Mahatma Gandhi and the Philosophy of Satyagraha

Mohandas Karam Chandra Gandhi, whom we all refer to as Mahatma Gandhi or The Father of the Nation was the inventor of satyagraha. The title Mahatma which literary means a high-soul was given to him for inspiring the nation for civil rights and freedom across the world using non-violence and civil disobedience movements. He was the heart and soul of the fight for independence and brought down the British Empire to its knees by his very own weapons of non-violence, brotherhood and Satyagraha.


Originator of Mahatma Gandhi—South Africa

The due credit for giving such a high-soul to the nation goes to South Africa whose rascist treatment towards the Indians shook his mind for the fight for justice and equality. In his work Satyagraha in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi shared his experience as ‘I observed on the very first day that the European meted out most insulting treatment to Indian. I was pushed out of train by a police constable of Maritz burg, and the train having left, was sitting in the waiting room, shivering in the bitter cold. I did not know where my luggage was nor did dare to inquire of anybody, lest I might be insulted and assaulted once again. Sleep was out of question, doubt took possession of my mind. Late at night, I came to the conclusion that the run back to India would be cowardly. I must accomplish what I had undertaken’.

The train incident of South Africa made him realize to fight against racial segregation. He was the one who introduced the world with the weapon of Satyagraha which later on helped India to earn its freedom from the British rule. In order to achieve his goal, he used to read Bhagwat-Gita, Bible and Tolstoy and drew his lessons from them. Renowned political leaders Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Nelson Mandela also followed his foot-steps in later years.

SatyagrahaIdeal Weapon for Independence

The ideology of satyagraha was based on the Vedic teachings of self-realization, non-violence, vegetarianism, brotherhood and universal love. The first ever Satyagraha movement by Gandhi was started in South Africa which paved the way in revoking the immense poser of infinite patience, determination and accomplishment for attaining goal of life. The Satyagraha stressed on the self-understanding and self-realization rather than any external agency or person.

Mahatma Gandhi realized that the ethos of satyagraha has the potential to dilute violence. Also on the other hand, it could also lead to be taken as their weakness and being unable to resist the oppressor which could worsen the condition of the Indians.

The consequences of Satyagraha were quite opposite as initially thought by Gandhi. It came out to be that the force of non-violence was much intense than that of violence. The driving force of satyagraha was patience suffering in which the oppressor is allowed to use as much as force as he can on a non-violent protestors until it attains his saturation point and during that stage he gets exhausted and unable to apply force but the capacity of the protestor is still at its zenith point. Such daring patience and confrontation, by no means, leads to cowardice.

Following are the objectives of Satyagraha movement:

  • To purify the sufferer.
  • To intensify favourable public opinion.
  • To make a direct appeal to the soul of the oppressor.

Modus Operandi of Satyagraha

Mahatma Gandhi stressed on certain techniques of Satyagraha. These are:

  • Non-cooperation: He wanted to cripple the dictator using this technique. According to him, when both the tyranny of the government and the citizen cooperation extend, the injustice prevails in the society.
  • Civil disobedience: According to Gandhi, the civil disobedience is the technique of violating the conventional orders of the state in a non-violent and peaceful manner.
  • Hijrat: Hijrat is an urdu word which literary means to migrate. According to Gandhi, hijrat is a protest against the dictator in order to expel him out of the nation.
  • Fasting and strike: Fasting and striking was another technique adopted by Gandhi in later stage. He introduced the strike as one of the technique for demanding justice as well as the restitution for the grievances caused.

Gandhi—A saint-cum-politician

Gandhi was the spreader of peace and non-violence throughout the world which later on holded the key to the survival of humans in 21st century. His struggle was always directed towards the freedom of the nation and never for any sort of revenge. The ethos of civil disobedience and non-violence attracted the common man towards their complete devotion for the national struggle.

He always supported the willingness to sacrifice one’s life for truth, even if it destined losing to something that is pure evil. His work and other contributions were always focused towards the welfare of people and not towards a particular community. His perception of constructive politics of liberation against autocrat rule became an effective policy in today’s statecraft. His outspoken gesture, made other leaders in public scrutiny.

Dennis Dalton called his ideas to be responsible for his extensive following. Gandhi always opposed western civilization since, it was the one provoked by brute force and immorality. He always supported the Indian civilization as according to him it was the one motivated by soul force and morality. He gave the concept of winning hate with love. These ideas were evidenced in his pamphlets from the 1890s, in South Africa, where too he was admired by the Indian enslaved workers.

His purity of soul, simplicity, saintliness, simple life style and humility made him popular among commons. He was viewed as a sage who has stepped out from the ancient epics to bring liberation of the fellow citizen.


The visit of young, shy and idealistic barrister Mohan Das to South Africa and the racist incident in a train transformed him to Mahatma Gandhi who became an inspiration throughout the world despite of all the criticism and appraisers. He started peace movements in the form of Satyagraha since 1915 in South Africa, which later on adopted by Indians for the freedom struggle. He was recognised as an accomplished political mobiliser and evolved a political technique of excellent suppleness.

His leadership showed the immense power of non-violence and its effect to the masses which in later years destroyed the supremacy of British rule from its roots and various social evils such as untouchability. Hence it is true to say that the transformation of Mohan Das into Mahatma, i.e. a saint-cum-politician paved the way for the independence and framing the cultural and historical values of its people.

Study Matter on Indian Art, Culture and History (GS-1)

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