On the 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who spearheaded India's nationalist movement against the British with non-violence as his only weapon, we take a look at some of his rare photos from the Malayala Manorama archives. These pictures throw light on the life and times of our 'Father of the Nation.'
Mahatma Gandhi in Africa
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a 23-year-old London-educated lawyer when he arrived at Durban in South Africa in 1893. Gandhi went there to provide legal aid to a business man Dada Abdullah, but he was discriminated on the basis of his colour and Asian roots.
He was thrown out of a train for travelling in the first class, despite possessing a valid ticket. Gandhi mastered the art of passive resistance while fighting for the rights of Indians in Africa and formed the Natal Indian Congress in 1894.
He later published the 'Green Pamphlet' in India, exposing the sorry state of Indian labourers in Africa and human rights violations against them. Upon his return to Africa, a ship carrying his family was not allowed to dock for three days and when it finally did, he was beaten up by a waiting mob.
One of the criticisms against Gandhi, during his days in Africa is that he only fought for the Indians and ignored the plight of Apartheid-affected Africans.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Gandhi
Gandhi's grandson and former civil servant Gopalkrishna Gandhi summarised the similarities and differences between Gandhi and Jinnah in an article published in India Today in 2012.
“No two men could have been more different from each other as the austere Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was from Muhammad Ali Jinnah. And yet destiny twinned the son of Putlibai and the son of Mithibai as perhaps no two men in their generation were. Both were born into Gujarati-speaking families, both did their matriculation from the University of Bombay, both went on to study the Law in the Inns of Court, London, became devoted to Dadabhai Naoroji and worked for Hindu-Muslim unity alongside the cause of India's liberation from British rule. That is, until the Two Nation Theory cleft their paths. Even then, convergences hung over them. One was called Rashtrapita by free India, the other Baba-e-Quam, in the new Pakistan. And both died before their nations could become Republics,” he wrote.
Incidentally, Jinnah, who was leading a Congress delegation to London in 1914, also attended a reception held for Gandhi before returning home in January 1915. Gandhi is also credited with giving Jinnah the title of 'Quaid-e-Azam.'
Charlie Chaplin and Gandhi
Gandhi's admirers across the world would often sent him requests to meet him in person. Gandhi once rejected one such request from British comedian Charlie Chaplin, unaware of his fame in Europe and elsewhere. Bapu later learned of Chaplin's repute as an actor and his sympathy to the cause of India's freedom.
In 1931, when Gandhi was staying in London, they met and the 'Metta Centre for Non Violence' described the conversation that took place.
Chaplin quipped, “I am all for the freedom of your country and its people. But there is one thing that I don’t understand. Why do you oppose the use of machines? Don’t you think that a lot of work would come to a standstill if machines are not used?”
Gandhi responded saying, “I am not against machines but I cannot bear it when these very machines take away a man’s work from him. Today we are your slaves because we cannot overcome our attraction for your goods. Freedom will surely be ours if we learn to free ourselves from this attraction.”
In 1940, Chaplin released his famous film 'The Great Dictator,' making a mockery of Hitler's hunger for power. The climax scene, obviously influenced by his meeting with Gandhi is worth a watch:
The 1924 fast and Indira Gandhi
When communal violence between Hindus and Muslims were on the rise, Gandhi took a 21-day fast for Hindu-Muslim unity. Though this was the first time he took a fast for communal harmony, he had to undertake many more such protests as India's independence and the partition drew close.
This picture shows a six-year-old Indira Gandhi dressed in Khadi clothes with Gandhi during his fast. Gandhi was a proponent of Khadi clothes spun on the charka. He also called for the boycott of British manufactured goods. He ended the fast while listening to the Gita and Quran being read. Indira, the daughter of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, later went on to become the first woman prime minister of India.
Gandhi, Bose and the INA
Though Subhash Chandra Bose was the first to call Gandhi the 'Father of the Nation', the two were in a love-hate relationship. Though both had the common objective of attaining freedom their methods were different.
Bose had joined the Gandhian movement in 1922 after quitting the Indian Civil Service. He went on to rise up the ranks in the Indian National Congress becoming its president twice. In his second victory he defeated a candidate favoured by Gandhi in popular vote. However, the entire working committee resigned and refused to work with Bose.
Following this, he resigned from the Congress and formed the All India Forward Bloc.
The Indian National Army (INA) was formed by Rash Behari Bose and later handed over to Subhash Chandra Bose when the founders had differences with the Japanese military.
Bose's appeal of “Give me blood, I will give you freedom,” reinvigorated the INA.
Though Gandhi did not agree with Bose's methods, he played a key role in the release of four INA members who had been sentenced to death.
Among the many regiments in the INA, one was also called the Gandhi Brigade.
While speaking to the INA men at Red Fort, Gandhi said, "the INA men have shown great strength, heroism and resourcefulness. But I must confess that their achievements have not dazzled my eyes. To die without killing requires more heroism. There is nothing very wonderful in killing and being killed in the process. But the man who offers his neck to the enemy for execution but refuses to bend to his will shows courage of a far higher type.”
We talk little about Gandhi's mother, Putlibhai. However, Gandhi learned his first lessons from his mother. Putlibhai was the fourth wife of Gandhi's father Karamchand. Gandhi, the fourth child of the couple was born in Porbandar, Gujarat on October 2, 1869.
While Karamchand had proved himself as an able administrator, Putlibhai was a very pious woman and came from a family of Krishna devotees. Ramachandra Guha described her as, "she 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.”
The firm resolve shown by his mother, later reflected in Gandhi in his fight against the British.
In May 1883, Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia (popularly knows as Kasturba Gandhi) married Gandhi when she was just 14-years-old. Gandhi himself was only 13-years-old then.
Though she seldom shared the limelight with her husband, Kasturba supported him in all his struggles starting from Africa. She went to prison with him and took his place in satyagrahas when he was jailed.
But majority of her time was spent serving in ashrams. Like Gandhi was referred to as Bapu, she too was called Ba, meaning mother.
“As my public life expanded, my wife bloomed forth and deliberately lost herself in my work,” Gandhi wrote about Kasturba in his autobiography.
Kasturba died on February 22, 1944. The Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust Fund was set up in her memory. Gandhi had requested the use of this fund to help women and children in villages.
The Mahamana and the Mahatma
Madan Mohan Malaviya, known as the Mahamana (the large hearted), is the founder of the Hindu Mahasabha and Banaras Hindu University. He became president of the Congress party four times in 1909, 1918, 1932 and 1933.
Mahatma Gandhi called Malaviya his elder brother on public platforms.
The two leaders had immense respect for each other and at the same time agreed to disagree on several matters.
For instance, Malaviya did not agree with Gandhi's call for students to boycott educational institutions during the Quit India Movement. Similarly, Gandhi felt that the students from rural background would be spoilt by the comforts provided in hostels started by Malaviya.
In 1922, Gandhi suspended the Non Cooperation Movement after the Chauri Chaura incident. Malaviya, who was also a lawyer like Gandhi, defended most of the accused in the Chauri Chaura case and of the 172 accused he managed to get 153 acquitted.
Rabidranath Tagore and Gandhi
The relationship between the Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhi is yet another example of how the leaders of modern India could admire and yet criticise each other respectfully.
The title of 'Mahatma' was bestowed on Gandhi by none other than Tagore himself in 1915. Gandhi had also referred to Tagore as 'Gurudev'.
The exchanges between the duo show the intellectual depth of the two thinkers.
“The surprising thing is that both of these men with so much in common and drawing inspiration from the same wells of wisdom and thought and culture, should differ from each other so greatly!... I think of the richness of India’s age-long cultural genius, which can throw up in the same generation two such master-types, typical of her in every way, yet representing different aspects of her many-sided personality,” first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru said about Tagore and Gandhi.
The Dandi March
The Dandi March or the Salt Satyagraha of 1930 was a non violent protest led by Gandhi against the British imposed monopoly on manufacturing salt.
The march spanning 325 km, starting from Sabarmati Ashram in Guajarat to Dandi (near Surat) lasted 24 days from March 12 to April 6. After reaching Dandi, Gandhi broke the law by manufacturing salt. It sparked the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement, which extended to early 1931 and garnered widespread support as well as worldwide attention.
AICC meeting 1946
On September 2, 1946, the interim government of India was formed led by Jawaharlal Nehru. On September 23, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) ratified the decision taken by the Congress Working Committee. The Muslim League which initially kept away from the government later joined the them when Lord Wavell, the then Viceroy, offered five reserved portfolios to the League members.
The Cabinet thus formed had Jawaharlal Nehru as the vice president of the executive council, external affairs and commonwealth relations.
Home affairs, information and broadcasting was allotted to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
On September 26, Nehru declared the government's plan to engage in direct diplomatic relations with all countries and expressed support for the independence of colonised nations.
The Assassination and Trial
On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was leaving the Birla House (now known as Gandhi Smriti) when Nathuram Godse shot him from point blank range.
Godse and the other collaborators were arrested and tried in a court which was specially set up within the Red Fort premises. He was found guilty and executed in 1949.
Gandhi's death was mourned worldwide and over a million people took part in a funeral procession which took five hours to reach Rajghat from Birla House.
A military vehicle was dismantled overnight and installed with a high floor so that people could catch a glimpse of Gandhi's body. Instead of using the engine, 50 people pulled the vehicle for around 7 km till Rajghat.
Gandhi's death changed India's political landscape forever.
(This story was first published in 2019, when the country celebrated Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary.)