Trivia: The Life of Mahatma Gandhi

On October 2, 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbandar, a coastal city in the Indian state of Gujarat.  To celebrate the anniversary of his birth, we've put together these trivia questions.


Did Gandhi Marry and Have Children? # This life-size wax likeness of Gandhi is on display at Madame Tussauds Bangkok. When he was only a 13-year-old schoolboy, Gandhi married Kasturba Makhanji, the 14-year-old daughter of a wealthy merchant. Although it was an arranged marriage -- Gandhi was engaged to Kasturba when he was only 7 -- the couple were happy together and had four children -- all sons. Although Gandhi took a vow of celibacy in 1906 for reasons of self-discipline and spirituality, Mohandas and Kasturba stayed together until her death in 1944.

What Was Gandhi's Profession? # At least some of Gandhi's ashes are said to be entombed within this stone memorial located at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, India. Gandhi's father served as the "diwan," or chief minister, of the Porbandar region. He had three sons with his fourth wife Putlibai, Mohandas being the youngest. Mohandas was also considered the most promising candidate to someday succeed his father as diwan. To prepare him for a future role in politics, Gandhi's parents saw to it that he got the best education possible.

Gandhi's father died in 1885 and was succeeded by Gandhi's uncle, Tulsidas, who helped to convince Gandhi's mother that the next logical step in preparing Mohandas for a future as a leader was to qualify as a barrister in London. After her son promised her that he would abstain from sex, meat, and alcohol while in London, Putlibai reluctantly gave her consent, and Mohandas sailed off to the United Kingdom.

In London, he studied law and jurisprudence at the Inner Temple. In 1891, he returned to India and set up a law practice in Bombay (now Mumbai).


In What Country Did Gandhi First Make a Name as an Activist? Gandhi's attempt to establish a successful law practice in Bombay failed, largely because he found it difficult, if not impossible, to effectively cross-examine witnesses. He was reduced to drafting petitions for litigants, a modest livelihood that collapsed when he ran afoul of a British colonial officer. To support his family, he accepted a one-year contract to represent Dada Abdulla & Company, an Indian firm, in the South African colony of Natal, which like India, was part of the British Empire.

Gandhi ended up spending 21 years in South Africa, much of that time devoted to fighting for the rights of his fellow Indians, who faced the same discrimination as other people of color. It was in South Africa and not his native India where Gandhi first gained recognition as a civil rights activist.

When Did Gandhi Begin His Campaign for Indian Independence? In 1915 Gandhi returned to India after spending just over two decades in South Africa. Although he was supportive of the British cause in World War I, he was increasingly critical of British colonial measures in India that he found unjust.

In 1919, after the end of World War I, he launched a campaign of nonviolent resistance to the Rowlatt Acts, which gave colonial authorities emergency powers to suppress whatever it deemed to be subversive activities. By 1920, he had emerged as the face of the Indian independence movement, leading a decades-long march toward independence, which was finally achieved in 1947.

What's the Significance of "Mahatma"? Widely recognized as the father of Indian independence, Gandhi today is widely referred to as "Mahatma," a term that some mistakenly assume to be his given name. Mahatma is an honorific in the Sanskrit language meaning "Great Soul." It was first bestowed upon Gandhi in 1915 by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whom Gandhi had earlier honored with the title "Gurudev," a combination of two Sanskrit words -- "guru" meaning master and "dev" meaning light. Gurudev refers to a master or teacher who transcends earthly knowledge and offers insights into a higher level of spiritual development.

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