Thursday 1 November 2007
One of the biggest festivals of Hindus, Deepawali or Diwali in India is celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and happiness. This festival is celebrated for five continuous days, with the third day being celebrated as the main Diwali or as 'Festival of Lights'. Fireworks are always associated with this festival. The day is celebrated with people lighting diyas, candles all around their house. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening to seek divine blessings of Goddess of Wealth. Diwali gifts are exchanged among all near and dear ones.
Diwali, (in Hindi - दिवाली or दीपावली), is a major Indian festival that is very significant in Hinduism and Jainism. Known as the "Festival of Lights," it symbolizes the victory of good over evil, and lamps (called diyas or kandils) are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for humankind. The lights also represent the time when Rama came back from the forest, and all his village lit lamps to welcome him back home. Celebrations focus on lights and lamps, particularly traditional dīpa or deeya (earthen lamp, as illustrated). Fireworks are associated with the festival. Diwali is a colloquial name used in North India, while the festival is formally called Deepavali in South India.
Diwali is celebrated for five consecutive days at the end of Hindu month of Kartika (purminata) or Ashwayuja (amanta). It usually occurs in October/November, and is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals in India. Diwali comes exactly twenty days after Dussehra. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs alike regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen family and social relationships. For Hindus it is one of the most important festivals, and beginning of the year in some Hindu calendars. There are several beliefs regarding the origin of the holiday. The most repeated version is that Hindus celebrate Diwali to mark the time when Lord Rama achieved victory over Ravana. Some also view it as the day Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura or in honor of the day Bali went to rule the nether-world, obeying the order of Vishnu. In Jainism it marks the nirvana of Lord Mahavira, which occurred on Oct. 15, 527 BCE. It is also a significant festival for the Sikh faith. In India, Diwali is now considered to be more of a national festival, and the aesthetic aspect of the festival is enjoyed by most Indians regardless of faith.
Dates in various calendars
The festival is celebrated for a differing number of days by different communities. In Maharashtra and Karnataka, the celebrations start from Vasubaras, 12th day of the second fortnight of Ashvin (going on for 6 days) while in Northern India the celebrations start from Laxmi Puja the no moon day of the same month (going on for 2-3 days). Though the core days are common and fall on exactly the same set of days across India, they fall in different months depending on the version of the Hindu calendar being used in the given region.
The Amanta ("ending on the no-moon") version of the Hindu Calendar has been adopted as the Indian national calendar. According to this calendar, which is prevalent in southern India and Maharashtra, the 6-day celebration is spread over the last four days of the month of Ashwayuja (Ashwin in Marathi) and the first two days of the new month of Kartika. According to the Purnimanta ("ending on the full-moon") version prevalent in northern India, it falls in the middle of the month of Ashwayuja/Ashvin. In the Gregorian calendar, it falls generally in the months of October or November. In 2006, it was celebrated on October 21, a Saturday. In 2007 it will be celebrated on November 10, also a Saturday.
Significance in Hinduism
The festival marks the victory of good over evil. The Sanskrit word Deepavali means an array of lights that stands for victory of brightness over darkness. As the knowledge of Sanskrit diminished, the name was popularly modified to Diwali, especially in northern India. In South India, Diwali does not coincide with the beginning of a new year as South Indians follow a different calendar, the Shalivahana calendar.
On the day of Diwali, many wear new clothes, share sweets and snacks. Some North Indian business communities start their financial year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.
Hindus find cause to celebrate this festival for different reasons:
It commemorates the killing of Narakasura, an evil demon who created havoc, by Lord Krishna's wife Satyabhama. This happened in the Dwapara Yuga during this time of Lord Krishna's avatar. In another version, the demon was killed by Lord Krishna himself. Before Narakasura's death, he requested a boon from his mother, Satyabhama (believed to be an Avatar of Bhudevi - Narakasura' mother), that everyone should celebrate his death with colorful light.
According to the Skanda Purana, the goddess Shakti observed 21 days of austerity starting from ashtami of shukla paksha (eighth day of the waxing period of moon) to get half of the body of Lord Shiva. This vrata (austerity) is known as kedhara vrata. Deepavali is the completion day of this austerity. This is the day Lord Shiva accepted Shakti into the left half of the form and appeared as Ardhanarishvara. The ardent devotees observe this 21 days vrata by making a kalasha with 21 threads on it and 21 types of offerings for 35 days. The final day is celebrated as kedhara gauri vrata.
Diwali also celebrates the return of Lord Rama, King of Ayodhya, with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya from a war in which he killed the demon king Ravana. It is believed that the people lit oil lamps along the way to light their path in the darkness. This is the reason, why the festival is celebrated a day earlier in South India since Lord Rama travelled from the south to his kingdom in the north. In North India, the festival is held on the final day of the Vikram calendar. The following day marks the beginning of the North Indian new year, and is called Annakut.
Govardhan Puja is celebrated the day after Diwali. It is the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Lord Indra and questions his father Nanda about it. Why was this necessary? Why should human beings offer anything to some unknown being in the sky? He debated with the villagers about what their 'dharma' truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He continued to say that all human beings should merely do their 'karma', to the best of their ability and not pray for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna then lifted Mt Govardhan and held it up as protection to his people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme. This aspect of Krishna's life is mostly glossed over - but it actually set up the basis of the 'karma' philosophy later detailed in the Bhagavat Gita.
In Bhavishyottara and Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Diwali is associated with the Daitya king Bali, who is allowed to return to earth once a year. However in Kerala this is the reason 'Onam' is celebrated. 'Onam' festival falls around the month of August-September.
While Deepavali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant esoteric meaning is "the awareness of the inner light".
Central to Hindu philosophy, is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of this Inner Light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, imminent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman, comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (Inner Joy or Peace).
Deepavali celebrates this through festive fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing sweets, and worship. While the story behind Deepavali varies from region to region, the essence is the same - to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things (Brahman).
The Five days of Diwali
Diwali is celebrated over five days in most of North India. All the days except Diwali are named using the designation in the Indian calendar. A lunar half-month is 15 days. Diwali as a new-moon day, marks the last day of a 15-day period.
1)Dhan-trayodashi or Dhan teras: Dhan means "wealth" and Trayodashi means "13th day". Thus, as the name implies, this day falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. It is an auspicious day for shopping.
2)Naraka Chaturdasi: Chaturdasi is the fourteenth day on which demon Narakasura was killed. It signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness (Gujarati: Kali Chaudas). In south India, this is the actual day of festivities. Hindus wake up way before dawn as early as 2.00 in the morning, have a fragrant oil bath and wear new clothes. They light small lamps all around the house and draw elaborate kolams /rangolis outside their homes. They perform a special puja with offerings to Lord Sri Krishna or Lord Sri Vishnu, as he liberated the world from the demon Narakasura on this day. It is believed that taking a bath before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky is equivalent to taking a bath in the holy Ganges. Hence, when people greet each other in the morning, they ask "Have you performed your Ganga Snaanam?". After the puja, children burst firecrackers heralding the defeat of the demon. As this is a day of rejoicement, many will have very elaborate breakfasts and lunches and meet family and friends. In the evening, lamps are again lit and Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped and offered special dishes. This being a no moon day, many will offer special tarpana (offerings of water and sesame seeds) to their ancestors.
3)Diwali: the actual day of Diwali, is celebrated on the third day of the festival, when the moon completely wanes and total darkness sets in the night sky.
4)Govardhan Puja or also called Annakut, is celebrated as the day Krishna defeated Indra. For Annakut a mountain of food is decorated symbolizing Govardhan mountain lifted by Lord Krishna. In Maharashtra it is celebrated as Padva or BaliPratipada. The day commemorates King Bali. Men present gifts to their wives on this day.
5)Bhayiduj (also Bhayyaduj, Bhaubeej or Bhayitika) — on this day, brothers and sisters meet to express their love and affection for each other (Gujarati: Bhai Bij, Bengali: Bhai Phota). Most Indian festivals bring together families, Bhaiduj brings together married sisters and brothers, and is a significant festive day for them. This festival is ancient, and pre-dates 'Raksha Bandhan' another brother-sister festival being celebrated today.
The celebrations vary in different regions:
In Southern India, naraka chaturdashii is the main day, with firecrackers at dawn.
The main festival in North India is on Amavasya(No moon) evening with Lakshmi Puja which is followed by lighting of oil lamps around the house.
As per spiritual references, on this day "Lakshmi-panchayatan" enters the Universe. Sri Vishnu, Sri Indra, Sri Kuber, Sri Gajendra and Sri Lakshmi are elements of this "panchayatan" (a group of five). The tasks of these elements are:
Vishnu: Happiness (happiness and satisfaction)
Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth)
Kubera: Wealth (one who gives away wealth)
Gajendra: Carries the wealth
Lakshmi: Divine Energy (Shakti) which provides energy to all the above activities
Uprising against the Mughal Empire
The story (according to Hindu Mythology) of Lord Rama returning home after destroying the demon god Ravana who had taken away Rama’s wife, Sita, of course, has no significance in the Sikh tradition. However, in the Sikh struggle for freedom from the oppressive Mughal regime, the festival of Diwali did become the second most important day after the Baisakhi, when Khalsa was formally established by the Tenth Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
The Sikh struggle for freedom, which intensified in the 18th Century, came to be centered around this day. After the execution of Banda Bahadur in 1716, who had led the agrarian uprising in Punjab, the Sikhs started the tradition of deciding matters concerning the community at the biennial meetings which took place at Amritsar on the first of Baisakh and at Diwali. These assemblies were known as the "Sarbat Khalsa" and a resolution passed by it became a "gurmata" (decree of the Guru).
To add to the festival of Diwali, fairs (or melas) are held throughout India. Melas are to be found in many towns and villages. A mela generally becomes a market day in the countryside when farmers buy and sell produce. Girls and women dress attractively during the festival. They wear colourful clothing, new jewelry and their hands are decorated with henna designs.
Among the many activities that take place at a mela are performances by jugglers, acrobats, snake charmers and fortune tellers. Food stalls are set up, selling sweet and spicy foods. There are a variety of rides at the fair, which include Ferris wheels and rides on animals such as elephants and camels. Another attraction is the puppet shows that are shown throughout the day.
Diwali in other parts of the world
Diwali is celebrated in various parts of the world, in countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Suriname, Canada, Guyana, Mauritius, Fiji, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Australia, much of Africa, and the United States. With more and more Indians and Sri Lankans now migrating to various parts of the world, the number of countries where Diwali is celebrated has been gradually increasing. While in some countries it is celebrated mainly by Indian expatriates, in others it has become part of the general local culture. In most of these countries Diwali is celebrated on the same lines as described in this article with some minor variations. Some important variations are worth mentioning.
In Nepal, Diwali is known as "Tihar" and celebrated during the October/November period. Here the festival is celebrated for five days and the traditions vary from those followed in India. On the first day, cows are given offerings, in appreciation of the food they have given and agricultural work they have performed. On the second day, dogs and all living animals are revered and offered special food. On the third day, celebrations follow the same pattern as in India, with lights and lamps and much social activity. On the fourth day Yama, the Lord of Death, is worshipped and appeased. On the fifth and final day, brothers and sisters meet and exchange pleasantries.
In Trinidad and Tobago, communities all over the islands get together and celebrate the festival. One major celebration that stands out is the Divali Nagar, or Village of the Festival of Lights. It features stage performances by the east Indian cultural practitioners, a folk theatre featuring skits and plays, an exhibition on some aspect of Hinduism, displays by various Hindu religious sects and social organizations, nightly worship of Goddess Lakshmi, lighting of deeyas, performances by various schools related to Indian culture, and a food court with Indian and non-Indian vegetarian delicacies. The festival culminates with magnificent fireworks displays ushering in Diwali. Thousands of people participate in an atmosphere devoid of alcohol and in a true family environment.
In Malaysia, Diwali is known as "Hari Deepavali," and is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday throughout Malaysia. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent. 'Open houses' are held where Hindu Malaysians welcome fellow Malaysians of different races and religions to their house for a sumptious meal. 'Open house' or 'rumah terbuka' is a practice very much unique to Malaysia and shows the goodwill and friendly ties practised by all Malaysians during any festive occasion.
In Singapore, the festival is called "Deepavali", and is a gazetted public holiday. Observed primarily by the minority Indian community, it is typically marked by a light-up in the Little India district and is most known for the fire-walking ceremonies not practiced as part of the festival in other countries. The Hindu Endowment Board of Singapore along with Singapores' government organizes many cultural events around Diwali time.
In Sri Lanka, this festival is also called "Deepavali" and is celebrated by the Tamil community. On this day, it is traditional for people to wear new clothes and exchange pleasantries.
In Britain, Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Diwali with great enthusiasm and in most ways very similarly to as in India. People clean and decorate their homes with lamps. People also give each other sweets such as laddoo and barfi, and the different communities may gather from around the country for a religious ceremony and get-together. It is also an important time to contact family in India and perhaps exchange gifts through the post. Diwali is becoming a well known festival in Britain and non-Indians also join in the festivities
Economics of Diwali
Diwali is an annual stimulus for the Indian economy. Indians purchase gold, gifts, decorations, crackers (fireworks) and household appliances during this festival and many Indian films (Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood, etc.) are released during this period. Companies offer huge discounts during the Diwali season to attract customers, which helps the economy and also helps the poor. Food distributed as acts of charity during community festivities also helps the underprivileged. Diwali also brings tourists to the country. Schools in India are closed during this festival, and many young people have the free time and the money to spend on luxury items. Also, people buy new clothes to wear during Diwali.
To enhance the joy of Diwali both the young and the old light firecrackers and fireworks at night. Nowadays there is a significant growth in campaigns on creating awareness over the adverse impacts of noise and air pollution. Some Governments drive to keep the festival less noisy and pollution-free. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has banned production of crackers with over 125 decibel levels. In survey of UP Pollution Control Board, it was revealed that the emission of smoke was found more in the light illuminating fire crackers. Levels of SO2 (Sulphur dioxide) and RSPM (respirable suspended particulate matter) was found marginally higher on Diwali day. Crackers, which use large quantities of sulphur and paper, spew out sulphur dioxide and charcoal into the air. Considering these facts, bursting of crackers is prohibited in silent zones i.e. near hospitals, schools and courts.
Tuesday 2 October 2007
Official name Arabic: عيد الفطر ‘Īdu l-Fiṭr
Also called Feast of the Breaking of the Fast.
Hari Raya, Aidil Fitri (Malaysia,
Singapore and Brunei),
Idul Fitri, Lebaran (Indonesia),
রোজার ঈদ Rojar Id (Bangladesh),
Şeker Bayramı or Ramazan Bayramı (Turkey),
Ramazanski Bajram (Bosnia and Herzegovina),
Oraza Ait (Kazakhstan),
Suikerfeest (The Netherlands),
Aïd el-Fitr or Fête du Sucre (France),
Шекер байрям Sheker Bayram (Bulgaria)
العيد الصغيرة el-'īd eṣ-Ṣġīra (Libya)
Observed by Muslims
Significance Marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting
Date 1 Shawwal
2006 date October 21/October 25
2007 date October 13/October 13
2008 date October 1
Celebrations Eating with Family and Friends, Gift-Giving, Praying
Related to Eid ul-Adha, the other Islamic festival, which occurs approximately seventy days later
Eid ul-Fitr or Id-Ul-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر ‘Īdu l-Fiṭr), often abbreviated as simply Eid, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Fiṭr means "to break the fast" and therefore symbolizes the breaking of the fasting period. On the day of the celebration, a typical Muslim family is awake very early and then after praying the first normal everyday prayer, is required to eat in a small quantity, symbolizing the end of Ramadan. They then attend special congregational prayers held only for this occasion in mosques, in large open areas, stadiums or arenas. The prayer is generally short, and is followed by a sermon (khuṭba). Worshippers greet and embrace each other in a spirit of peace and love after the congregational prayer. After the special prayers, festivities and merriment are commonly observed with visits to the homes of relatives and friends to thank God for all blessings.
For Muslims, Eid ul-Fitr is a joyous occasion with important religious significance, celebrating of the achievement of enhanced piety. It is a day of forgiveness, moral victory, peace of congregation, fellowship, brotherhood and unity. Muslims celebrate not only the end of fasting, but also thank God for the help and strength that they believe HE gave them throughout the previous month to help them practice self-control. It is a time of giving and sharing, and many Muslims dress in holiday attire.
The first Eid was celebrated in 624 CE by The Prophet Muhammad with his companions and relatives after winning the Battle of Badr. This very occasion is celebrated annually in the lunar calendar as Eid Ul Fitr.
Because the day depends on the sighting of the moon, the sighting can only be possible just after sunset. Most Muslims check with local mosques or other members of the community to see if the moon has been sighted by authoritative parties. In Malaysia, they use both sighting of the moon and astronomical calculation to verify the date. But the calculation is only used to verify the sighting of the moon (i.e. the exact time of the visibility of the moon). For this reason there may be regional differences in the exact date of Eid, with some Muslims fasting for 29 days and some for 30 days.
Eid ul-Fitr commemorates the end of the month of Ramadan. Fasting is forbidden on this day as it marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan. A Muslim is encouraged to rise early and partake of a light snack such as dates before then attending morning prayers with family members in the local community mosque.
Traditions and practices
Common greetings during this holiday are the Arabic greeting ‘Īd mubārak ("Blessed Eid") or ‘Īd sa‘īd ("Happy Eid"). In addition, many countries have their own greetings based on local language and traditions.
Muslims are encouraged to dress in their best clothes (new if possible) and to attend a special Eid prayer that is performed in congregation at mosques or open areas like fields, squares etc. When Muslims finish their fast at the last day (29th or 30th Ramadan), they recite Takbir (Arabic audio clip with English meaning).
Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar الله أكبر الله أكبر الله أكبر
la ilaha illa Allah لا إله إلا الله
Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar الله أكبر الله أكبر
wa li-illahi al-hamd ولله الحمد
God is the Greatest, God is the Greatest, God is the Greatest
There is no deity but God
God is the Greatest, God is the Greatest
and to God goes all praise
The Takbir is recited after confirmation that the moon of Shawwal is sighted on the eve of the last day of Ramadan. It continues until the start of the Eid prayer. Before the Eid prayer begins every Muslim (man, woman or child) must pay Zakat al Fitr, an alms for the month of Ramadan. This equates to about 2 kg of a basic foodstuff (wheat, barley, dates, raisins, etc.), or its cash equivalent, and is typically collected at the mosque. This is distributed to needy local Muslims prior to the start of the Eid prayer. It can be given at any time during the month of Ramadan and is often given early, so the recipient can utilise it for Eid purchases. This is distinct from Zakat based on wealth, which must be paid to a worthy charity.
The Eid prayer (salah) is followed by the khutba (sermon) and then a prayer (dua') asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for the plight of Muslims across the world. It is then customary to embrace the persons sitting on either side of oneself as well as ones relatives, friends and acquaintances.
Muslims spend the day thanking the Creator for all their blessings, as well as simply having fun and enjoying themselves. Children are normally given gifts or money. Women (particularly relations) are normally given special gifts by their loved ones. Eid is also the time for reconciliations. Feuds or disputes, especially between family members, are often settled on Eid.
Eid ul-Fitr in United Kingdom
There is a Bayarn (speech) in which the Imam gives advice to the Muslim community and usually Muslims are encouraged to end any past animosities they may have. He then goes on to the khutbah and then the prayer itself. When the local imam declares Eid ul-Fitr everyone greets and hugs each other.
As Eid ul-Fitr is not a recognised public holiday in the United Kingdom, Muslims are obliged to attend the morning prayer, in a large ethnically Muslim area, normally schools and local businesses give exemptions to the Muslim community to take 1 day off. In the rest of the UK it is not recognised as it is not on a fixed date, however this has lead the Muslim community leaders and or organisations to come to a consolidation with the authorities.
In some areas, notably the East End of London, it has become common for (mostly young)people to drive around the streets blaring car horns as part of the Eid ul-Fitr celebrations.
Eid ul-Fitr in North America
North American Muslims typically celebrate the day in a quiet way. Because the day depends on the sighting of the moon, often families are not aware that the next day will be Eid until the night before. Most check with members of the community to see if the moon has been sighted by anyone. Different methods for determining the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal are used in each particular community. Because the day is determined by the natural phenomenon of sighting the crescent moon, North Americans on the eastern coast of the continent may celebrate Eid on a different day than those on the western coast.
The crescent moon can be sighted directly, or the sighting can be determined based on scientific calculations. Typically, the end of Ramadan is announced via e-mail, postings on websites, or chain phone calls to all members of a Muslim community. Working persons usually attempt to make arrangements for a lighter work day on the days that may possibly be the Eid day, but many North American Muslims are often noted to not be able to take the entire day off.
Typically, a Muslim family in the West will wake up very early in the morning and have a small breakfast. Everyone is encouraged to dress in new and formal clothing. Many families wear traditional clothing from their respective home countries. Next the family will go to the nearest congregational prayer group to pray. The prayer may be held at the local mosque, a hotel ballroom, local arena or stadium. The Eid prayer is very important, and Muslims are encouraged to pray in a large gathering because of the rewards. After the prayer there is a Khutba (speech) in which the Imam gives some sort of advice to the Muslim community and usually Muslims are encouraged to end any past animosities they may have. After the prayer and Khutba people hug and wish each other a Happy Eid.
After the Eid prayer many people call friends and family from all over the world wishing them a Happy Eid or Eid Mubarak. The rest of Eid is spent with close family and friends. Depending on their community some Muslims have open-house parties during the day in which people exchange gifts, and wish family friends a blessed Eid. Because North American Muslims come from all parts of the world, one particular type of food cannot be identified as served on this day. Many Muslim North American families visit the homes of others to congregate on a day of celebration. Since many North American Muslims are immigrants, traditions described below may be celebrated by immigrants of these countries in their respective homes in North America.
Eid ul-Fitr in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei
In Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Eid is also commonly known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa. Hari Raya literally means Grand Day i.e. The Day. Muslims in Malaysia and Singapore celebrate Eid like other Muslims throughout the world. It is the biggest holiday in Malaysia, and is the most awaited one. Shopping malls and bazaars are filled with people days ahead of Hari Raya, causing a distinctive festive atmosphere throughout the country. Many banks, government and private offices are closed for this holiday, which usually lasts a week.
The night before Eid is with the takbir which is held in the mosques or musallas. In many parts of Malaysia, especially in rural areas, oil lamps or pelita/panjut are lit up in house compounds. Eid also witnesses a huge migratory pattern of Muslims, from big metropolitan cities to rural areas. This is known as balik kampung — literally going back to home town to celebrate Eid with ones parents. Special dishes like ketupat, dodol, lemang (a type of glutinous rice cake cooked in bamboo), and other Malay delicacies are served during this day.
It is common to greet people with "Selamat Hari Raya" or "Salam Aidilfitri" which means "Happy Eid". Muslims also greet one another with "maaf zahir dan batin" which means "Forgive my physical and emotional (wrongdoings)", due to the fact that Eid ul-Fitr is not only for celebrations, but also the time for Muslims to cleanse their sins and strengthen their ties with relatives and friends.
It is customary for Malays to wear traditional Malay costumes on the Eid. The dress for men is called baju melayu which is worn together with songket while the women's are known as baju kurung and baju kebaya. It is also common to see non-Malay Muslims wear costumes of their culture.
Once the prayer is completed, it is also common for Muslims in Malaysia to visit the graves of loved ones. During this visit, they clean the grave, recite Ya-Seen, a chapter (surah) from the Qur'an and also perform the tahlil ceremony. All these are done to ask for God to forgive the dead and also those who are living.
The rest of the day is spent visiting relatives or serving visitors. Eid ul-Fitr is a very joyous day for children for on this day adults are especially generous. Children will be given token sums of money, also known as "duit raya" from their parents or elders.
Eid ul-Fitr in Indonesia
In Indonesia the feast is named Hari Raya Idul Fitri or informally, Lebaran. Hari Raya literally means The Great Day of (Celebration) . Sometimes, there are different statements on when the day falls, especially between Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, because people use different techniques to determine it. Almost all of the people follow the government of Indonesia's statement and such differences do not get in the way of people celebrating. This event is recognized as a national holiday, starts a few days before Eid ul-Fitr, and lasts until days after it. Schools also have different schedules for the holiday as many Islamic schools usually make it a longer holiday.
Muslims in Indonesia usually ask forgiveness from their relatives and friends after the special prayer. Another interesting Eid ul-Fitr tradition in Indonesia is mudik that usually applies to urbanites who came to Jakarta from the other provinces of Java or other islands in Indonesia. Before Eid ul-Fitr comes, people will go back to their hometowns where their relatives, sometimes including their parents, reside. This event often causes crowding in airports, seaports, and bus stations while some who are traveling by car are trapped in the traffic jam for hours. For little children, asking for money as well as forgiveness from relatives is common to motivate them. Many, especially in the cities, also use the term angpau for the money just like Chinese people do.
It is common to greet people with "Selamat Hari Raya" (Indonesian) or "Salam Aidilfitri" (Malay) which means "Happy Eid". Muslims also greet one another with "Mohon maaf lahir dan batin" which means "Forgive my physical and emotional (wrongdoings)", due to the fact that Eid ul-Fitr is not only for celebrations, but also the time for Muslims to cleanse their sins and strengthen their silaturrahim with relatives and friends. The term "fitr" in Eid ul Fitr, coincides with the word "fitrah" of the Indonesian language which means the purity of birth, just as babies are pure when they were born. Many Indonesian muslims acknowledge that on the day of Eid when they forgive each other, their sins with each other are cleansed and they are without sin just as they were at birth. Another term in addition to "Mohon maaf lahir dan batin" mentioned earlier, is "minal aidzin wal faidzin" (alternate spelling, minal aizin wal faizin) . The origin of this phrase is suspectedly Arabic and has loosed meaning of "may you be part of the people who return to purity and part of the people who are granted glory". The latter phrase is usually used in conjunction of the former; thusly, "Minal aidzin wal faidzin, mohon maaf lahir dan batin."
At the night of the last day of Ramadan, Indonesians usually do 'Takbiran'. Takbiran is a big celebration where people, from little children to old men, recite the takbir with a microphone in a parade. They travel around the town and usually they hit 'bedug', a large drum, as a background music of the takbir.
Eid ul-Fitr in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka)
At the end of the Holy month of Ramadan, in which the Muslims are asked to observe fasting from dawn to dusk and do extra prayers and observe religious values rigidly, the Muslims celebrate the sighting of the new moon (start of the new Muslim month). In Bangladesh,India and Pakistan, the night before Eid is called Chand Raat, or night of the moon. People visits bazaars and shopping malls, with their families and children, for last momemts Eid shopping. Women, especially young girls, often paint each others' hands with traditional "henna" and wear colourful bangles.
The popular way of greeting in Bangladesh, India & Pakistan during celebration of this festival is to say Eid Mubarak to others.Children are encouraged to meet and greet the elders. In exchange of this they also expect to obtain some cash money, called Eidi, from the elders.
On the morning of Eid ul-Fitr, after taking a fresh bath, every Muslim is encouraged to wear new clothes, if they can afford so. Alternatively, they may wear clean washed clothes.Men and boys go to mosque or open fields called Eidgah for special Eid prayers, thanking God for enabling a Muslim to observe the holy month meaningfully. The Muslims are ordained to pay Zakat al-Fitr (special charity money) or fitra to the poor and needy before the Eid prayer, so that they can also join others to celebrate the Eid.
After the prayers, the congregation is dispersed and the Muslims meet and greet each other including family members, children, elders, friends and neighbours.
Some Muslims especially go to graveyards to pray for the salvation of the departed soul. Usually, children visit elder relatives and neighbours to pay respects and greetings.
One of the special dishes in India, Pakistan and Fiji is sivayyan, a dish of fine, toasted vermicelli noodles. In Bangladesh, sivayyan is called shemai, and is an integral item of Eid dishes.
After meeting the friends and relatives, many people go for attending parties, feasts, special carnivals and festivities in the parks (with picnics, fireworks, etc.). In Bangladesh and Pakistan, many bazaars, malls, and restaurants witness huge crowd & high attendance during this principal muslim festival.
Some people also avail this opportunity to distribute Zakat, the obligatory tax on ones wealth, to the needy.
In this way, the Muslims of South Asia celebrate their Eid ul-Fitr in festive mood by thanking the Almighty and bringing their families, friends and the poor and needy people closer in a praiseworthy eagalitarian manner.
Eid ul-Fitr in Iran
In the predominantly Shia culture of Iran, Eid is a highly personal event, and celebrations are often more muted. Called Eyde Fetr by most Iranians, charity is important on that day. Typically, each Muslim family gives food to those in need. Often meat or ghorbani (literally translated as sacrifice, for it is usually a young lamb or calf that is sacrificed for the occasion), which is an expensive food item in Iran, will be given by those in wealthier families to those who have less. Payment of fitra or fetriye is obligatory for each Muslim.
Eid ul-Fitr in Turkey
In Turkey, where Ramzan is infused with more national traditions (and where country-wide celebrations, religious and secular alike, are altogether referred to as Bayram), it is customary for people to greet one another with "Bayramınız Mübarek Olsun" (same as "Eid mubarak"), "Bayramınız Kutlu Olsun" (kutlu is calque for mubarak). It is a time for people to attend services, put on their best clothes (referred to as "Bayramlik", often purchased just for the occasion) and to visit all their loved ones (such as friends, relatives and neighbors) and pay their respects to the deceased with organized visits to cemeteries, where large, temporary bazaars of flowers, water (for watering the plants adorning a grave), and prayer books are set up for the three-day occasion. Municipalities all around the country organize public shows such as concerts or more traditional forms of entertainment such as the Karagöz and Hacivat shadow-theatre or performences by the Mehter, the Janissary Band that was founded during the days of the Ottoman Empire as well as fundraising events for the poor. It is regarded as especially important to honor elderly citizens by kissing their right hand and placing it on one's forehead while wishing them Bayram greetings. It is also customary for children to go around the neighborhood, door to door, and wish everyone a happy "Bayram", for which they are awarded candy, chocolates, traditional sweets such as Baklava and Lokum, or a small amount of money at every door, almost in a Halloween-like fashion. Helping the poor, ending past animosities and making up, organizing breakfasts and dinners for loved ones and putting together neighborhood celebrations are all part of the joyous occasion, where streets are generally decorated and lit up for the celebrations, and television and radio channels broadcast special Bayram programs.
Eid ul-Fitr in the Philippines
Ramadan, as it is colloquially known to the majority Christian population, has been declared as a regular holiday for the entire nation by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This is meant to give more importance to the Muslim minority population of the nation, with Tuesday, October 24, 2006 being the date this came into effect. This is called in Tagalog as Wakas ng Ramadan (lit. End of Ramadan).
Eid ul-Fitr in the Gregorian Calendar
While Eid ul-Fitr is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, much like Easter, due to differences between the two calendars, since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. Furthermore, the method used to determine when each Islamic month begins varies from country to country.
These future dates are only estimates:
• 2007: 13 October
• 2008: 2 October
• 2009: 21 September
• 2010: 10 September
• 2011: 31 August
Eid ul-Fitr officially begins the night before each of the above dates, at sunset.
"Hari Raya Puasa". Retrieved Nov. 2, 2005.
^ Yusof, Mimi Syed & Hafeez, Shahrul (Oct. 30, 2005). "When Raya was a bewildering experience". New Straits Times, p. 8.
^ "(20061021) semoga kita minal 'aidin wal faizin. Amin!".Retrieved October 31, 2006
^ Food Events - Eid Celebrations. BBC Food Online. Accessed 2 November, 2005.
Eid ul-Fitr is spelled in a variety of ways in English, due to variation in Arabic pronunciation as well as influence from other languages. The spelling used in this article is commonly found in English texts, and reflects the Arabic pronunciation of Fitr فطر (Arabic: fiṭr, Persian: fetr) and the Arabic pronunciation of Eid عيد (Persian: eyd, Arabic: ‘īd).
Saturday 22 September 2007
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi-- India's "Father of the Nation"
(October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948 (aged 78)
Alternate name: Mahatma Gandhi
Date of birth: October 2, 1869
Place of birth: Porbandar, Gujarat, British India
Date of death: January 30, 1948 (aged 78)
Place of death: New Delhi, India
Movement: Indian independence movement
Major organizations: Indian National Congress
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Gujarati: મોહનદાસ કરમચંદ ગાંધી, IAST: mohandās karamcand gāndhī, IPA: [mohən̪d̪as kərəmtʃən̪d̪ gan̪d̪ʱi]) (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948) was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of Satyagraha—the resistance of tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon ahimsa or total non-violence—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is commonly known in India and across the world as Mahatma Gandhi (Sanskrit: महात्मा mahātmā – "Great Soul") and as Bapu (Gujarati: બાપુ bāpu – "Father"). In India, he is officially accorded the honour of Father of the Nation and October 2nd, his birthday, is commemorated each year as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday. On 15 June 2007, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution declaring October 2 to be the "International Day of Non-Violence."
As a British-educated lawyer, Gandhi first employed his ideas of peaceful civil disobedience in the Indian community's struggle for civil rights in South Africa. Upon his return to India, he organized poor farmers and labourers to protest against oppressive taxation and widespread discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for the alleviation of poverty, for the liberation of women, for brotherhood amongst differing religions and ethnicities, for an end to untouchability and caste discrimination, and for the economic self-sufficiency of the nation, but above all for Swaraj—the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi famously led Indians in the disobedience of the salt tax on the 400 kilometre (248 miles) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and in an open call for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years on numerous occasions in both South Africa and India.
Throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to non-violence and truth even in the most extreme situations. A student of Hindu philosophy, he lived simply, organizing an ashram that was self-sufficient in its needs. Making his own clothes—the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl woven with a charkha—he lived on a simple vegetarian diet. He used rigorous fasts, for long periods, for both self-purification and protest.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born into the Hindu Modh family in Porbandar, in 1869. He was the son of Karamchand Gandhi, the diwan (Prime Minister) of Porbandar, and Putlibai, Karamchand's fourth wife, a Hindu of the Pranami Vaishnava order. Karamchand's first two wives, who each bore him a daughter, died from unknown reasons (rumored to be in childbirth). Living with a devout mother and surrounded by the Jain influences of Gujarat, Gandhi learned from an early age the tenets of non-injury to living beings, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance between members of various creeds and sects. He was born into the vaishya, or business, caste.
In May 1883, at the age of 13, Gandhi was married through his parents' arrangements to Kasturba Makhanji (also spelled "Kasturbai" or known as "Ba"). They had four sons: Harilal Gandhi, born in 1888; Manilal Gandhi, born in 1892; Ramdas Gandhi, born in 1897; and Devdas Gandhi, born in 1900. Gandhi was a mediocre student in his youth at Porbandar and later Rajkot. He barely passed the matriculation exam for Samaldas College at Bhavanagar, Gujarat. He was also unhappy at the college, because his family wanted him to become a barrister.
At the age of 18 on September 4, 1888, Gandhi went to University College London to train as a barrister. His time in London, the Imperial capital, was influenced by a vow he had made to his mother in the presence of the Jain monk Becharji, upon leaving India, to observe the Hindu precepts of abstinence from meat, alcohol, and promiscuity. Although Gandhi experimented with adopting "English" customs—taking dancing lessons for example—he could not stomach his landlady's mutton and cabbage. She pointed him towards one of London's few vegetarian restaurants. Rather than simply go along with his mother's wishes, he read about, and intellectually embraced vegetarianism. He joined the Vegetarian Society, was elected to its executive committee, and founded a local chapter. He later credited this with giving him valuable experience in organizing institutions. Some of the vegetarians he met were members of the Theosophical Society, which had been founded in 1875 to further universal brotherhood, and which was devoted to the study of Buddhist and Hindu Brahmanistic literature. They encouraged Gandhi to read the Bhagavad Gita. Not having shown a particular interest in religion before, he read works of and about Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and other religions. He returned to India after being called to the bar of England and Wales by Inner Temple, but had limited success establishing a law practice in Bombay. Later, after applying and being turned down for a part-time job as a high school teacher, he ended up returning to Rajkot to make a modest living drafting petitions for litigants, but was forced to close down that business as well when he ran afoul of a British officer. In his autobiography, he describes this incident as a kind of unsuccessful lobbying attempt on behalf of his older brother. It was in this climate that (in 1893) he accepted a year-long contract from an Indian firm to a post in Natal, South Africa.
When back in London in 1895, he happened to meet Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, the Radical-turned-ultra-Tory, whose son Neville became Prime Minister in the 1930s and helped suppress Gandhi. Chamberlain Snr. agreed that the treatment of Indians was barbaric but appeared unwilling to push through any legislation about this however.
Civil rights movement in South Africa (1893–1914)
South Africa changed Gandhi dramatically, as he faced the discrimination commonly directed at blacks and Indians. One day in court at Durban, the magistrate asked him to remove his turban. Gandhi refused and stormed out of the courtroom. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg, after refusing to move from the first class to a third class coach while holding a valid first class ticket. Traveling further on by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to travel on the foot board to make room for a European passenger. He suffered other hardships on the journey as well, including being barred from many hotels. These incidents have been acknowledged by several biographers as a turning point in his life, explaining his later social activism. It was through witnessing firsthand the racism, prejudice and injustice against Indians in South Africa that Gandhi started to question his people's status, and his own place in society.
Gandhi extended his original period of stay in South Africa to assist Indians in opposing a bill to deny them the right to vote. Though unable to halt the bill's passage, his campaign was successful in drawing attention to the grievances of Indians in South Africa. He founded the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, and through this organization, he molded the Indian community of South Africa into a homogeneous political force. In January 1897, when Gandhi returned from a brief trip to India, a white mob attacked and tried to lynch him. In an early indication of the personal values that would shape his later campaigns, he refused to press charges against any member of the mob, stating it was one of his principles not to seek redress for a personal wrong in a court of law.
At the onset of the South African War, Gandhi argued that Indians must support the war effort in order to legitimize their claims to full citizenship, organizing a volunteer ambulance corps of 300 free Indians and 800 indentured labourers called the Indian Ambulance Corps, one of the few medical units to serve wounded black South Africans. In 1906, the Transvaal government promulgated a new Act compelling registration of the colony's Indian population. At a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg on September 11th that year, Gandhi adopted his still evolving methodology of satyagraha (devotion to the truth), or non-violent protest, for the first time, calling on his fellow Indians to defy the new law and suffer the punishments for doing so, rather than resist through violent means. This plan was adopted, leading to a seven-year struggle in which thousands of Indians were jailed (including Gandhi), flogged, or even shot, for striking, refusing to register, burning their registration cards, or engaging in other forms of non-violent resistance. While the government was successful in repressing the Indian protesters, the public outcry stemming from the harsh methods employed by the South African government in the face of peaceful Indian protesters finally forced South African General Jan Christiaan Smuts to negotiate a compromise with Gandhi. Gandhi's ideas took shape and the concept of Satyagraha matured during this struggle.
Struggle for Indian Independence (1916–1945)
He spoke at the conventions of the Indian National Congress, but was primarily introduced to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a respected leader of the Congress Party at the time.
Champaran and Kheda
Gandhi's first major achievements came in 1918 with the Champaran agitation and Kheda Satyagraha, although in the latter it was indigo and other cash crops instead of the food crops necessary for their survival. Suppressed by the militias of the landlords (mostly British), they were given measly compensation, leaving them mired in extreme poverty. The villages were kept extremely dirty and unhygienic; and alcoholism, untouchability and purdah were rampant. Now in the throes of a devastating famine, the British levied an oppressive tax which they insisted on increasing. The situation was desperate. In Kheda in Gujarat, the problem was the same. Gandhi established an ashram there, organizing scores of his veteran supporters and fresh volunteers from the region. He organized a detailed study and survey of the villages, accounting for the atrocities and terrible episodes of suffering, including the general state of degenerate living. Building on the confidence of villagers, he began leading the clean-up of villages, building of schools and hospitals and encouraging the village leadership to undo and condemn many social evils, as accounted above.
But his main impact came when he was arrested by police on the charge of creating unrest and was ordered to leave the province. Hundreds of thousands of people protested and rallied outside the jail, police stations and courts demanding his release, which the court reluctantly granted. Gandhi led organized protests and strikes against the landlords, who with the guidance of the British government, signed an agreement granting the poor farmers of the region more compensation and control over farming, and cancellation of revenue hikes and its collection until the famine ended. It was during this agitation, that Gandhi was addressed by the people as Bapu (Father) and Mahatma (Great Soul). In Kheda, Sardar Patel represented the farmers in negotiations with the British, who suspended revenue collection and released all the prisoners. As a result, Gandhi's fame spread all over the nation.
Non-cooperation and peaceful resistance were Gandhi's "weapons" in the fight against injustice. In Punjab, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of civilians by British troops caused deep trauma to the nation, leading to increased public anger and acts of violence. Gandhi criticized both the actions of the British Raj and the retaliatory violence of Indians. He authored the resolution offering condolences to British civilian victims and condemning the riots, which after initial opposition in the party, was accepted following Gandhi's emotional speech advocating his principle that all violence was evil and could not be justified. But it was after the massacre and subsequent violence that Gandhi's mind focused upon obtaining complete self-government and control of all Indian government institutions, maturing soon into Swaraj or complete individual, spiritual, political independence.
In December 1921, Gandhi was invested with executive authority on behalf of the Indian National Congress. Under his leadership, the Congress was reorganized with a new constitution, with the goal of Swaraj. Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token fee. A hierarchy of committees was set up to improve discipline, transforming the party from an elite organization to one of mass national appeal. Gandhi expanded his non-violence platform to include the swadeshi policy – the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. Linked to this was his advocacy that khadi (homespun cloth) be worn by all Indians instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi exhorted Indian men and women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement. This was a strategy to inculcate discipline and dedication to weed out the unwilling and ambitious, and to include women in the movement at a time when many thought that such activities were not respectable activities for women. In addition to boycotting British products, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British educational institutions and law courts, to resign from government employment, and to forsake British titles and honours.
"Non-cooperation" enjoyed wide-spread appeal and success, increasing excitement and participation from all strata of Indian society. Yet, just as the movement reached its apex, it ended abruptly as a result of a violent clash in the town of Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, in February 1922. Fearing that the movement was about to take a turn towards violence, and convinced that this would be the undoing of all his work, Gandhi called off the campaign of mass civil disobedience. Gandhi was arrested on March 10, 1922, tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years imprisonment. Beginning on March 18, 1922, he only served about two years of the sentence, being released in February 1924 after an operation for appendicitis.
Without Gandhi's uniting personality, the Indian National Congress began to splinter during his years in prison, splitting into two factions, one led by Chitta Ranjan Das and Motilal Nehru favouring party participation in the legislatures, and the other led by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, opposing this move. Furthermore, cooperation among Hindus and Muslims, which had been strong at the height of the non-violence campaign, was breaking down. Gandhi attempted to bridge these differences through many means, including a three-week fast in the autumn of 1924, but with limited success.
Swaraj and the Salt Satyagraha
Gandhi stayed out of the limelight for most of the 1920s, preferring to resolve the wedge between the Swaraj Party and the Indian National Congress, and expanding initiatives against untouchability, alcoholism, ignorance and poverty. He returned to the fore in 1928. The year before, the British government had appointed a new constitutional reform commission under Sir John Simon, with not a single Indian in its ranks. The result was a boycott of the commission by Indian political parties. Gandhi pushed through a resolution at the Calcutta Congress in December 1928 calling on the British government to grant India dominion status or face a new campaign of non-violence with complete independence for the country as its goal. Gandhi had not only moderated the views of younger men like Subhas Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru, who sought a demand for immediate independence, but also modified his own call to a one year wait, instead of two. The British did not respond. On December 31, 1929, the flag of India was unfurled in Lahore. January 26, 1930 was celebrated by the Indian National Congress, meeting in Lahore, as India's Independence Day. This day was commemorated by almost every other Indian organization. Making good on his word, he launched a new satyagraha against the tax on salt in March 1930, highlighted by the famous Salt March to Dandi from March 12 to April 6, marching 400 kilometres (248 miles) from Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat to make salt himself. Thousands of Indians joined him on this march to the sea. This campaign was one of his most successful at upsetting British rule; Britain responded by imprisoning over 60,000 people.
The government, represented by Lord Edward Irwin, decided to negotiate with Gandhi. The Gandhi–Irwin Pact was signed in March 1931. The British Government agreed to set all political prisoners free in return for the suspension of the civil disobedience movement. Furthermore, Gandhi was invited to attend the Round Table Conference in London as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress. The conference was a disappointment to Gandhi and the nationalists, as it focused on the Indian princes and Indian minorities rather than the transfer of power. Furthermore, Lord Irwin's successor, Lord Willingdon, embarked on a new campaign of repression against the nationalists. Gandhi was again arrested, and the government attempted to destroy his influence by completely isolating him from his followers. This tactic was not successful. In 1932, through the campaigning of the Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar, the government granted untouchables separate electorates under the new constitution. In protest, Gandhi embarked on a six-day fast in September 1932, successfully forcing the government to adopt a more equitable arrangement via negotiations mediated by the Dalit cricketer turned political leader Palwankar Baloo. This was the start of a new campaign by Gandhi to improve the lives of the untouchables, whom he named Harijans, the children of God. On May 8, 1933 Gandhi began a 21-day fast of self-purification to help the Harijan movement.]
In the summer of 1934, three unsuccessful attempts were made on his life.
When the Congress Party chose to contest elections and accept power under the Federation scheme, Gandhi decided to resign from party membership. He did not disagree with the party's move, but felt that if he resigned, his popularity with Indians would cease to stifle the party's membership, that actually varied from communists, socialists, trade unionists, students, religious conservatives, to those with pro-business convictions. Gandhi also did not want to prove a target for Raj propaganda by leading a party that had temporarily accepted political accommodation with the Raj.
Gandhi returned to the head in 1936, with the Nehru presidency and the Lucknow session of the Congress. Although Gandhi desired a total focus on the task of winning independence and not speculation about India's future, he did not restrain the Congress from adopting socialism as its goal. Gandhi had a clash with Subhas Bose, who had been elected to the presidency in 1938. Gandhi's main points of contention with Bose were his lack of commitment to democracy, and lack of faith in non-violence. Bose won his second term despite Gandhi's criticism, but left the Congress when the All-India leaders resigned en masse in protest against his abandonment of the principles introduced by Gandhi.
World War II and Quit India
World War II broke out in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Initially, Gandhi had favored offering "non-violent moral support" to the British effort, but other Congressional leaders were offended by the unilateral inclusion of India into the war, without consultation of the people's representatives. All Congressmen elected to resign from office en masse. After lengthy deliberations, Gandhi declared that India could not be party to a war ostensibly being fought for democratic freedom, while that freedom was denied to India itself. As the war progressed, Gandhi intensified his demand for independence, drafting a resolution calling for the British to Quit India. This was Gandhi's and the Congress Party's most definitive revolt aimed at securing the British exit from Indian shores.
Gandhi was criticized by some Congress party members and other Indian political groups, both pro-British and anti-British. Some felt that opposing Britain in its life or death struggle was immoral, and others felt that Gandhi wasn't doing enough. Quit India became the most forceful movement in the history of the struggle, with mass arrests and violence on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of freedom fighters were killed or injured by police gunfire, and hundreds of thousands were arrested. Gandhi and his supporters made it clear they would not support the war effort unless India were granted immediate independence. He even clarified that this time the movement would not be stopped if individual acts of violence were committed, saying that the "ordered anarchy" around him was "worse than real anarchy." He called on all Congressmen and Indians to maintain discipline via ahimsa, and Karo Ya Maro ("Do or Die") in the cause of ultimate freedom.
Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee were arrested in Bombay by the British on August 9, 1942. Gandhi was held for two years in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. It was here that Gandhi suffered two terrible blows in his personal life. His 42-year old secretary Mahadev Desai died of a heart attack 6 days later and his wife Kasturba died after 18 months imprisonment in February 1944; six weeks later Gandhi suffered a severe malaria attack. He was released before the end of the war on May 6, 1944 because of his failing health and necessary surgery; the Raj did not want him to die in prison and enrage the nation. Although the Quit India movement had moderate success in its objective, the ruthless suppression of the movement brought order to India by the end of 1943. At the end of the war, the British gave clear indications that power would be transferred to Indian hands. At this point Gandhi called off the struggle, and around 100,000 political prisoners were released, including the Congress's leadership.
Freedom and partition of India
Gandhi advised the Congress to reject the proposals the British Cabinet Mission offered in 1946, as he was deeply suspicious of the grouping proposed for Muslim-majority states—Gandhi viewed this as a precursor to partition. However, this became one of the few times the Congress broke from Gandhi's advice (though not his leadership), as Nehru and Patel knew that if the Congress did not approve the plan, the control of government would pass to the Muslim League. Between 1946 and 1948 , over 5,000 people were killed in violence. Gandhi was vehemently opposed to any plan that partitioned India into two separate countries. An overwhelming majority of Muslims living in India, side by side with Hindus and Sikhs, were in favour of Partition. Additionally Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, commanded widespread support in West Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and East Bengal. The partition plan was approved by the Congress leadership as the only way to prevent a wide-scale Hindu–Muslim civil war. Congress leaders knew that Gandhi would viscerally oppose partition, and it was impossible for the Congress to go ahead without his agreement, for Gandhi's support in the party and throughout India was strong. Gandhi's closest colleagues had accepted partition as the best way out, and Sardar Patel endeavoured to convince Gandhi that it was the only way to avoid civil war. A devastated Gandhi gave his assent.
On the day of the transfer of power, Gandhi did not celebrate independence with the rest of India, but was alone in Calcutta, mourning the partition and working to end the violence. After India's independence, Gandhi focused on Hindu–Muslim peace and unity. He conducted extensive dialogue with Muslim and Hindu community leaders, working to cool passions in northern India, as well as in Bengal. Despite the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, he was troubled when the Government decided to deny Pakistan the Rs. 55 crores due as per agreements made by the Partition Council. Leaders like Sardar Patel feared that Pakistan would use the money to bankroll the war against India. Gandhi was also devastated when demands resurged for all Muslims to be deported to Pakistan, and when Muslim and Hindu leaders expressed frustration and an inability to come to terms with one another. He launched his last fast-unto-death in Delhi, asking that all communal violence be ended once and for all, and that the payment of Rs. 55 crores be made to Pakistan. Gandhi feared that instability and insecurity in Pakistan would increase their anger against India, and violence would spread across the borders. He further feared that Hindus and Muslims would renew their enmity and precipitate into an open civil war. After emotional debates with his life-long colleagues, Gandhi refused to budge, and the Government rescinded its policy and made the payment to Pakistan. Hindu, Muslim and Sikh community leaders, including the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Mahasabha assured him that they would renounce violence and call for peace. Gandhi thus broke his fast by sipping orange juice.
On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was shot and killed while having his nightly public walk on the grounds of the Birla Bhavan (Birla House) in New Delhi. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, was a Hindu radical with links to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, who held Gandhi responsible for weakening India by insisting upon a payment to Pakistan. Godse and his co-conspirator Narayan Apte were later tried and convicted; they were executed on 15 November 1949. Gandhi's memorial (or Samādhi) at Rāj Ghāt, New Delhi, bears the epigraph "Hē Ram", (Devanagari: हे ! राम or, He Rām), which may be translated as "Oh God". These are widely believed to be Gandhi's last words after he was shot, though the veracity of this statement has been disputed. Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation through radio:
“ Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.”
According to his wish, the majority of Gandhi's ashes were immersed in some of the world's major rivers, such as The Nile, Volga, Thames, etc. A small portion was sent to Paramahansa Yogananda from Dr. V.M. Nawle, (a publisher and journalist from Pune (formerly Poona), India) encased in a brass & silver coffer. The ashes were then enshrined at the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine within a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus from China.
Gandhi dedicated his life to the wider purpose of discovering truth, or Satya. He tried to achieve this by learning from his own mistakes and conducting experiments on himself. He called his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth.
Gandhi stated that the most important battle to fight was overcoming his own demons, fears, and insecurities. Gandhi summarized his beliefs first when he said "God is Truth". He would later change this statement to "Truth is God". Thus, Satya (Truth) in Gandhi's philosophy is "God".
The concept of nonviolence (ahimsa) and nonresistance has a long history in Indian religious thought and has had many revivals in Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Jewish and Christian contexts. Gandhi explains his philosophy and way of life in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth. He was quoted as saying:
"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always."
"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?"
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
"There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for."
In applying these principles, Gandhi did not balk from taking them to their most logical extremes. In 1940, when invasion of the British Isles by Nazi Germany looked imminent, Gandhi offered the following advice to the British people (Non-Violence in Peace and War):["I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions.... If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them."
However, Gandhi was aware that this level of nonviolence required incredible faith and courage, which he realized not everyone possessed. He therefore advised that everyone need not keep to nonviolence, especially if it were used as a cover for cowardice:
"Gandhi guarded against attracting to his satyagraha movement those who feared to take up arms or felt themselves incapable of resistance. 'I do believe,' he wrote, 'that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.'"[
"At every meeting I repeated the warning that unless they felt that in non-violence they had come into possession of a force infinitely superior to the one they had and in the use of which they were adept, they should have nothing to do with non-violence and resume the arms they possessed before. It must never be said of the Khudai Khidmatgars that once so brave, they had become or been made cowards under Badshah Khan's influence. Their bravery consisted not in being good marksmen but in defying death and being ever ready to bare their breasts to the bullets."[
As a young child, Gandhi experimented with meat-eating. This was due partially to his inherent curiosity as well as his rather persuasive peer and friend Sheikh Mehtab. The idea of vegetarianism is deeply engrained in Hindu and Jain traditions in India, and, in his native land of Gujarat, most Hindus were vegetarian. The Gandhi family was no exception. Before leaving for his studies in London, Gandhi made a promise to his mother, Putlibai and his uncle, Becharji Swami that he would abstain from eating meat, taking alcohol, and engaging in promiscuity. He held fast to his promise and gained more than a diet: he gained a basis for his life-long philosophies. As Gandhi grew into adulthood, he became a strict vegetarian. He wrote the book The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism and several articles on the subject, some of which were published in the London Vegetarian Society's publication, The Vegetarian. Gandhi, himself, became inspired by many great minds during this period and befriended the chairman of the London Vegetarian Society, Dr. Josiah Oldfield.
Having also read and admired the work of Henry Stephens Salt, the young Mohandas met and often corresponded with the vegetarian campaigner. Gandhi spent much time advocating vegetarianism during and after his time in London. To Gandhi, a vegetarian diet would not only satisfy the requirements of the body, it would also serve an economic purpose as meat was, and still is, generally more expensive than grains, vegetables, and fruits. Also, many Indians of the time struggled with low income, thus vegetarianism was seen not only as a spiritual practice but also a practical one. He abstained from eating for long periods, using fasting as a form of political protest. He refused to eat until his death or his demands were met. It was noted in his autobiography that vegetarianism was the beginning of his deep commitment to Brahmacharya; without total control of the palate, his success in Bramacharya would likely falter.
When Gandhi was 16 his father became very ill. Being very devoted to his parents, he attended to his father at all times during his illness. However, one night, Gandhi's uncle came to relieve Gandhi for a while. He retired to his bedroom where carnal desires overcame him and he made love to his wife. Shortly afterward a servant came to report that Gandhi's father had just died. Gandhi felt tremendous guilt and never could forgive himself. He came to refer to this event as "double shame." The incident had significant influence in Gandhi becoming celibate at the age of 36, while still married.
This decision was deeply influenced by the philosophy of Brahmacharya—spiritual and practical purity—largely associated with celibacy and asceticism. Gandhi saw brahmacharya as a means of becoming close with God and as a primary foundation for self realization. In his autobiography he tells of his battle against lustful urges and fits of jealousy with his childhood bride, Kasturba. He felt it his personal obligation to remain celibate so that he could learn to love, rather than lust. For Gandhi, brahmacharya meant "control of the senses in thought, word and deed."
Gandhi earnestly believed that a person involved in social service should lead a simple life which he thought could lead to Brahmacharya. His simplicity began by renouncing the western lifestyle he was leading in South Africa. He called it "reducing himself to zero," which entailed giving up unnecessary expenditure, embracing a simple lifestyle and washing his own clothes. On one occasion he returned the gifts bestowed to him from the natals for his diligent service to the community.Gandhi spent one day of each week in silence. He believed that abstaining from speaking brought him inner peace. This influence was drawn from the Hindu principles of mauna (Sanskrit:मौनं – silence) and shanti (Sanskrit:शांति – peace). On such days he communicated with others by writing on paper. For three and a half years, from the age of 37, Gandhi refused to read newspapers, claiming that the tumultuous state of world affairs caused him more confusion than his own inner unrest.
After reading John Ruskin's Unto This Last, he decided to change his life style and create a commune called Phoenix Settlement.
Upon returning to India from South Africa, where he had enjoyed a successful legal practice, he gave up wearing Western-style clothing, which he associated with wealth and success. He dressed to be accepted by the poorest person in India, advocating the use of homespun cloth (khadi). Gandhi and his followers adopted the practice of weaving their own clothes from thread they themselves spun, and encouraged others to do so. While Indian workers were often idle due to unemployment, they had often bought their clothing from industrial manufacturers owned by British interests. It was Gandhi's view that if Indians made their own clothes, it would deal an economic blow to the British establishment in India. Consequently, the spinning wheel was later incorporated into the flag of the Indian National Congress. He subsequently wore a dhoti for the rest of his life to express the simplicity of his life.
Gandhi was born a Hindu and practised Hinduism all his life, deriving most of his principles from Hinduism. As a common Hindu, he believed all religions to be equal, and rejected all efforts to convert him to a different faith. He was an avid theologian and read extensively about all major religions. He had the following to say about Hinduism:
"Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being ... When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita."
Gandhi wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita in Gujarati. The Gujarati manuscript was translated into English by Mahadev Desai, who provided an additional introduction and commentary. It was published with a Foreword by Gandhi in 1946.
Gandhi believed that at the core of every religion was truth and love (compassion, nonviolence and the Golden Rule). He also questioned hypocrisy, malpractices and dogma in all religions and was a tireless social reformer. Some of his comments on various religions are:
"Thus if I could not accept Christianity either as a perfect, or the greatest religion, neither was I then convinced of Hinduism being such. Hindu defects were pressingly visible to me. If untouchability could be a part of Hinduism, it could but be a rotten part or an excrescence. I could not understand the raison d'etre of a multitude of sects and castes. What was the meaning of saying that the Vedas were the inspired Word of God? If they were inspired, why not also the Bible and the Koran? As Christian friends were endeavouring to convert me, so were Muslim friends. Abdullah Sheth had kept on inducing me to study Islam, and of course he had always something to say regarding its beauty." (source: his autobiography)
"As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious. There is no such thing as religion over-riding morality. Man, for instance, cannot be untruthful, cruel or incontinent and claim to have God on his side."
"The sayings of Muhammad are a treasure of wisdom, not only for Muslims but for all of mankind."
Later in his life when he was asked whether he was a Hindu, he replied:
"Yes I am. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew."
In spite of their deep reverence to each other, Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore engaged in protracted debates more than once. These debates exemplify the philosophical differences between the two most famous Indians at the time. On January 15, 1934, an earthquake hit Bihar and caused extensive damage and loss of life. Gandhi maintained this was because of the sin committed by upper caste Hindus by not letting untouchables in their temples (Gandhi was committed to the cause of improving the fate of untouchables, referring to them as Harijans, people of Krishna). Tagore vehemently opposed Gandhi's stance, maintaining that an earthquake can only be caused by natural forces, not moral reasons, however repugnant the practice of untouchability may be.
Gandhi was a prolific writer. For decades he edited several newspapers including Harijan in Gujarati, Hindi and English; Indian Opinion while in South Africa and, Young India, in English, and Navajivan, a Gujarati monthly, on his return to India. Later Navajivan was also published in Hindi. In addition, he wrote letters almost every day to individuals and newspapers.
Gandhi also wrote a few books including his autobiography, An Autobiography or My Experiments with Truth, Satyagraha in South Africa about his struggle there, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, a political pamphlet, and a paraphrase in Gujarati of John Ruskin's Unto This Last. This last essay can be considered his program on economics. He also wrote extensively on vegetarianism, diet and health, religion, social reforms, etc. Gandhi usually wrote in Gujarati, though he also revised the Hindi and English translations of his books.
Gandhi's complete works were published by the Indian government under the name The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi in the 1960s. The writings comprise about 50,000 pages published in about a hundred volumes. In 2000, a revised edition of the complete works sparked a controversy, as Gandhian followers accused the government of incorporating changes for political purpose.
Books on Gandhi
Several biographers have undertaken the task of describing Gandhi's life. Among them, two works stand out: D. G. Tendulkar with his Mahatma. Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 8 volumes, and Pyarelal and Sushila Nayar with their Mahatma Gandhi in 10 volumes.
Followers and influence
Gandhi influenced important leaders and political movements. One of the leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, Martin Luther King, drew from the writings of Gandhi in the development of his own theories about non-violence. Anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was inspired by Gandhi. Others include, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Steve Biko, and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Gandhi's life and teachings inspired many who specifically referred to Gandhi as their mentor or who dedicated their lives to spreading Gandhi's ideas. In Europe, Romain Rolland was the first to discuss Gandhi in his 1924 book Mahatma Gandhi. Lanza del Vasto went to India in 1936 in the aim to live with Gandhi. He later returned to Europe to spread Gandhi's philosophy and founded the Community of the Ark in 1948 (modeled after Gandhi's ashrams). Madeleine Slade (known as "Mirabehn") was the daughter of a British admiral who spent much of her adult life in India as a devotee of Gandhi.
In addition, the British musician, John Lennon, referred to Gandhi when discussing his views on non-violence. At the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in 2007, former U.S. Vice-President and environmentalist, Al Gore, spoke of Gandhi's influence on him.
Gandhi's birthday, October 2, is a national holiday in India, Gandhi Jayanti. On 15 June 2007, it was announced that the "United Nations General Assembly" has "unanimously adopted" a resolution which has declared October 2 to be "the International Day of Non-Violence."
The word Mahatma, while often mistaken for Gandhi's given name in the West, is taken from the Sanskrit words maha meaning Great and atma meaning Soul. It is similar to the British honorifics like Your Excellency or Sir. But, unlike these that are officially conferred, the reference to Gandhi is an unofficial title that Indians use as though it were an official one.
Most sources, such as Dutta and Robinson's Rabindranath Tagore: An Anthology, state that Rabindranath Tagore first accorded the title of Mahatma to Gandhi. Other sources state that Nautamlal Bhagavanji Mehta accorded him this title on January 21, 1915. In his autobiography, Gandhi nevertheless explains that he never felt worthy of the honour. According to the manpatra, the name Mahatma was given in response to Gandhi's admirable sacrifice in manifesting justice and truth.
Time Magazine named Gandhi the Man of the Year in 1930, the runner-up to Albert Einstein as "Person of the Century" at the end of 1999, and named The Dalai Lama, Lech Wałęsa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Aung San Suu Kyi, Benigno Aquino, Jr., Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela as Children of Gandhi and his spiritual heirs to non-violence. The Government of India awards the annual Mahatma Gandhi Peace Prize to distinguished social workers, world leaders and citizens. Nelson Mandela, the leader of South Africa's struggle to eradicate racial discrimination and segregation, is a prominent non-Indian recipient
In 1996, the Government of India introduced the Mahatma Gandhi series of currency notes in rupees 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 denomination. Today, all the currency notes in circulation in India contain a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1969, the United Kingdom issued a series of stamps commemorating the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi.
In the United Kingdom, there are several prominent statues of Gandhi, most notably in Tavistock Square, London near University College London where he studied law. January 30 is commemorated in the United Kingdom as the "National Gandhi Remembrance Day." In the United States, there are statues of Gandhi outside the Union Square Park in New York City, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, and on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D. C., near the Indian Embassy. The city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa—where Gandhi was ejected from a first-class train in 1893—now hosts a commemorative statue. There are wax statues of Gandhi at the Madame Tussaud's wax museums in London, New York, and other cities around the world.
Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize, though he was nominated five times between 1937 and 1948, including the first-ever nomination by the American Friends Service Committee. Decades later, the Nobel Committee publicly declared its regret for the omission, and admitted to deeply divided nationalistic opinion denying the award. Mahatma Gandhi was to receive the Prize in 1948, but his assassination prevented the award. The war breaking out between the newly created states of India and Pakistan could have been an additional complicating factor that year. The Prize was not awarded in 1948, the year of Gandhi's death, on the grounds that "there was no suitable living candidate" that year, and when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was "in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi."In New Delhi, the Birla Bhavan (or Birla House), where Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948, was acquired by the Government of India in 1971 and opened to the public in 1973 as the Gandhi Smriti or Gandhi Remembrance. It preserves the room where Mahatma Gandhi lived the last four months of his life and the grounds where he was shot while holding his nightly public walk.
A Martyr's Column now marks the place where Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated.
On January 30 every year, on the anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, in schools of many countries is observed the School Day of Non-violence and Peace (DENIP), founded in Spain in 1964. In countries with a Southern Hemisphere school calendar, it can be observed on March 30 or thereabouts.
Criticism and controversies
Gandhi's rigid ahimsa implies pacifism, and is thus a source of criticism from across the political spectrum.
Concept of partition
As a rule, Gandhi was opposed to the concept of partition as it contradicted his vision of religious unity. Of the partition of India to create Pakistan, he wrote in Harijan on 06 October 1946:
[The demand for Pakistan] as put forth by the Moslem League is un-Islamic and I have not hesitated to call it sinful. Islam stands for unity and the brotherhood of mankind, not for disrupting the oneness of the human family. Therefore, those who want to divide India into possibly warring groups are enemies alike of India and Islam. They may cut me into pieces but they cannot make me subscribe to something which I consider to be wrong [...] we must not cease to aspire, in spite of [the] wild talk, to befriend all Moslems and hold them fast as prisoners of our love.
However, as Homer Jack notes of Gandhi's long correspondence with Jinnah on the topic of Pakistan: "Although Gandhi was personally opposed to the partition of India, he proposed an agreement [...] which provided that the Congress and the Moslem League would cooperate to attain independence under a provisional government, after which the question of partition would be decided by a plebiscite in the districts having a Moslem majority."
These dual positions on the topic of the partition of India opened Gandhi up to criticism from both Hindus and Muslims. Muhammad Ali Jinnah and contemporary Pakistanis condemned Gandhi for undermining Muslim political rights. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and his allies condemned Gandhi, accusing him of politically appeasing Muslims while turning a blind eye to their atrocities against Hindus, and for allowing the creation of Pakistan (despite having publicly declared that "before partitioning India, my body will have to be cut into two pieces"[). This continues to be politically contentious: some,like Pakistani-American historian Ayesha Jalal argue that Gandhi and the Congress' unwillingness to share power with the Muslim League hastened partition; others, like Hindu nationalist policician Pravin Togadia have also criticized Gandhi's leadership and actions on this topic, but indicating that excessive weakeness on his part led to the division of India.
Gandhi also expressed his dislike for the idea of partition during the late 1930s in response to the topic of the partition of Palestine. He stated in Harijan on 26 November 1938:
Several letters have been received by me asking me to declare my views about the Arab-Jew question in Palestine and persecution of the Jews in Germany. It is not without hesitation that I venture to offer my views on this very difficult question. My sympathies are all with the Jews. I have known them intimately in South Africa. Some of them became life-long companions. Through these friends I came to learn much of their age-long persecution. They have been the untouchables of Christianity [...] But my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood? Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct.[Gandhi was criticized for this and responded in his follow-up articles, "Questions on the Jews", "Reply to Jewish Friends," and "Jews and Palestine."[
Rejection of violent resistance
Gandhi also came under some political fire for his criticism of those who attempted to achieve independence through more violent means. His refusal to protest against the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Udham Singh and Rajguru were sources of condemnation among some parties.
Of this criticism, Gandhi stated, "There was a time when people listened to me because I showed them how to give fight to the British without arms when they had no arms [...] but today I am told that my non-violence can be of no avail against the [Hindu–Moslem riots] and, therefore, people should arm themselves for self-defense."
Gandhi commented upon the 1930s persecution of the Jews in Germany within the context of Satyagraha. In the November 1938 article on the Nazi persecution of the Jews quoted above, he offered non-violence as a solution:
The German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history. The tyrants of old never went so mad as Hitler seems to have gone. And he is doing it with religious zeal. For he is propounding a new religion of exclusive and militant nationalism in the name of which any inhumanity becomes an act of humanity to be rewarded here and hereafter. The crime of an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited upon his whole race with unbelievable ferocity. If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war. A discussion of the pros and cons of such a war is therefore outside my horizon or province. But if there can be no war against Germany, even for such a crime as is being committed against the Jews, surely there can be no alliance with Germany. How can there be alliance between a nation which claims to stand for justice and democracy and one which is the declared enemy of both?"
In the same article, Gandhi continued by stating that:
If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest Gentile German might, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in the end the rest were bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy [...] the calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the God-fearing, death has no terror.[
Also, in Harijan, December 17, 1938, Gandhi asserted that Jews "so far as I know, have never practised non-violence as an article of faith or even as a deliberate policy," and alleged that Jews sought to "punish Germany for her persecution and to deliver them from oppression." Gandhi was criticized by a number of people for these and related remarks. He responded by stating that, "friends have sent me two newspaper cuttings criticizing my appeal to the Jews. The two critics suggest that in presenting non-violence to the Jews as a remedy against the wrong done to them, I have suggested nothing new....what I have pleaded for is renunciation of violence of the heart and consequent active exercise of the force generated by the great renunciation. Gandhi would later withdraw some of the statements that he made in an article published in Harijan on May 27, 1939. A friend of Gandhi's Martin Buber, wrote a critical open letter to Gandhi on February 24, 1939. Buber asserted that the comparison between British treatment of Indian subjects and Nazi treatment of Jews was inapposite.
Early South African articles
Some of Gandhi's early South African articles are controversial. As reprinted in "The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi," (Vol. 8, p.120), Gandhi wrote in the "Indian Opinion" in 1908 of his time in a South African prison: "Many of the native prisoners are only one degree removed from the animal and often created rows and fought among themselves." Also as reprinted in "The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi," (Vol. 2, p.74), Gandhi gave a speech on September 26, 1896 in which he referred to the "raw kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness". The term "Kaffir" is considered a derogatory term today (it is worth noting, however, that during Gandhi's time, the term "Kaffir" had a different connotation than its present-day usage). Remarks such as these have led some to accuse Gandhi of racism.
Two professors of history who specialize in South Africa, Surendra Bhana and Goolam Vahed, examined this controversy in their text, The Making of a Political Reformer: Gandhi in South Africa, 1893–1914. (New Delhi: Manohar, 2005).] They focus in Chapter 1, "Gandhi, Africans and Indians in Colonial Natal" on the relationship between the African and Indian communities under "White rule" and policies which enforced segregation (and, they argue, inevitable conflict between these communities). Of this relationship they state that, "the young Gandhi was influenced by segregationist notions prevalent in the 1890s." At the same time, they state, "Gandhi's experiences in jail seemed to make him more sensitive to their plight [...] the later Gandhi mellowed; he seemed much less categorical in his expression of prejudice against Africans, and much more open to seeing points of common cause. His negative views in the Johannesburg jail were reserved for hardened African prisoners rather than Africans generally." Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela is a follower of Gandhi, despite efforts in 2003 on the part of Gandhi's critics to prevent the unveiling of a statue of Gandhi in Johannesburg.] Bhana and Vahed commented on the events surrounding the unveiling in the conclusion to The Making of a Political Reformer: Gandhi in South Africa, 1893–1914. In the section "Gandhi's Legacy to South Africa," they note that "Gandhi inspired succeeding generations of South African activists seeking to end White rule. This legacy connects him to Nelson Mandela [...] in a sense Mandela completed what Gandhi started." They continue by referring to the controversies which arose during the unveiling of the statue of Gandhi. In response to these two perspectives of Gandhi, Bhana and Vahed argue: "Those who seek to appropriate Gandhi for political ends in post-apartheid South Africa do not help their cause much by ignoring certain facts about him; and those who simply call him a racist are equally guilty of distortion."
Recently, Nelson Mandela took part in the 29 January – 30 January 2007 conference in New Delhi which marked the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's introduction of satyagraha in South Africa. In addition, Mandela appeared to the audience via video clip at the South African premiere of Gandhi, My Father in July 2007. Of this clip, the film's producer Anil Kapoor said, "Nelson Mandela sent a special message for the film's opening. Mandela not only spoke about Gandhi, he spoke about me. What was heart-warming and humbling was that he thanked me for making this film, whereas I should thank him and South Africa for letting me shoot 'Gandhi My Father' in their country and allowing me to hold the world premiere there. Mandela identified deeply with the film." The current South African president, Thabo Mbeki, attended along with the rest of the South African Cabinet.
Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar condemned Gandhi's use of the term Harijans to refer to the Dalit community. This term meant "Children of God";[ it was interpreted by some as saying that Dalits were socially immature, and that privileged caste Indians played a paternalistic role. Ambedkar and his allies also felt Gandhi was undermining Dalit political rights. Gandhi, although born into the Vaishya caste, insisted that he was able to speak on behalf of Dalits, despite the availability of Dalit activists such as Ambedkar.
In December 1999 Gandhi was among 18 included in Gallup's List of Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.
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