Revered the world over for his nonviolent philosophy of passive resistance, Mahatma Karamchand Gandhi is considered the father of the Indian independence movement.
He dedicated his life to peacefully protesting injustices. He spread this concept, called satyagraha, to people around the world. Many civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, have used Gandhi’s concept of non-violent protest as a model for their own struggles.
Still highly regarded today, 65 years after his passing, Gandhi’s legacy is closely followed. And amidst all the material revolving around Gandhi’s life, we are willing to bet some of these fascinating facts about him will be news to you:
1. Mahatma wasn’t his name: Mohandas, was. Many people incorrectly believe that Mahatma was Gandhi’s given name. However it is merely an honorific, said to have been bestowed upon him by the Bengali poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore. From the Sanskrit words maha (meaning “great”) and atma (meaning “soul”) it seems to have been a well-chosen title for the man. However, in his autobiography Gandhi notes that he never valued the title, and was often pained by it.
2. His U.S. debut was funny. While in England in 1931, Gandhi made his first radio broadcast for the United States. The first thing the people of the United States heard the Mahatma say was, “Do I have to speak into this thing?” To add to the humor, Gandhi spoke English with an Irish accent, for one of his first teachers was an Irishman.
3. He was a teen groom. In May of 1883, at the age of 13, Gandhi was married to 14-year-old Kasturba Makhanji in an arranged marriage, according to the custom of the region. Kasturba had four sons with Gandhi and supported his endeavors until her death in 1944.
4. Gandhi was extremely punctual. One of his very few possessions was a dollar watch. Just before he was assassinated, on January 30, 1948, Gandhi was upset because he was ten minutes late getting to a regular prayer meeting.
5. He dabbled in book agenting. Non-violent activist, vegetarian advocate, father of India, great leader? Yes. But, book agent? Indeed. In 1894 while working in South Africa, Gandhi indicated his growing interest in Esoteric Christianity by becoming an agent for promoting the Esoteric Christian Union’s literature.
6. He was a lawyer, but what a lawyer! He said, “I realized the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder.” Thus, he spent his twenty years in practice “bringing about private compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby—not even money, certainly not my soul.”
7. He had a set of false teeth. (And only put them in for eating).
8. He never won the Nobel Peace Prize. The man perhaps more associated with peace than any other human being was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was nominated five times between 1937 and 1948, yet he made the short list only in 1937 and 1947. Gandhi was nominated in 1948 but was assassinated before nominations closed. The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee. However, In 1999, Gandhi was declared the runner-up for Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Century’ title (which eventually went to Albert Einstein.)
9. Gandhi never set foot on a plane. He also never partook in cinema (the movies) and only used radio for his platform. He strived to be as simplistic as possible. (Can you imagine our public figures of today not utilizing all of our mediums?!)
10. Gandhi was very (painfully) shy. When Gandhi was growing up, few people would’ve predicted he’d one day attract millions of followers, be considered the father of his nation and even appear in Apple’s “Think Different” advertising campaign in the late 1990s. In fact, as a boy, Gandhi was a middling student and extremely shy. He even described running home from school so he wouldn’t have to talk to anybody.
Facts like these remind us that our revered leaders are very much like us, and on a spiritual path as simply another human.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
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