In-
dia. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi
led India to independence and inspired movements for
civil rights and freedom across the world. The honoriﬁc
Mahatma (Sanskrit: “high-souled”, “venerable”)
applied to him ﬁrst in 1914 in South Africa,
used worldwide. He is also called Bapu (Gujarati: en-
dearment for “father”,
) in India.
Born and raised in a Hindu merchant caste family in
coastal Gujarat, western India, and trained in law at the
Inner Temple, London, Gandhi ﬁrst employed nonvio-
lent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South
Africa, in the resident Indian community’s struggle for
civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set
about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers
to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination.
Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress
in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing
poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and
ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for
achieving Swaraj or self-rule.
Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-
imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt
March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit
India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon
many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi
attempted to practise nonviolence and truth in all situa-
tions, and advocated that others do the same. He lived
modestly in a self-suﬃcient residential community and
wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with
yarn hand-spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian
food, and also undertook long fasts as a means of both
self-puriﬁcation and social protest.
Gandhi’s vision of a free India based on religious plu-
ralism, however, was challenged in the early 1940s by
a new Muslim nationalism which was demanding a sep-
arate Muslim homeland carved out of India.
tually, in August 1947, Britain granted independence,
but the British Indian Empire
was partitioned into
two dominions, a Hindu-majority India and Muslim
As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and
Sikhs made their way to their new lands, religious vio-
lence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal. Es-
chewing the oﬃcial celebration of independence in Delhi,
Gandhi visited the aﬀected areas, attempting to provide
solace. In the months following, he undertook several
fasts unto death to promote religious harmony. The last
of these, undertaken on 12 January 1948 at age 78,
had the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some
cash assets owed to Pakistan.
Some Indians thought
Gandhi was too accommodating.
a Hindu nationalist, assassinated Gandhi on 30 January
1948 by ﬁring three bullets into his chest at point-blank
Indians widely describe Gandhi as the father of the na-
His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as
Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the
International Day of Nonviolence.
3.1 Early life and background
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
was born on 2 Oc-
to a Hindu Modh Baniya family
Porbandar (also known as Sudamapuri), a coastal town
on the Kathiawar Peninsula and then part of the small
princely state of Porbandar in the Kathiawar Agency of
the Indian Empire. His father, Karamchand Uttamchand
Gandhi (1822–1885), served as the diwan (chief minis-
ter) of Porbandar state.
The Gandhi family originated from the village of Kutiana
in what was then Junagadh State.
In the late 17th or
early 18th century, one Lalji Gandhi moved to Porban-
dar and entered the service of its ruler, the Rana. Suc-
cessive generations of the family served as civil servants
in the state administration before Uttamchand, Mohan-
das’s grandfather, became diwan in the early 19th century
under the then Rana of Porbandar, Khimojiraji.
In 1831, Rana Khimojiraji died suddenly and was suc-
ceeded by his 12-year-old only son, Vikmatji.
As a re-
sult, Rana Khimojirajji’s widow, Rani Rupaliba, became
3.1. EARLY LIFE AND BACKGROUND 11
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in his earliest known photo,
aged 7, c. 1876
Regent for her son. She soon fell out with Uttamchand
and forced him to return to his ancestral village in Juna-
gadh. While in Junagadh, Uttamchand appeared before
its Nawab and saluted him with his left hand instead of his
right, replying that his right hand was pledged to Porban-
In 1841, Vikmatji assumed the throne
and reinstated Uttamchand as his diwan.
In 1847, Rana Vikmatji appointed Uttamchand’s son,
Karamchand, as diwan after disagreeing with Uttamc-
hand over the state’s maintenance of a British garrison.
Although he only had an elementary education and
had previously been a clerk in the state administration,
Karamchand proved a capable chief minister.
his tenure, Karamchand married four times. His ﬁrst two
wives died young, after each had given birth to a daughter,
and his third marriage was childless. In 1857, Karamc-
hand sought his third wife’s permission to remarry; that
year, he married Putlibai (1844–1891), who also came
and was from a Pranami Vaishnava
Karamchand and Putlibai had three
children over the ensuing decade, a son, Laxmidas (c.
1860 – March 1914), a daughter, Raliatbehn (1862–
1960) and another son, Karsandas (c. 1866–1913).
On 2 October 1869, Putlibai gave birth to her last child,
Mohandas, in a dark, windowless ground-ﬂoor room of
the Gandhi family residence in Porbandar city. As a
child, Gandhi was described by his sister Raliat as “rest-
less as mercury...either playing or roaming about. One of
his favourite pastimes was twisting dogs’ ears.”
dian classics, especially the stories of Shravana and king
Harishchandra, had a great impact on Gandhi in his child-
hood. In his autobiography, he admits that they left an
indelible impression on his mind. He writes: “It haunted
me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times
without number.” Gandhi’s early self-identiﬁcation with
truth and love as supreme values is traceable to these epic
The family’s religious background was eclectic. Gandhi’s
father was Hindu
and his mother was from a Pranami
Vaishnava family. Religious ﬁgures were frequent visi-
tors to the home.
Gandhi was deeply inﬂuenced by his
mother Putlibai, an extremely pious lady who “would not
think of taking her meals without her daily prayers...she
would take the hardest vows and keep them without
ﬂinching. To keep two or three consecutive fasts was
nothing to her.”
In the year of Mohandas’s birth, Rana Vikmatji was ex-
iled, stripped of direct administrative power and demoted
in rank by the British political agent, after having ordered
the brutal executions of a slave and an Arab bodyguard.
Possibly as a result, in 1874 Karamchand left Porbandar
for the smaller state of Rajkot, where he became a coun-
sellor to its ruler, the Thakur Sahib; though Rajkot was a
less prestigious state than Porbandar, the British regional
political agency was located there, which gave the state’s
diwan a measure of security.
In 1876, Karamchand
became diwan of Rajkot and was succeeded as diwan of
Porbandar by his brother Tulsidas. His family then re-
joined him in Rajkot.
On 21 January 1879, Mohandas entered the local taluk
(district) school in Rajkot, not far from his home. At
school, he was taught the rudiments of arithmetic, his-
tory, the Gujarati language and geography.
being only an average student in his year there, in Oc-
tober 1880 he sat the entrance examinations for Kathi-
awar High School, also in Rajkot. He passed the ex-
aminations with a creditable average of 64 percent and
was enrolled the following year.
During his years at
the high school, Mohandas intensively studied the En-
glish language for the ﬁrst time, along with continuing his
lessons in arithmetic, Gujarati, history and geography.
His attendance and marks remained mediocre to average,
possibly due to Karamchand falling ill in 1882 and Mo-
handas spending more time at home as a result.
shone neither in the classroom nor on the playing ﬁeld.
One of the terminal reports rated him as “good at En-
12 CHAPTER 3. MAHATMA GANDHI
glish, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct
very good, bad handwriting”.
While at high school, Mohandas came into contact with
students of other castes and faiths, including several Par-
sis and Muslims. A Muslim friend of his elder brother
Karsandas, named Sheikh Mehtab, befriended Mohan-
das and encouraged the strictly vegetarian boy to try eat-
ing meat to improve his stamina. He also took Mohandas
to a brothel one day, though Mohandas “was struck blind
and dumb in this den of vice,” rebuﬀed the prostitutes’ ad-
vances and was promptly sent out of the brothel. As ex-
perimenting with meat-eating and carnal pleasures only
brought Mohandas mental anguish, he abandoned both
and the company of Mehtab, though they would maintain
their association for many years afterwards.
In May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to
14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia (her ﬁrst name
was usually shortened to “Kasturba”, and aﬀectionately
to “Ba”) in an arranged child marriage, according to the
custom of the region.
In the process, he lost a year at
Recalling the day of their marriage, he once
said, “As we didn't know much about marriage, for us it
meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and play-
ing with relatives.” However, as was prevailing tradition,
the adolescent bride was to spend much time at her par-
ents’ house, and away from her husband.
years later, Mohandas described with regret the lustful
feelings he felt for his young bride, “even at school I used
to think of her, and the thought of nightfall and our sub-
sequent meeting was ever haunting me.”
In late 1885, Karamchand died, on a night when Mohan-
das had just left his father to sleep with his wife, despite
the fact she was pregnant.
The couple’s ﬁrst child was
born shortly after, but survived only a few days. The dou-
ble tragedy haunted Mohandas throughout his life, “the
shame, to which I have referred in a foregoing chapter,
was this of my carnal desire even at the critical hour of
my father’s death, which demanded wakeful service. It is
a blot I have never been able to eﬀace or forget...I was
weighed and found unpardonably wanting because my
mind was at the same moment in the grip of lust.
Mohandas and Kasturba had four more children, all sons:
Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892; Ramdas,
born in 1897; and Devdas, born in 1900.
In November 1887, he sat the regional matriculation ex-
ams in Ahmedabad, writing exams in arithmetic, his-
tory, geography, natural science, English and Gujarati.
He passed with an overall average of 40 percent, ranking
404th of 823 successful matriculates.
In January 1888,
he enrolled at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar State, then
the sole degree-granting institution of higher education
in the region. During his ﬁrst and only term there, he
suﬀered from headaches and strong feelings of home-
sickness, did very poorly in his exams in April and with-
drew from the college at the end of the term, returning to
3.2 English barrister
Gandhi and his wife Kasturba (1902)
As the best-educated of his brothers, Gandhi was seen by
his family as the best candidate to one day succeed his
father and his uncle Tulsidas as diwan.
a Brahmin priest and family friend, advised Gandhi and
his family that he should qualify as a barrister in Lon-
don, after which he would be certain to achieve the di-
Initially, Putlibai did not want her youngest
son to leave India and travel across the “black waters”,
thereby losing his caste. Gandhi’s uncle Tulsidas also
tried to dissuade his nephew. Finally, Gandhi made a vow
to his mother in the presence of a Jain monk to observe
the precepts of sexual abstinence as well as abstinence
from meat and alcohol, after which Putlibai gave her per-
mission and blessing.
In July, Kasturba gave birth
to the couple’s ﬁrst surviving son, Harilal.
On 10 August, Gandhi left Porbandar for Bombay (Mum-
bai). Upon arrival in the port, he was met by the head of
the Modh Bania community, who had known Gandhi’s
family. Having learned of Gandhi’s plans, he and other
elders warned Gandhi that he would be excommunicated
if he did not obey their wishes and remain in India. After
Gandhi reiterated his intentions to leave for England, the
elders declared him an outcast.
In London, Gandhi studied law and jurisprudence and en-
rolled at the Inner Temple with the intention of becoming
a barrister. His time in London was inﬂuenced by the vow
he had made to his mother. Gandhi tried to adopt “En-
glish” customs, including taking dancing lessons. How-
ever, he could not appreciate the bland vegetarian food
oﬀered by his landlady and was frequently hungry until
he found one of London’s few vegetarian restaurants. In-
ﬂuenced by Henry Salt’s writing, he joined the Vegetarian
Society, was elected to its executive committee,
started a local Bayswater chapter.
Some of the vege-
tarians he met were members of the Theosophical Soci-
ety, which had been founded in 1875 to further univer-
sal brotherhood, and which was devoted to the study of
Buddhist and Hindu literature. They encouraged Gandhi
to join them in reading the Bhagavad Gita both in trans-
lation as well as in the original.
Not having shown in-
3.3. CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST IN SOUTH AFRICA (1893–1914) 13
terest in religion before, he became interested in religious
Gandhi was called to the bar in June 1891 and then left
London for India, where he learned that his mother had
died while he was in London and that his family had kept
the news from him.
His attempts at establishing a law
practice in Bombay failed because he was psychologically
unable to cross-question witnesses. He returned to Rajkot
to make a modest living drafting petitions for litigants,
but he was forced to stop when he ran foul of a British
In 1893, he accepted a year-long contract
from Dada Abdulla & Co., an Indian ﬁrm, to a post in
the Colony of Natal, South Africa, a part of the British
3.3 Civil rights activist in South
Gandhi in South Africa (1895)
Gandhi was 24 when he arrived in South Africa
work as a legal representative for the Muslim Indian
Traders based in the city of Pretoria.
He spent 21 years
in South Africa, where he developed his political views,
ethics and political leadership skills.
Indians in South Africa were led by wealthy Muslims,
who employed Gandhi as a lawyer, and by impoverished
Hindu indentured labourers with very limited rights.
Gandhi considered them all to be Indians, taking a life-
time view that “Indianness” transcended religion and
caste. He believed he could bridge historic diﬀerences,
especially regarding religion, and he took that belief back
to India where he tried to implement it. The South
African experience exposed handicaps to Gandhi that he
had not known about. He realised he was out of contact
with the enormous complexities of religious and cultural
life in India, and believed he understood India by getting
to know and leading Indians in South Africa.
In South Africa, Gandhi faced the discrimination directed
at all coloured people. He was thrown oﬀ a train at
Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the ﬁrst-
class. He protested and was allowed on ﬁrst class the
Travelling farther on by stagecoach, he was
beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for
a European passenger.
He suﬀered other hardships on
the journey as well, including being barred from several
hotels. In another incident, the magistrate of a Durban
court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he re-
fused to do.
These events were a turning point in Gandhi’s life and
shaped his social activism and awakened him to social in-
justice. After witnessing racism, prejudice and injustice
against Indians in South Africa, Gandhi began to ques-
tion his place in society and his people’s standing in the
Gandhi with the stretcher-bearers of the Indian Ambulance
Gandhi extended his original period of stay in South
Africa to assist Indians in opposing a bill to deny them
the right to vote. He asked Joseph Chamberlain, the
British Colonial Secretary, to reconsider his position on
Though unable to halt the bill’s passage,
his campaign was successful in drawing attention to the
grievances of Indians in South Africa. He helped found
the Natal Indian Congress in 1894,
and through this
organisation, he moulded the Indian community of South
Africa into a uniﬁed political force. In January 1897,
when Gandhi landed in Durban, a mob of white settlers
and he escaped only through the eﬀorts
of the wife of the police superintendent. However, he re-
fused to press charges against any member of the mob,
stating it was one of his principles not to seek redress for
a personal wrong in a court of law.
In 1906, the Transvaal government promulgated a new
Act compelling registration of the colony’s Indian pop-
ulation. At a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg
on 11 September that year, Gandhi adopted his still evolv-
ing methodology of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth), or
nonviolent protest, for the ﬁrst time.
He urged Indians
to defy the new law and to suﬀer the punishments for do-
ing so. The community adopted this plan, and during the
ensuing seven-year struggle, thousands of Indians were
jailed, ﬂogged, or shot for striking, refusing to register,
14 CHAPTER 3. MAHATMA GANDHI
for burning their registration cards or engaging in other
forms of nonviolent resistance. The government success-
fully repressed the Indian protesters, but the public out-
cry over the harsh treatment of peaceful Indian protesters
by the South African government forced South African
leader Jan Christiaan Smuts, himself a philosopher, to ne-
gotiate a compromise with Gandhi. Gandhi’s ideas took
shape, and the concept of Satyagraha matured during this
3.3.1 Gandhi and the Africans
Gandhi photographed in South Africa (1909)
Gandhi focused his attention on Indians while in South
Africa and opposed the idea that Indians should be treated
at the same level as native Africans while in South
He also stated that he believed “that
the white race of South Africa should be the predom-
After several treatments he received
from Whites in South Africa, Gandhi began to change
his thinking and apparently increased his interest in
White rule enforced strict segregation among
all races and generated conﬂict between these communi-
ties. Bhana and Vahed argue that Gandhi, at ﬁrst, shared
racial notions prevalent of the times and that his experi-
ences in jail sensitised him to the plight of South Africa’s
During the Boer War, Gandhi volunteered in 1900 to
form a group of ambulance drivers. He wanted to dis-
prove the British idea that Hindus were not ﬁt for “manly”
activities involving danger and exertion. Gandhi raised
eleven hundred Indian volunteers. They were trained and
medically certiﬁed to serve on the front lines. At Spion
Kop Gandhi and his bearers had to carry wounded sol-
diers for miles to a ﬁeld hospital because the terrain was
too rough for the ambulances. Gandhi was pleased when
someone said that European ambulance corpsmen could
not make the trip under the heat without food or water.
General Redvers Buller mentioned the courage of the In-
dians in his dispatch. Gandhi and thirty-seven other In-
dians received the War Medal.
In 1906, when the British declared war against the Zulu
Kingdom in Natal, Gandhi encouraged the British to
He argued that Indians should sup-
port the war eﬀorts to legitimise their claims to full
The British accepted Gandhi’s oﬀer to let
a detachment of 20 Indians volunteer as a stretcher-bearer
corps to treat wounded British soldiers. This corps was
commanded by Gandhi and operated for less than two
The experience taught him it was hopeless
to directly challenge the overwhelming military power of
the British army—he decided it could only be resisted in
nonviolent fashion by the pure of heart.
In 1910, Gandhi established an idealistic community
called 'Tolstoy Farm' near Johannesburg, where he nur-
tured his policy of peaceful resistance.
After blacks gained the right to vote in South Africa,
Gandhi was proclaimed a national hero with numerous
3.4 Struggle for Indian Indepen-
See also: Indian independence movement
At the request of Gokhale, conveyed to him by C.F. An-
drews, Gandhi returned to India in 1915. He brought
an international reputation as a leading Indian national-
ist, theorist and organiser. He joined the Indian National
Congress and was introduced to Indian issues, politics and
the Indian people primarily by Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
Gokhale was a key leader of the Congress Party best
known for his restraint and moderation, and his insistence
on working inside the system. Gandhi took Gokhale’s lib-
eral approach based on British Whiggish traditions and
transformed it to make it look wholly Indian.
Gandhi took leadership of the Congress in 1920 and be-
gan escalating demands until on 26 January 1930 the In-
dian National Congress declared the independence of In-
dia. The British did not recognise the declaration but
negotiations ensued, with the Congress taking a role in
provincial government in the late 1930s. Gandhi and
the Congress withdrew their support of the Raj when the
Viceroy declared war on Germany in September 1939
without consultation. Tensions escalated until Gandhi de-
manded immediate independence in 1942 and the British
3.4. STRUGGLE FOR INDIAN INDEPENDENCE (1915–47) 15
responded by imprisoning him and tens of thousands
of Congress leaders. Meanwhile, the Muslim League
did co-operate with Britain and moved, against Gandhi’s
strong opposition, to demands for a totally separate Mus-
lim state of Pakistan. In August 1947 the British parti-
tioned the land with India and Pakistan each achieving
independence on terms that Gandhi disapproved.
3.4.1 Role in World War I
See also: The role of India in World War I
In April 1918, during the latter part of World War I, the
Viceroy invited Gandhi to a War Conference in Delhi.
Perhaps to show his support for the Empire and help his
case for India’s independence,
Gandhi agreed to ac-
tively recruit Indians for the war eﬀort.
In contrast to
the Zulu War of 1906 and the outbreak of World War I
in 1914, when he recruited volunteers for the Ambulance
Corps, this time Gandhi attempted to recruit combatants.
In a June 1918 leaﬂet entitled “Appeal for Enlistment”,
Gandhi wrote “To bring about such a state of things we
should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the
ability to bear arms and to use them...If we want to learn
the use of arms with the greatest possible despatch, it is
our duty to enlist ourselves in the army.”
He did, how-
ever, stipulate in a letter to the Viceroy’s private secretary
that he “personally will not kill or injure anybody, friend
Gandhi’s war recruitment campaign brought into question
his consistency on nonviolence. Gandhi’s private secre-
tary noted that “The question of the consistency between
his creed of 'Ahimsa' (nonviolence) and his recruiting
campaign was raised not only then but has been discussed
3.4.2 Champaran and Kheda
Main article: Champaran and Kheda Satyagraha
Gandhi’s ﬁrst major achievements came in 1918 with
the Champaran and Kheda agitations of Bihar and Gu-
jarat. The Champaran agitation pitted the local peasantry
against their largely British landlords who were backed
by the local administration. The peasantry was forced to
grow Indigo, a cash crop whose demand had been declin-
ing over two decades, and were forced to sell their crops
to the planters at a ﬁxed price. Unhappy with this, the
peasantry appealed to Gandhi at his ashram in Ahmed-
abad. Pursuing a strategy of nonviolent protest, Gandhi
took the administration by surprise and won concessions
from the authorities.
In 1918, Kheda was hit by ﬂoods and famine and the peas-
antry was demanding relief from taxes. Gandhi moved
his headquarters to Nadiad,
organising scores of sup-
porters and fresh volunteers from the region, the most no-
Gandhi in 1918, at the time of the Kheda and Champaran Satya-
table being Vallabhbhai Patel.
as a technique, Gandhi initiated a signature campaign
where peasants pledged non-payment of revenue even un-
der the threat of conﬁscation of land. A social boycott
of mamlatdars and talatdars (revenue oﬃcials within the
district) accompanied the agitation. Gandhi worked hard
to win public support for the agitation across the country.
For ﬁve months, the administration refused but ﬁnally in
end-May 1918, the Government gave way on important
provisions and relaxed the conditions of payment of rev-
enue tax until the famine ended. In Kheda, Vallabhb-
hai Patel represented the farmers in negotiations with the
British, who suspended revenue collection and released
all the prisoners.
3.4.3 Khilafat movement
In 1919, Gandhi, with his weak position in Congress,
decided to broaden his political base by increasing his
appeal to Muslims. The opportunity came in the form
of the Khilafat movement, a worldwide protest by Mus-
lims against the collapsing status of the Caliph, the leader
of their religion. The Ottoman Empire had lost the
First World War and was dismembered, as Muslims
feared for the safety of the holy places and the prestige
16 CHAPTER 3. MAHATMA GANDHI
of their religion.
Although Gandhi did not originate
the All-India Muslim Conference,
which directed the
movement in India, he soon became its most prominent
spokesman and attracted a strong base of Muslim sup-
port with local chapters in all Muslim centres in India.
As a mark of solidarity with Indian Muslims he returned
the medals that had been bestowed on him by the British
government for his work in the Boer and Zulu Wars. He
believed that the British government was not being hon-
est in its dealings with Muslims on the Khilafat issue.
His success made him India’s ﬁrst national leader with a
multicultural base and facilitated his rise to power within
Congress, which had previously been unable to inﬂuence
many Indian Muslims. In 1920 Gandhi became a major
leader in Congress.
By the end of 1922 the Khilafat
movement had collapsed.
Gandhi always fought against “communalism”, which pit-
ted Muslims against Hindus in Indian politics, but he
could not reverse the rapid growth of communalism after
1922. Deadly religious riots broke out in numerous cities,
including 91 in Uttar Pradesh alone.
At the leader-
ship level, the proportion of Muslims among delegates to
Congress fell sharply, from 11% in 1921 to under 4% in
Main article: Non-cooperation movement
In his famous book Hind Swaraj (1909) Gandhi declared
Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn, in the late 1920s
that British rule was established in India with the co-
operation of Indians and had survived only because of this
co-operation. If Indians refused to co-operate, British
rule would collapse and swaraj would come.
With Congress now behind him in 1920, Gandhi had the
base to employ non-cooperation, nonviolence and peace-
ful resistance as his “weapons” in the struggle against the
British Raj. His wide popularity among both Hindus and
Muslims made his leadership possible; he even convinced
the extreme faction of Muslims to support peaceful non-
The spark that ignited a national protest
was overwhelming anger at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
(or Amritsar massacre) of hundreds of peaceful civilians
by British troops in Punjab. Many Britons celebrated the
action as needed to prevent another violent uprising simi-
lar to the Rebellion of 1857, an attitude that caused many
Indian leaders to decide the Raj was controlled by their
enemies. Gandhi criticised both the actions of the British
Raj and the retaliatory violence of Indians. He authored
the resolution oﬀering condolences to British civilian vic-
tims and condemning the riots which, after initial oppo-
sition in the party, was accepted following Gandhi’s emo-
tional speech advocating his principle that all violence
was evil and could not be justiﬁed.
After the massacre and subsequent violence, Gandhi be-
gan to focus on winning complete self-government and
control of all Indian government institutions, maturing
soon into Swaraj or complete individual, spiritual, politi-
During this period, Gandhi claimed
to be a “highly orthodox Hindu" and in January 1921
during a speech at a temple in Vadtal, he spoke of the
relevance of non-cooperation to Hindu Dharma, “At this
holy place, I declare, if you want to protect your 'Hindu
Dharma', non-cooperation is ﬁrst as well as the last lesson
you must learn up.”
Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi’s home in Gujarat as seen in 2006.
In December 1921, Gandhi was invested with executive
authority on behalf of the Indian National Congress. Un-
der his leadership, the Congress was reorganised with a
new constitution, with the goal of Swaraj. Membership in
the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token
fee. A hierarchy of committees was set up to improve
discipline, transforming the party from an elite organisa-
tion to one of mass national appeal. Gandhi expanded his
nonviolence platform to include the swadeshi policy—the
boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods.
Linked to this was his advocacy that khadi (homespun
cloth) be worn by all Indians instead of British-made tex-
tiles. Gandhi exhorted Indian men and women, rich or
3.4. STRUGGLE FOR INDIAN INDEPENDENCE (1915–47) 17
poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in support
of the independence movement.
Gandhi even invented a small, portable spinning wheel
that could be folded into the size of a small typewriter.
This was a strategy to inculcate discipline and dedication
to weeding out the unwilling and ambitious and to include
women in the movement at a time when many thought that
such activities were not respectable activities for women.
In addition to boycotting British products, Gandhi urged
the people to boycott British educational institutions and
law courts, to resign from government employment, and
to forsake British titles and honours.
“Non-cooperation” enjoyed widespread appeal and suc-
cess, increasing excitement and participation from all
strata of Indian society. Yet, just as the movement
reached its apex, it ended abruptly as a result of a violent
clash in the town of Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, in
February 1922. Fearing that the movement was about
to take a turn towards violence, and convinced that this
would be the undoing of all his work, Gandhi called
oﬀ the campaign of mass civil disobedience.
was the third time that Gandhi had called oﬀ a major
Gandhi was arrested on 10 March 1922,
tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years’ imprison-
ment. He began his sentence on 18 March 1922. He was
released in February 1924 for an appendicitis operation,
having served only two years.
Without Gandhi’s unifying personality, the Indian Na-
tional Congress began to splinter during his years in
prison, splitting into two factions, one led by Chitta Ran-
jan Das and Motilal Nehru favouring party participa-
tion in the legislatures, and the other led by Chakravarti
Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, oppos-
ing this move. Furthermore, co-operation among Hindus
and Muslims, which had been strong at the height of the
nonviolence campaign, was breaking down. Gandhi at-
tempted to bridge these diﬀerences through many means,
including a three-week fast in the autumn of 1924, but
with limited success.
In this year, Gandhi was per-
suaded to preside over the Congress session to be held
in Belgaum. Gandhi agreed to become president of the
session on one condition: that Congressmen should take
to wearing homespun khadi. In his long political career,
this was the only time when he presided over a Congress
3.4.5 Salt Satyagraha (Salt March)
Main article: Salt Satyagraha
Gandhi stayed out of active politics and, as such, the
limelight for most of the 1920s. He focused instead on
resolving the wedge between the Swaraj Party and the In-
dian National Congress, and expanding initiatives against
untouchability, alcoholism, ignorance, and poverty. He
returned to the fore in 1928. In the preceding year,
the British government had appointed a new constitu-
Original footage of Gandhi and his followers marching to Dandi
in the Salt Satyagraha
tional reform commission under Sir John Simon, which
did not include any Indian as its member. The result
was a boycott of the commission by Indian political par-
ties. Gandhi pushed through a resolution at the Calcutta
Congress in December 1928 calling on the British gov-
ernment to grant India dominion status or face a new cam-
paign of non-cooperation with complete independence
for the country as its goal. Gandhi had not only moder-
ated the views of younger men like Subhas Chandra Bose
and Jawaharlal Nehru, who sought a demand for imme-
diate independence, but also reduced his own call to a
one-year wait, instead of two.
The British did not respond. On 31 December 1929, the
ﬂag of India was unfurled in Lahore. 26 January 1930
was celebrated as India’s Independence Day by the Indian
National Congress meeting in Lahore. This day was com-
memorated by almost every other Indian organisation.
Gandhi then launched a new Satyagraha against the tax on
salt in March 1930. This was highlighted by the famous
Salt March to Dandi from 12 March to 6 April, where he
marched 388 kilometres (241 mi) from Ahmedabad to
Dandi, Gujarat to make salt himself. Thousands of Indi-
ans joined him on this march to the sea. This campaign
was one of his most successful at upsetting British hold
on India; Britain responded by imprisoning over 60,000
Gandhi strongly favoured the emancipation of women,
and he went so far as to say that “the women have come to
look upon me as one of themselves.” He opposed purdah,
child marriage, untouchability, and the extreme oppres-
sion of Hindu widows, up to and including sati. He espe-
cially recruited women to participate in the salt tax cam-
paigns and the boycott of foreign products.
concludes that Gandhi’s success in enlisting women in
his campaigns, including the salt tax campaign, the anti-
untouchability campaign and the peasant movement, gave
18 CHAPTER 3. MAHATMA GANDHI
Mahadev Desai (left) reading out a letter to Gandhi from the
Viceroy at Birla House, Bombay, 7 April 1939
many women a new self-conﬁdence and dignity in the
mainstream of Indian public life.
Gandhi as folk hero
Congress in the 1920s appealed to peasants by portray-
ing Gandhi as a sort of messiah, a strategy that succeeded
in incorporating radical forces within the peasantry into
the nonviolent resistance movement. In thousands of vil-
lages plays were performed that presented Gandhi as the
reincarnation of earlier Indian nationalist leaders, or even
as a demigod. The plays built support among illiterate
peasants steeped in traditional Hindu culture. Similar
messianic imagery appeared in popular songs and poems,
and in Congress-sponsored religious pageants and cele-
brations. The result was that Gandhi became not only a
folk hero but the Congress was widely seen in the villages
as his sacred instrument.
The government, represented by Lord Edward Irwin, de-
cided to negotiate with Gandhi. The Gandhi–Irwin Pact
was signed in March 1931. The British Government
agreed to free all political prisoners, in return for the sus-
pension of the civil disobedience movement. Also as a
result of the pact, Gandhi was invited to attend the Round
Table Conference in London as the sole representative of
the Indian National Congress. The conference was a dis-
appointment to Gandhi and the nationalists, because it fo-
A 1932 cartoon; Lord Willingdon goes on hunger strike to force
Mr. Gandhi to admit the new constitution as “touchable”
cused on the Indian princes and Indian minorities rather
than on a transfer of power. Lord Irwin’s successor, Lord
Willingdon, taking a hard line against nationalism, began
a new campaign of controlling and subduing the nation-
alist movement. Gandhi was again arrested, and the gov-
ernment tried and failed to negate his inﬂuence by com-
pletely isolating him from his followers.
In Britain, Winston Churchill, a prominent Conservative
politician who was then out of oﬃce, became a vigorous
and articulate critic of Gandhi and opponent of his long-
term plans. Churchill often ridiculed Gandhi, saying in a
widely reported 1931 speech:
It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr
Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer,
now posing as a fakir of a type well known
in the East, striding half-naked up the steps
of the Vice-regal palace....to parley on equal
terms with the representative of the King-
In 1932, through the campaigning of the Dalit leader B.
R. Ambedkar, the government granted untouchables sep-
arate electorates under the new constitution, known as the
Communal Award. In protest, Gandhi embarked on a
six-day fast on 20 September 1932, while he was impris-
oned at the Yerwada Jail, Pune.
The resulting pub-
lic outcry successfully forced the government to adopt an
equitable arrangement (Poona Pact) through negotiations
mediated by Palwankar Baloo.
This was the start of
a new campaign by Gandhi to improve the lives of the
untouchables, whom he named Harijans, the children of
On 8 September 1931, Gandhi who was sailing
on SS Rajputana, to the second Round Table Conference
in London, met Meher Baba in his cabin on board the
ship, and discussed issues of untouchables, politics, state
Independence and spirituality
On 8 May 1933, Gandhi began a 21-day fast of self-
3.4. STRUGGLE FOR INDIAN INDEPENDENCE (1915–47) 19
puriﬁcation and launched a one-year campaign to help
the Harijan movement.
This new campaign was not
universally embraced within the Dalit community, as
Ambedkar condemned Gandhi’s use of the term Hari-
jans as saying that Dalits were socially immature, and
that privileged caste Indians played a paternalistic role.
Ambedkar and his allies also felt Gandhi was undermin-
ing Dalit political rights. Gandhi had also refused to sup-
port the untouchables in 1924–25 when they were cam-
paigning for the right to pray in temples. Because of
Gandhi’s actions, Ambedkar described him as “devious
Gandhi, although born into the
Vaishya caste, insisted that he was able to speak on be-
half of Dalits, despite the presence of Dalit activists such
Gandhi and Ambedkar often clashed
because Ambedkar sought to remove the Dalits out of the
Hindu community, while Gandhi tried to save Hinduism
by exorcising untouchability. Ambedkar complained that
Gandhi moved too slowly, while Hindu traditionalists said
Gandhi was a dangerous radical who rejected scripture.
Guha noted in 2012 that, “Ideologues have carried these
old rivalries into the present, with the demonization of
Gandhi now common among politicians who presume to
speak in Ambedkar’s name.”
3.4.7 Congress politics
In 1934 Gandhi resigned from Congress party mem-
bership. He did not disagree with the party’s position
but felt that if he resigned, his popularity with Indians
would cease to stiﬂe the party’s membership, which actu-
ally varied, including communists, socialists, trade union-
ists, students, religious conservatives, and those with pro-
business convictions, and that these various voices would
get a chance to make themselves heard. Gandhi also
wanted to avoid being a target for Raj propaganda by lead-
ing a party that had temporarily accepted political accom-
modation with the Raj.
Gandhi returned to active politics again in 1936, with
the Nehru presidency and the Lucknow session of the
Congress. Although Gandhi wanted a total focus on
the task of winning independence and not speculation
about India’s future, he did not restrain the Congress from
adopting socialism as its goal. Gandhi had a clash with
Subhas Chandra Bose, who had been elected president in
1938, and who had previously expressed a lack of faith in
nonviolence as a means of protest.
opposition, Bose won a second term as Congress Pres-
ident, against Gandhi’s nominee, Dr. Pattabhi Sitara-
mayya; but left the Congress when the All-India lead-
ers resigned en masse in protest of his abandonment of
the principles introduced by Gandhi.
clared that Sitaramayya’s defeat was his defeat.
3.4.8 World War II and Quit India
Main article: Quit India Movement
Gandhi initially favoured oﬀering “nonviolent moral sup-
Gandhi and Nehru in 1942
port” to the British eﬀort when World War II broke out in
1939, but the Congressional leaders were oﬀended by the
unilateral inclusion of India in the war without consulta-
tion of the people’s representatives. All Congressmen re-
signed from oﬃce.
After long deliberations, Gandhi
declared that India could not be party to a war ostensi-
bly being fought for democratic freedom while that free-
dom was denied to India itself. As the war progressed,
Gandhi intensiﬁed his demand for independence, calling
for the British to Quit India in a speech at Gowalia Tank
Maidan. This was Gandhi’s and the Congress Party’s
most deﬁnitive revolt aimed at securing the British exit
Gandhi was criticised by some Congress party members
and other Indian political groups, both pro-British and
anti-British. Some felt that not supporting Britain more
in its struggle against Nazi Germany was unethical. Oth-
ers felt that Gandhi’s refusal for India to participate in the
war was insuﬃcient and more direct opposition should be
taken, while Britain fought against Nazism, it continued
to refuse to grant India Independence. Quit India became
the most forceful movement in the history of the strug-
gle, with mass arrests and violence on an unprecedented
In 1942, although still committed in his eﬀorts to “launch
a nonviolent movement”, Gandhi clariﬁed that the move-
ment would not be stopped by individual acts of violence,
saying that the “ordered anarchy” of “the present system of
administration” was “worse than real anarchy.”
He called on all Congressmen and Indians to maintain
discipline via ahimsa, and Karo ya maro (“Do or die”) in
20 CHAPTER 3. MAHATMA GANDHI
the cause of ultimate freedom.
Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Bombay, 1944
Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee
were arrested in Bombay by the British on 9 August 1942.
Gandhi was held for two years in the Aga Khan Palace
in Pune. It was here that Gandhi suﬀered two terrible
blows in his personal life. His 50-year-old secretary Ma-
hadev Desai died of a heart attack 6 days later and his
wife Kasturba died after 18 months’ imprisonment on 22
February 1944; six weeks later Gandhi suﬀered a severe
malaria attack. He was released before the end of the war
on 6 May 1944 because of his failing health and neces-
sary surgery; the Raj did not want him to die in prison and
enrage the nation. He came out of detention to an altered
political scene—the Muslim League for example, which
a few years earlier had appeared marginal, “now occu-
pied the centre of the political stage”
and the topic
of Muhammad Ali Jinnah's campaign for Pakistan was
a major talking point. Gandhi met Jinnah in September
1944 in Bombay but Jinnah rejected, on the grounds that
it fell short of a fully independent Pakistan, his proposal
of the right of Muslim provinces to opt out of substantial
parts of the forthcoming political union.
While the leaders of Congress languished in jail, the
other parties supported the war and gained organizational
strength. Underground publications ﬂailed at the ruth-
less suppression of Congress, but it had little control over
At the end of the war, the British gave clear in-
dications that power would be transferred to Indian hands.
At this point Gandhi called oﬀ the struggle, and around
100,000 political prisoners were released, including the
3.4.9 Partition and independence, 1947
See also: Partition of India
As a rule, Gandhi was opposed to the concept of partition
as it contradicted his vision of religious unity.
cerning the partition of India to create Pakistan, while
the Indian National Congress and Gandhi called for the
British to quit India, the Muslim League passed a reso-
lution for them to divide and quit, in 1943.
suggested an agreement which required the Congress and
Gandhi in 1947, with Lord Louis Mountbatten, Britain’s last
Viceroy of India, and his wife Vicereine Edwina Mountbatten.
Muslim League to co-operate and attain independence
under a provisional government, thereafter, the question
of partition could be resolved by a plebiscite in the dis-
tricts with a Muslim majority.
When Jinnah called for
Direct Action, on 16 August 1946, Gandhi was infuri-
ated and personally visited the most riot-prone areas to
stop the massacres.
He made strong eﬀorts to unite
the Indian Hindus, Muslims, and Christians and strug-
gled for the emancipation of the "untouchables" in Hindu
India’s partition and independence were accompanied by
more than half a million killed in riots as 10–12 million
Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims crossed the borders dividing
India and Pakistan.
Gandhi, having vowed to spend
the day of independence fasting and spinning, was in Cal-
cutta on August 15, 1947 where he prayed, confronted
rioters and worked with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy to
stop the communal killing.
But for his teachings, the
eﬀorts of his followers, and his own presence, there per-
haps could have been much more bloodshed during the
partition, according to prominent Norwegian historian,
Jens Arup Seip.
Stanley Wolpert has argued, the “plan to carve up British
India was never approved of or accepted by Gandhi...who
realised too late that his closest comrades and disciples
were more interested in power than principle, and that his
own vision had long been clouded by the illusion that the
struggle he led for India’s independence was a nonviolent
See also: Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was assassinated in the
garden of the former Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti)
at 5:17 pm on 30 January 1948. Accompanied by his
grandnieces, Gandhi was on his way to address a prayer
meeting, when his assassin, Nathuram Godse, ﬁred three
3.6. PRINCIPLES, PRACTICES AND BELIEFS 21
Memorial at the former Birla House, New Delhi, where Gandhi
was assassinated at 5:17 pm on 30 January 1948 on his way
to a prayer meeting. Stylised footsteps are shown leading to the
bullets from a Beretta 9 mm pistol into his chest at
Godse was a Hindu nationalist
with links to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, who held
Gandhi guilty of favouring Pakistan and strongly op-
posed the doctrine of nonviolence.
Godse and his co-
conspirator were tried and executed in 1949. Gandhi’s
memorial (or Samādhi) at Rāj Ghāt, New Delhi, bears
the epigraph “Hē Ram” (Devanagari: ! or, He
Rām), which may be translated as “Oh God”. These
are widely believed to be Gandhi’s last words after
he was shot, though the veracity of this statement has
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ad-
dressed the nation through radio:
Friends and comrades, the light has gone
out of our lives, and there is darkness every-
where, and I do not quite know what to tell you
or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as
we called him, the father of the nation, is no
more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; never-
theless, we will not see him again, as we have
seen him for these many years, we will not run
to him for advice or seek solace from him,
and that is a terrible blow, not only for me,
but for millions and millions in this country.—
Jawaharlal Nehru’s address to Gandhi
Gandhi’s death was mourned nationwide. Over two mil-
lion people joined the ﬁve-mile long funeral procession
that took over ﬁve hours to reach Raj Ghat from Birla
house, where he was assassinated. Gandhi’s body was
transported on a weapons carrier, whose chassis was dis-
mantled overnight to allow a high-ﬂoor to be installed so
that people could catch a glimpse of his body. The en-
gine of the vehicle was not used, instead four drag-ropes
manned by 50 people each pulled the vehicle.
Indian-owned establishments in London remained closed
in mourning as thousands of people from all faiths and de-
nominations and Indians from all over Britain converged
at India House in London.
While India mourned and communal (inter-religious) vi-
olence escalated, there were calls for retaliation, and even
an invasion of Pakistan by the Indian army. Nehru and
Patel, the two strongest ﬁgures in the government and in
Congress, had been pulling in opposite directions; the as-
sassination pushed them together. They agreed the ﬁrst
objective must be to calm the hysteria.
on Indians to honour Gandhi’s memory and even more
They used the assassination to consolidate
the authority of the new Indian state. The government
made sure everyone knew the guilty party was not a Mus-
lim. Congress tightly controlled the epic public displays
of grief over a two-week period—the funeral, mortuary
rituals and distribution of the martyr’s ashes—as millions
participated and hundreds of millions watched. The goal
was to assert the power of the government and legitimise
the Congress Party’s control. This move built upon the
massive outpouring of Hindu expressions of grief. The
government suppressed the RSS, the Muslim National
Guards, and the Khaksars, with some 200,000 arrests.
Gandhi’s death and funeral linked the distant state with
the Indian people and made more understand why reli-
gious parties were being suppressed during the transition
to independence for the Indian people.
By Hindu tradition the ashes were to be spread on a
river. Gandhi’s ashes were poured into urns which were
sent across India for memorial services.
immersed at the Sangam at Allahabad on 12 February
1948, but some were secretly taken away. In 1997,
Tushar Gandhi immersed the contents of one urn, found
in a bank vault and reclaimed through the courts, at the
Sangam at Allahabad.
Some of Gandhi’s ashes
were scattered at the source of the Nile River near Jinja,
Uganda, and a memorial plaque marks the event. On 30
January 2008, the contents of another urn were immersed
at Girgaum Chowpatty. Another urn is at the palace of
the Aga Khan in Pune
(where Gandhi had been im-
prisoned from 1942 to 1944) and another in the Self-
Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Los Angeles.
3.6 Principles, practices and beliefs
Main article: Gandhism
Gandhism designates the ideas and principles Gandhi
promoted. Of central importance is nonviolent resis-
tance. A Gandhian can mean either an individual who
follows, or a speciﬁc philosophy which is attributed to,
M. M. Sankhdher argues that Gandhism
is not a systematic position in metaphysics or in political
philosophy. Rather, it is a political creed, an economic
22 CHAPTER 3. MAHATMA GANDHI
doctrine, a religious outlook, a moral precept, and espe-
cially, a humanitarian world view. It is an eﬀort not to
systematise wisdom but to transform society and is based
on an undying faith in the goodness of human nature.
However Gandhi himself did not approve of the notion
of “Gandhism”, as he explained in 1936:
There is no such thing as “Gandhism”, and
I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do
not claim to have originated any new principle
or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way
to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and
problems...The opinions I have formed and the
conclusions I have arrived at are not ﬁnal. I may
change them tomorrow. I have nothing new to
teach the world. Truth and nonviolence are as
old as the hills.
Gandhi with famous poet Rabindranath Tagore, 1940
Historian R.B. Cribb argues that Gandhi’s thought
evolved over time, with his early ideas becoming the core
or scaﬀolding for his mature philosophy. In London he
committed himself to truthfulness, temperance, chastity,
and vegetarianism. His return to India to work as a lawyer
was a failure, so he went to South Africa for a quarter cen-
tury, where he absorbed ideas from many sources, most
of them non-Indian.
Gandhi grew up in an eclectic
religious atmosphere and throughout his life searched for
insights from many religious traditions.
He was ex-
posed to Jain ideas through his mother who was in con-
tact with Jain monks. Themes from Jainism that Gandhi
absorbed included asceticism; compassion for all forms
of life; the importance of vows for self-discipline; veg-
etarianism; fasting for self-puriﬁcation; mutual tolerance
among people of diﬀerent creeds; and “syadvad”, the idea
that all views of truth are partial, a doctrine that lies at the
root of Satyagraha.
He received much of his inﬂuence
from Jainism particularly during his younger years.
Gandhi’s London experience provided a solid philosoph-
ical base focused on truthfulness, temperance, chastity,
and vegetarianism. When he returned to India in 1891,
his outlook was parochial and he could not make a liv-
ing as a lawyer. This challenged his belief that practi-
cality and morality necessarily coincided. By moving in
1893 to South Africa he found a solution to this prob-
lem and developed the central concepts of his mature
N. A. Toothi
felt that Gandhi was in-
ﬂuenced by the reforms and teachings of Swaminarayan,
stating “Close parallels do exist in programs of social
reform based on to nonviolence, truth-telling, clean-
liness, temperance and upliftment of the masses.”
Vallabhbhai Patel, who grew up in a Swaminarayan
household was attracted to Gandhi due to this aspect of
Gandhi’s ethical thinking was heavily inﬂuenced by
a handful of books, which he repeatedly meditated
upon. They included especially Plato's Apology and John
Ruskin's Unto this Last (1862) (both of which he trans-
lated into his native Gujarati); William Salter’s Ethical
Religion (1889); Henry David Thoreau's On the Duty of
Civil Disobedience (1849); and Leo Tolstoy's The King-
dom of God Is Within You (1894). Ruskin inspired his
decision to live an austere life on a commune, at ﬁrst on
the Phoenix Farm in Natal and then on the Tolstoy Farm
just outside Johannesburg, South Africa.
Balkrishna Gokhale argues that Gandhi took his philoso-
phy of history from Hinduism and Jainism, supplemented
by selected Christian traditions and ideas of Tolstoy and
Ruskin. Hinduism provided central concepts of God’s
role in history, of man as the battleground of forces of
virtue and sin, and of the potential of love as an histori-
cal force. From Jainism, Gandhi took the idea of apply-
ing nonviolence to human situations and the theory that
Absolute Reality can be comprehended only relatively in
Historian Howard Spodek argues for the importance of
the culture of Gujarat in shaping Gandhi’s methods.
Spodek ﬁnds that some of Gandhi’s most eﬀective meth-
ods such as fasting, non-cooperation and appeals to the
justice and compassion of the rulers were learned as a
youth in Gujarat. Later on, the ﬁnancial, cultural, or-
ganizational and geographical support needed to bring
his campaigns to a national audience were drawn from
Ahmedabad and Gujarat, his Indian residence 1915–
Along with the book mentioned above, in 1908 Leo Tol-
stoy wrote A Letter to a Hindu, which said that only by us-
ing love as a weapon through passive resistance could the
Indian people overthrow colonial rule. In 1909, Gandhi
wrote to Tolstoy seeking advice and permission to repub-
lish A Letter to a Hindu in Gujarati. Tolstoy responded
3.6. PRINCIPLES, PRACTICES AND BELIEFS 23
Mohandas K. Gandhi and other residents of Tolstoy Farm, South
and the two continued a correspondence until Tolstoy’s
death in 1910 (Tolstoy’s last letter was to Gandhi).
The letters concern practical and theological applications
Gandhi saw himself a disciple of Tol-
stoy, for they agreed regarding opposition to state author-
ity and colonialism; both hated violence and preached
non-resistance. However, they diﬀered sharply on po-
litical strategy. Gandhi called for political involvement;
he was a nationalist and was prepared to use nonviolent
force. He was also willing to compromise.
It was at
Tolstoy Farm where Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach
systematically trained their disciples in the philosophy of
3.6.3 Truth and Satyagraha
“God is truth. The way to truth lies through ahimsa
(nonviolence)"—Sabarmati 13 March 1927
Gandhi dedicated his life to the wider purpose of discov-
ering truth, or Satya. He tried to achieve this by learning
from his own mistakes and conducting experiments on
himself. He called his autobiography The Story of My
Experiments with Truth.
Bruce Watson argues that Gandhi based Satyagraha on
the Vedantic ideal of self-realization, and notes it also
contains Jain and Buddhist notions of nonviolence, veg-
etarianism, the avoidance of killing, and 'agape' (univer-
sal love). Gandhi also borrowed Christian-Islamic ideas
of equality, the brotherhood of man, and the concept of
turning the other cheek.
Gandhi stated that the most important battle to ﬁght
was overcoming his own demons, fears, and insecurities.
Gandhi summarised his beliefs ﬁrst when he said “God is
Truth”. He would later change this statement to “Truth
is God”. Thus, satya (truth) in Gandhi’s philosophy is
The essence of Satyagraha (a name Gandhi invented
meaning “adherence to truth”
) is that it seeks to elim-
inate antagonisms without harming the antagonists them-
selves and seeks to transform or “purify” it to a higher
level. A euphemism sometimes used for Satyagraha is
that it is a “silent force” or a “soul force” (a term also used
by Martin Luther King Jr. during his famous "I Have a
Dream" speech). It arms the individual with moral power
rather than physical power. Satyagraha is also termed a
“universal force”, as it essentially “makes no distinction
between kinsmen and strangers, young and old, man and
woman, friend and foe.”
Gandhi wrote: “There must be no impatience, no bar-
barity, no insolence, no undue pressure. If we want to
cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot aﬀord
to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in
Civil disobedience and non-cooperation
as practised under Satyagraha are based on the “law of
a doctrine that the endurance of suﬀering
is a means to an end. This end usually implies a moral
upliftment or progress of an individual or society. There-
fore, non-cooperation in Satyagraha is in fact a means to
secure the co-operation of the opponent consistently with
truth and justice.
Although Gandhi was not the originator of the principle
of nonviolence, he was the ﬁrst to apply it in the politi-
cal ﬁeld on a large scale.
The concept of nonviolence
(ahimsa) and nonresistance has a long history in Indian
religious thought. Gandhi explains his philosophy and
way of life in his autobiography The Story of My Experi-
ments with Truth. Gandhi realised later that this level of
nonviolence required incredible faith and courage, which
he believed everyone did not possess. He therefore ad-
vised that everyone need not keep to nonviolence, espe-
cially if it were used as a cover for cowardice, saying,
“where there is only a choice between cowardice and vi-
olence, I would advise violence.”
Gandhi thus came under some political ﬁre for his crit-
icism of those who attempted to achieve independence
through more violent means. His refusal to protest against
the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Udham Singh
and Rajguru were sources of condemnation among some