Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhism and Basis of Gandhiji’s Thoughts


Mahatma Gandhi was a great leader of our country. He was born on October 2, 1869. His name was Mohan Das Gandhi and his father was Karam Chand Gandhi.

He was called to the Bar in England. After that he started legal practice in India. On the invitation of Gokhale, he went to South Africa in 1893.

He started legal practice there and resorted to many Satyagrahas in order to improve the condition of the Indians living there. In January, 1915 he came back to India. He organised a Satyagraha in Champaran (Bihar) and in Khera (Gujarat) to protect the interests of the farmers. In 1920 he started Non-Co-operation and Khilafat Movement.


This movement continued till 1922. After that he remained in prison till 1924. On release from the prison, he became the President of Indian National Congress. From 1924 to January 30, 1948 he remained the leader of the Congress and he provided leadership to all the activities and movements of the Congress.

In 1930, in order to achieve full freedom, he started Civil Disobedience Movement, and in 1942, the Quit India Movement, the grant of independence to India. He made efforts to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity, Harijan uplift, rural reconstruction, Khadi, Charkha and propagation of Unity, Harijan uplift, rural reconstruction, Khadi, Charkha and propagation of Hindi, prohibition, the improvement in the condition of the farmers, workers and women.


Therefore, the period from 1920 till his death (January 30, 1948) is called the Gandhian era. Mahatma Gandhi was really an epoch maker. He dedicated his entire life to the service of his country and brought ms country out of the darkness of slavery and brought light into it. There is no such sphere of life in the twentieth century as is free from the impact of Gandhi’s philosophy and teachings. His influence is seen all the world over. Thus, it is essential to study his views on various aspects concerning human life and activity.

Meaning of Gandhism:

Mahatma Gandhi did not start any ism. He only expressed his views on political, social, economic and religious matters from time to time, according to the need of the occasion and political situation. Later on different people collected these views and gave them the name of Gandhism.

Certain people gave the example of lecture of Gandhiji, which he delivered after Gandhi-Irwin Pact and before the 1931 session of the Congress at karachi. In this lecture he probably declared that Gandhi might die but Gandhism would live forever! Gandhiji said it perchance and he gave no indication that he wanted to start new ism.

By Gandhism he meant his ideology of truth and non-violence. In March, 1936 in his speech at Gandhi Sangh of Saoli, he very clearly said, “There is no such thing as ‘Gandhism’ and I do not want to leave any doctrine after me. I do not claim to have propounded any new principle or doctrine.

I have simply tried in my own way to apply the basic truths to our daily life and problems. The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have tried to arrive at are not final. I may change them tomorrow. I have nothing to teach to the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.


All I have done is to make experiments in both of them on as vast a scale as was possible for me to make. In doing this, I have sometimes erred and learnt by my error. Well, all my philosophy if it may be called by that pretentious name is contained in what I have said you will not call it ‘Gandhism’; there is no ism about it.”

On the basis of this statement we can say that Gandhiji did not start any ism, because he did not enunciate static theories. He only expressed his views on various subjects according to the demand of situations, which were not final. But one thing can definitely be said that Gandhiji had a peculiar philosophy of life.

He did adopt certain principles and techniques to solve national and international problems, which he did not give up even in unfavourable circumstances. These principles were: truth, non-violence, respect for all religious, social equality, and opposition to exploitation, colonialism, imperialism and capitalism.

He adopted methods like Satyagraha, non-co-operation. Civil Disobedience, strike, fast, etc., for the achievement of independence for India. He said, “For the achievement of good ends, good means are essential. He did not agree with the view that for the achievement of good ends, any means could be adopted.


Basis of Gandhiji’s Thoughts:

Mahatma Gandhi was the product of Indian culture and civilization. He was connected with the saintly traditions of India. Many Rishis and Maharishis took birth in India from time to time. They showed the true and right path to the people in very unfavourable circumstances. Gandhiji was the product of the contemporary circumstances.

He was greatly influenced by the ancient Indian culture and religion. The Gita ranks the foremost in moulding Gandhiji’s outlook. He was always a man of action. The Gita made him so. He was a Karam Yogi, a practical man of action who struggled without the desire for results.

He said, “When doubts haunt me, when disappointments start me in the face, I turn to Bhagwad Gita and find in it a verse to comfort me: I owe it to the teachings of Bhagwad Gita”. Besides the Gita, Jainism and Buddhism also had a profound influence on him. Before he left for London, the Jain Monk Becharji Swami administered an oath to him.


He solemnly took three vows: not to touch wine, woman and meat. He stuck to these vows very firmly. It is, therefore, said that Hindusim, Jainism and Buddhism have perceptibly coloured Gandhiji’s thought and shaped his actions. Gandhiji employed them in social and political spheres, adopted them wholeheartedly and thus he became a Yogi.

John Ruskin’s Unto This Last also exercised a transforming influence on Gandhiji and it shaped his views. He was also influenced by ‘An Essay on Civil Disobedience’ written by the American anarchist David Thoreau and Christian Anarchist and Russian philosopher Tolstoy’s book ‘Kingdom of God is within you’.

From John Ruskin’s book Gandhi learnt that the life of a labourer is the best that economic system is the best which is for the welfare of all and the work of a pleader is as important as that of a barber, because everybody has equal right with others in earning his livelihood.

Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience,” also influenced Gandhiji very much but it is wrong to say that Mahatma Gandhi got the ideal of Satyagraha from him. It is just possible that when Mahatma Gandhi started Civil Disobedience Movement in India, he adopted certain ideas from that hook. From the Christian anarchist Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi learnt that all problems could be solved by non-violence. He also opposed violence and exploitation like Tolstoy.

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