Mohandas Gandhi Research Paper

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Gandhi’s significance as a twentieth-century philosopher, pilgrim, world leader, and writer lies in his uncompromising reliance on ahimsa— the Hindi and Buddhist doctrine of nonviolence and restraint from harming all forms of life—as a moral force for reforming and transforming unjust established authority.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948) mobilized the largest nonviolent mass movement known in world history under the banner of satyagraha—the active pursuit of truth through love and nonviolence (ahimsa). Gandhi’s ideas of truth and justice have contributed immensely to the development of moral and political thought, and his demonstrations of the positive and revolutionary power of nonviolence has had a worldwide impact. His support for nonviolent campaigns dedicated to social and political change around the world gave a sense of power to the powerless and of hope to the hopeless.

Although Gandhi was a prolific and inspirational author whose writings gave guidance to thousands of people around the world, as well as the founder of many ashrams (spiritual retreats) and communal settlements, his life was his biggest message. He is regarded as a mahatma, or great soul, and lived a life of simplicity, nonpossession, celibacy, truth, and nonviolence.

Mohandas Gandhi was born to Putlibai and Karamchand Gandhi on 2 October 1869, in the city of Porbandar, Gujarat, in western India. His father was the prime minister of Porbandar. At thirteen, Mohandas was married to Kasturbai, also thirteen, and in 1888 sent to Britain for higher education in the field of law. Unable to secure a job on his return to India, Gandhi sailed to South Africa in 1893. There he discovered the oppressive and unjust policies of the British when he was thrown off the train for having a first class train ticket and sitting next to white citizens of the Empire. This was a transforming event in Gandhi’s life. A South Africa rife with racial discrimination against colored people became the laboratory for Gandhi’s initial experiments with satyagraha. Later Gandhi built on these experiments to launch mass satyagraha movements during India’s struggle for freedom from British rule.

On his return to India in 1915, he became a “pilgrim of truth,” uncovering the roots of mass poverty and unrest over the next five years, and in 1920 he assumed the leadership of the Indian National Congress, the body officially pursuing the struggle for India’s independence from the British. Gandhi led several mass campaigns of nonviolent noncooperation and civil disobedience against British rule, and India gained its independence in 1947.

But for Gandhi, national self-government, or swaraj, meant more than just independence. To him it meant peoples’ total moral authority over themselves so as to require no external coercion. Therefore, Gandhi became an active social reformer, crusading against the Indian caste system, the exploitation of women, and cruelty to animals.

Gandhi’s radical insistence on the oneness of human beings, and his persistent efforts to keep Indian Hindus and Muslims united, set him in opposition to fundamentalist Hindus. Earlier attempts on his life had failed, but on 30 January 1948, he was shot during his prayer meeting at the Birla House in New Delhi by a Hindu nationalist, Nathuram Godse. Although Gandhi’s assassination appears ironical to some, for others it became a symbol of his fearless dedication to the principles of truth and nonviolence.

While Gandhi’s nonviolent philosophy and actions evolved in response to larger social and political problems he personally experienced, he records in his autobiography three major influences on his life and thought: the religion of Jainism, with its core principle of nonviolence; Unto This Last, an 1860 collection of essays critiquing classical economics by the British writer John Ruskin; and Leo Tolstoy’s treatise on Christian nonviolence, The Kingdom of God is Within You.

Gandhi tirelessly endeavored to understand the roots of political and social problems he confronted and to devise means to address them effectively but nonviolently. He felt that violence resulted from poverty, injustice, lack of self-discipline, selfishness, and ill will. In his seminal work, Hind Swaraj, Gandhi offers an enduring solution to these problems in his vision of a civilization that encourages love, truthfulness, social service, equality, and cooperation. Gandhi’s ideal society discourages politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, education without character, pleasure without consciousness, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.


  1. Ambedkar, B. R. (1970). Gandhi and Gandhism. Jalandhar, India: Bheem Patrika Publications.
  2. Ashe, G. (1968). Gandhi. New York: Stein & Day.
  3. Bondurant, J. V. (1965). Conquest of violence: The Gandhian philosophy of conflict (Rev. ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  4. Bose, N. K. (1974). My days with Gandhi. Bombay, India: Orient Longman.
  5. Brown, J. M. (1972). Gandhi’s rise to power: Indian politics 1915– 1922. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
  6. Brown, J. M. (1989). Gandhi: Prisoner of hope. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  7. Dalton, D. (1993). Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent power in action. New York: Columbia University Press.
  8. Erikson, E. H. (1969). Gandhi’s truth on the origins of militant nonviolence. New York: Norton.
  9. Fischer, L. (1959). The life of Mahatma Gandhi (3d ed.). Bombay, India: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
  10. Gandhi, M. K. (1989). The collected works of Mahatma Gandhi. New Delhi, India: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  11. Gandhi, M. K., & Desai, M. H. (1959). An autobiography: The story of my experiments with truth. Boston: Beacon Press.
  12. Gandhi, M. K., & Iyer, R. N. (1991). The essential writings of Mahatma Gandhi. Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.
  13. Strohmeier, J. (Ed). (1999). Vows and observances. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Hills Books.

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