An extraordinary human being whose ideology, based on the foundations of truth, honesty, nonviolence, hard work and service to humanity meant Mahatma Gandhi was and still remains one of the most important and influential people of all time. At the core of all his endeavours was the belief in the strength of the ordinary human being.
In 1893, at the young age of 24, whilst he was working as a lawyer in South Africa, he was brutally thrown down from a first class carriage of a train for being a non-white passenger in an all white carriage. This incident became a defining moment of change, not just for one man but for a whole nation.
Gandhi was to take up the fight against racial oppression with his weapon of nonviolence or Ahimsa and Satyagraha as his strategy. Satyagraha, or Force of Truth, embodies self-restraint through peaceful violation of certain laws, occasional mass protest or hartal, and spectacular marches nurtured by an indomitable spirit to fight repression without fear.
" If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him ... We need not wait to see what others do."
2015 commemorates one hundred years of Mahatma Gandhi's decision to dedicate his life to the Nation of India. In celebration of this momentous occasion The East India Company is releasing a series of five limited edition silver coins spanning the historic years from his arrival in India in 1915 to the celebration of Indian Independence Day in 1947.
Arriving in Bombay on January 9, 1915, Gandhi and his wife Kasturba received a warm welcome. South Africa had been the crucible that created his identity as a political activist. It had earned him the appellation Mahatma or 'Great Soul' for his work in securing significant legal concessions for the local Indian population in South Africa.
His arrival at the age of 45 was greeted with great excitement and anticipation. Honoured with the "Kaisar-i-Hind" gold medal in the King's birthday honours list of 1915, Gandhi was showered with admiration. This was to become the beginning of a nation's journey towards self governance, independence and liberty under the guidance and teachings of the simple man.
In September 1920, Mahatma Gandhi organised the Non-cooperation movement in India in an attempt to induce the British rulers to grant self-government, or Swaraj, to India. It grew following the massacre at Amritsar in April 1919, at which the British killed several hundred innocent and unarmed Indians. This nonviolent civil disobedience movement was to spread across India through the resignation of titles, boycotting of government institutions and refusal to pay British imposed taxes. Gandhi's aim was to unite all Indians in protest using the might of India's population and the moral force of nonviolence.
In 1921 the British government, confronted with a united Indian front for the first time, was visibly shaken but there were sporadic violent outbreaks across the nation. After an angry mob burned a police station killing several police personnel at Chauri Chaura in February 1922.
On the 12th of March 1930, in his boldest act of civil disobedience against the British rule in India, Mahatma Gandhi began a long march to the Arabian Sea in protest of the British enforced Salt Tax. Directly effecting the richest to the very poor, this law had made it illegal to sell or produce salt, allowing a complete British monopoly on the sale of this essential commodity.
Thousands of Indians joined Gandhi along the way, from his religious retreat near Ahmedabad to the Arabian Sea coast, a distance of some 240 miles. On April 5th 1930, Gandhi and his followers reached the Arabian Sea. Here, in a symbolic gesture, they made their own salt by evaporating sea water - a direct violation of the British law.
The march, which resulted in the arrest of Gandhi and 60,000 others, gained international respect and support for both the leader and his movement.
As World War II erupted, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that India was to join the war as a constituent of the British Empire. Gandhi, and the Congress, denounced Nazism but were adamant that India should not come to Britain's aid while Indians were being subjugated at home and ratified the "Quit India" resolution, calling for "complete and immediate orderly withdrawal of the British from India". Before the All India Congress Committee on 8th August 1942, Gandhi addressed all the people of India with the message; "Here is a mantra, a short one that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: 'Do or Die'. We shall either free India or die in the attempt."
The following day Gandhi and members of the Congress were arrested. He and his wife Kasturba were imprisoned. Violent protests calling for Gandhi's release erupted across the country. Tragically, Kasturba was to die in prison months before Gandhi was free.
On August 15, 1947, India became free from British rule. However, it was divided with the creation of the new independent state of Pakistan. After years of struggle for freedom for a united India, violence broke out in some areas between communities of vastly diverse cultures and religions. For Gandhi this victory - independence - was hollow and tinged with sadness and disappointment at the events that were to follow. On the day India received the precious gift of freedom, he spent the day fasting and spinning his charkha.
For Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolence went beyond independence and elections. It must be fully integrated "economically, politically and morally". He understood that this would take a lifetime to achieve and that there was much more to be done.