Gandhi Jayanti is a national holiday in India. Every year the holiday takes place on the second of October. Gandhi Jayanti honors the birthday of Mahaatmaa Gandhi. Mahaatmaa (महात्मा) means ‘great soul’. In his honor, alcohol is neither sold nor consumed.
Before the world came to know of Gandhi’s efforts in India, he was busy establishing his early form of satyaagraha (सत्याग्रह) or non-violent protest in South Africa. He was beaten by a driver for refusing to give his seat up for a European passenger, and he was ordered to remove his turban by a magistrate. His personal experiences made him question his own people’s plight in India. While in South Africa, Gandhi called on his fellow Indians to defy the law by peaceful protest. Gandhi himself was flogged and beaten, along with thousands of other Indians. Finally when the public outcry reached international ears, a compromise was made with Gandhi. This success made Gandhi realize that he needed to do the same in India.
When Gandhi returned to India, the British were raising taxes on cash crops necessary for the villagers’ survival. The villagers lived in absolute poverty. Gandhi and several volunteers organized to clean up villages and build schools and hospitals. The British government arrested Gandhi for creating ‘social unrest’. The villagers rallied outside the prison and the courts demanding his release. The courts reluctantly granted his release. It was from this time that the villagers called him mahaatmaa or great soul.
One of Gandhi’s forms of non cooperation came in the form of swadeshi (स्वदेशी) or self sufficiency. Swadeshi was a form of economic protest in which Gandhi urged Indians to boycott British goods. Gandhi himself only wore khaadii (खादी) or homespun cloth instead of British made textiles. Gandhi’s form of resistence to unjust laws came in the form of a fast. In 1932, Gandhi underwent a six day fast to protest the Indian government’s treatment of the untouchables. (The untouchables were a socially outcasted group in India.)
Gandhi was originally a Jainist. As a Jainist he felt compassion for all sentient beings. His compassion extended to the Muslims in India. In In 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a extremist Indian nationalist. This nationalist felt that Gandhi was weakening India by his talks for repairing relations between Muslims and Hindus. Even after his death, Gandhi continues to be influential figure to democratic movements in the Philippines and in places like Burma. Although Gandhi did not invent the idea of ahimisaa (अहिंसा), or non-violence, he is arguably one of the most famous people to have practiced it.