Remembering Gandhi

Introduction - some Gandhi quotations

"There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for."
If I am to die by the bullet of a mad man, I must do so smiling. There must be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and on my lips. – Mohandas K. Gandhi, January 28, 1948.
...suddenly a man, who was later identified as Nathu Ram Godse took steps out of the crowd and fired three shots at Mahatma. Bullets hit him on the stomach and chest. Mahatma fell down saying Ram-Ram...
– Nand Lal Mehta, in the First Information Report recorded on January 30, 1948, at 9.45 p.m.
“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.”
—Jawaharlal Nehru, address to Gandhi

The house at Phoenix Settlement. Photo Tony McGregor
The house at Phoenix Settlement. Photo Tony McGregor
The printing works at Phoenix Settlement where Gandhi's paper "Indian Opinion" was printed. Photo Tony McGregor
The printing works at Phoenix Settlement where Gandhi's paper "Indian Opinion" was printed. Photo Tony McGregor
Dr Ismael Meer addressing the gathering. Photo Tony McGregor
Dr Ismael Meer addressing the gathering. Photo Tony McGregor

Remembering the Mahatma in South Africa

In the early 1970s I was living with my family in Durban, South Africa, and we went many week ends to the Phoenix Settlement near the city, with groups of other young people, black and white, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist (and probably some other religions I did not know about at the time) for meetings, discussions and work parties.

When I first started going to these gatherings I had little knowledge of the Mahatma and I then set out to find out as much as I could about him.

There we were privileged to meet the granddaughter of Mohandas Karamchand Gandi, the daughter of his second son Manilal. This gracious, gentle lady was a presence at the Phoenix Settlement with her then husband the late Mewa Ramgobin (they were later divorced).

At these weekend gatherings we also met other wonderful people like Dr Ismail Meer and his wife the academic Professor Fatima Meer, Dr Anthony Barker of the Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital in what was then called Zululand, and even the Zulu leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

At these gatherings we discussed backwards and forwards the problems people who were convinced practitioners of non-violence had in the face of the violence of the apartheid state These discussions could become quite heated, though the particpants stayed non-violent, as far as I know!

These gatherings were opportunities for us to meet people of different races in conditions of equality. For me they were important events on my journey of discovery of the realities and possibilities of South Africa.

When I first started going to these gatherings I had little knowledge of the Mahatma and I then set out to find out as much as I could about him.

On the lawns at Phoenix Settlement. Photo Tony McGregor
On the lawns at Phoenix Settlement. Photo Tony McGregor
Mangosuthu Buthelezi addressing the gathering. Photo Tony McGregor
Mangosuthu Buthelezi addressing the gathering. Photo Tony McGregor
Gandhi leading the famous "Salt March." Image Wikipedia
Gandhi leading the famous "Salt March." Image Wikipedia

What did Gandhi teach?

“I am but a seeker after Truth. I claim to have found a way to it. I claim to be making a ceaseless effort to find it. But I admit that I have not yet found it. To find Truth completely is to realize oneself and one's destiny, i.e., to become perfect. I am painfully conscious of my imperfections, and therein lies all the strength I possess, because it is a rare thing for a man to know his own limitations.”

Gandhi's legacy is not without controversy. As with any great person who had a strong personality and different views, he was attacked, and his legacy is still attacked, from many sides. His activities and writings in South Africa are no exception.

His teachings were based on two primary ideals or philosophical premises: the supremacy of truth, or satya, and non-violence, or ahimsa, as the way to attain truth. He called his autobiography My Experiments with Truth.

His teaching of the way of satyagraha, often called “passive resistance”, was a physically, mentally and morally demanding one, and he was uncompromising in his insistence on adhering to certain principles of action and attitude.

Some of the principles to which he held anyone wishing to undertake an action in the spirit of stayagraha were:

1. Non-violence

2. Chastity or bramacharya, which is the subordination of sensual desires to the truth.

3. Truth, meaning living totally in accord with the truth

In addition a satyagrahi (person engaging in satyagraha) had to live by a set of rules like: harbour no anger; never retaliate; do not curse or swear; do not insult the opponent; do not do anything that could wound the sensibilities of a member of another religion.

Clearly this goes way beyond passive resistance and makes huge demands on the participant.

Gandhi also called on his followers to live simple lives, as far as possible to produce for themselves the necessities of life, practice brahmacharya (chastity), to live by their faith and not to eat meat.

On faith he said, when asked whether or not he was a Hindu, he said: “Yes I am. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew.”

The assassination

On 30 January 1948, as Gandhi was on his usual evening walk at Birla House in Delhi, Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, got close enough to Gandhi to shoot his three times, fatally wounding him.

Gandhi was taken back into Birla House and died soon after. There has been in later years much speculation about whether or not his life could have been saved.

Eyewitness Shri Nand Lal Mehta made the following statement to the police:

Today I was present at Birla House. Around ten minutes past five in the evening, Mahatma Gandhi left his room in Birla House for the Prayer Ground. Sister Abha Gandhi and sister Sanno Gandhi were accompanying him. Mahatma was walking with his hands on the shoulders of the two sisters. Two more girls were there in the group. I along with Lala Brij Kishan, a silver merchant, resident of No. 1, Narendra Place, Parliament Street and Sardar Gurbachan Singh, resident of Timar Pur, Delhi were also there. Apart from us, women from the Birla household and two-three members of the staff were also present. Having crossed the garden, Mahatma climbed the concrete steps towards the prayer place. People were standing on both the sides and approximately three feet of vacant space was left for the Mahatma to pass through. As per the custom the Mahatma greeted the people with folded hands. He had barely covered six or seven steps when a person whose name I learnt later as Narayan Vinayak Godse, resident of Poona, stepped closer and fired three shots from a pistol at the Mahatma from barely 2 / 3 feet distance which hit the Mahatma in his stomach and chest and blood started flowing. Mahatma ji fell backwards, uttering "Raam - Raam". The assailant was apprehended on the spot with the weapon. The Mahatma was carried away in an unconscious state towards the residential unit of the Birla House where he passed away instantly and the police took away the assailant.

This murder was the fifth attempt on his life.

A South African postscript

In the early hours of this morning, 30 January 2009, some of Gandhi's ashes were scattered on the sea off Durban in a ceremony of candles flowers.

After his cremation in 1948 some of Gandhi's ashes had been put into small containers and sent to various people around the world, including South Africa, so that his followers could hold memorials.

The ashes brought to South Africa after the Mahatma's cremation in India had been immersed in water at the time. But according to Ela Gandhi, the person responsible for the ashes in South Africa, Vilas Mehta, a Gandhi family friend, had, unbeknown to the family, kept a small portion of the ashes. She died recently and her daughter-in-law returned the ashes to the family.

According to news reports, Ela Gandhi said "Since it's 62 years now, we can't do the complete ceremony that already took place in 1948.

"But in terms of the Hindu custom and family custom, we would pray throughout the night, from 4.00 pm on Friday until 4:00 am on Saturday morning."

"We'll take a little boat and go out into the ocean, and at sunrise, just as soon as the sun rises, the ashes will blow into the sea."

And so Gandhi's sojourn in South Africa has finally come to an end.

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2009

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Comments 35 comments

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

Very comprehensive overview of Gandhi. It surprises me how so many trivialize his pacifist stance, but I always admired him for it. Thoreau also was an inspiration to Gandhi being a pacifist himself.

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Sweetie - thanks for reading and commenting. I am hoping to write more about this wonderful man soon. Just wanted to remember the day of his death and mark it somehow.

Love and peace


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

I love Ghandi's message of peace and love, and have his quote "Be the change you wish to see in the world", in the homepage of one of my websites. Thank you for writing this, I learned more about this amazing man.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I have always had the greatest respect for Mahatma Gandhi. He accomplished a great deal during his life, and he set a high standard for all of us. Thanks for remembering.

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland

Interesting Hub Tony, an amazing man.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

I have very few heroes but Ghandi has always numbered amongst them. I don't aspire but I do admire. Thanks for the hub.

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Marie - there is so much to learn about the Mahatma, isn't there?

William - the Mahatma was, in spite of many criticisms, a great man indeed.

Shinkicker - yes a truly amazing man!

Peter - love your comment. I too don't aspire but certainly do admire!

Thanks all for reading and commenting - your dropping by honours me.

Love and peace


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Like VioletSun, I use a lot of his quotes as they are full of wisdom and compassion. A wonderful tribute to a great man. Thanks Tony.

progressiveWiccan profile image

progressiveWiccan 6 years ago from united states....below the mason dixon

If we in the 21st century could be 1/4 the man he was or adopt one of his philosophies, we would have a much more loving world. I AM COURIOUS how you got to interact with so many different colors of people in SA during the 70's. THANK YOU

for a blessing this morning.


donna bamford profile image

donna bamford 6 years ago from Canada

I too am a great admirer of Ghandi and Martin Luther King. i often wonder if their philospohy of non-violence could be taught in school. i encountered passive resistance when we were being taught to go limp if a policeman accosted us during the civil rights demonstrations of the 60's. A great hub. Thank you.

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

"...harbour no anger; never retaliate; do not curse or swear; do not insult the opponent; do not do anything that could wound the sensibilities of a member of another religion." This is what I am working on this lifetime!

I could read and read all of this over again. Thank you! Ohm what is Ram Ram? A truly great man, this Gandhi.

amillar profile image

amillar 6 years ago from Scotland, UK

I love Ghandi quotes. A journalist once asked him what he thought of western civilisation, and he said, "I think it would be a very good idea".

Another great hub Tony.

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Ripple - glad you liked the Hub.

PW - I agree, we, the people of the world, desperately need leaders like Gandhi. I got to interact with many different people in the 1970s because I consciously made an effort to do so, being in my small way an anti-apartheid activist.

Story - your words warm me. Ram Ram I think is an interjection like O God! There is some controversy about what Gandhi actually said as he was shot, some, as in the quoted statement claim he said "Ram ram" others say he said "Hai (or Hey) Ram". I have evne seen a writer claim that the assassin's name Nathuram could be understood as "you are not Ram." As I understand the name "Ram" is one of the manifestations of God in Hindu theology. Perhaps a Hindu reader could help us here.

Amillar - yes, I have heard that one before and love it also!

Thanks to all of you for coming by, reading and commenting. You help to make it all worthwhile.

Love and peace


Sage Williams profile image

Sage Williams 6 years ago

Tony, I'm not quite sure how I missed this one. What an excellent hub. I absolutely loved Gandhi. I have learned even more than I ever knew by reading your hub.

One of my favorite quotes was...

"We do not need to proselytize either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study."

Thanks so much for this wonderful tribute to a man so well deserving of it.


cameciob profile image

cameciob 6 years ago

Tony, this is a very interesting hub about Gandhi. He was a special man and a great spiritual leader. The pictures are great.

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I had no trouble with finding the hub I wanted to read first. I have always wanted to write about Gandhi. This is a great tribute. When I feel a bit "tried" I put in the movie "Gandhi starring Ben Kingsley. It's long for a movie but maybe not long enough. Thank you so much. Because of this excellent work I can take "a day off". I will link to this beautiful piece.

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Sage - thanks for your kind words. Gandhi really deserves better words than I could ever write.

Camelia - thanks to you too for kind words.

Micky - glad to have been of help in getting you a "day off"!

Thanks again to you all - your words make my day!

Love and peace


Sage Williams profile image

Sage Williams 6 years ago

Tony - Don't underestimate your words. Your words are a wonderful testimonial to Gandhi's life. A marvelous tribute that reflects upon his life, leadership and spirituality.

Through your writing you have brought this wonderful leader to the forefront, for all of us to reflect upon and share. Through you and many others his spirituality lives on.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Sage - thanks so much. I hope that my words will indeed reach the hearts and minds of some so that we make this world a better place, more peaceful, more tolerant.

Love and peace


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

Tony..First let me state that you have written a wonderful tribute to this man, a man of peace and integrity...

I have to tell you that I hesitated writing a comment to this Hub since my feelings about Gandhi are ambivalent towards his character...Specifically, his pederasty and approval of the caste system, not to mention his non-commitment and actual obstruction of women's rights...I also understand that he had racial issues with blacks while living in South Africa, referring to them as kaffirs...This was a very complex man that had very real human faults that have been largely submerged by the western media...

As you may have noticed on my profile page I use a Gandhi quote at the end...the quote does not make the man, anymore than your Hub of tribute makes him a deity to be praised...

Peace, my friend...Larry

lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

This was a wonderful article. I love, love, love, the particular quotes of Gandhi that you used. I, like Gandhi, am also a christian, Buddist, Hindu, Jew etc. I thought I was wrong to believe in the ideas and truths of so many religions. I feel I have been granted permission now by a great man. I think that, not only was he a peace loving, spiritual person, he was very witty and humorous. At least I think so. Those aren't exactly bad traits to have. Thank you so much for this hub. Love to you and peace!

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Larry - I too have some questions around Gandhi and certainly don't see him as any kind of deity. I have written on another Hub about his time in South Africa and the issue of racism. I have not before heard of pederasty in relation to Gandhi. I know he claimed to have tested his own chastity by sleeping with two young women. I think that is somewhat strange and perhaps unwise of him, but I don't think it could be called pederasty. I find it strange that he is accused of supporting the caste system when he went out of his way to show that he did not. I agree about the women's rights, though, his treatment of Kasturba was not exactly humane. Indeed a complex and, no doubt, difficult person. Your comment is, as usual, most interesting.

Lisa - yes I think one of the most endearing aspects of Gandhi was his great ecumenism, his acceptance of the beliefs of all, so long as they were positive.

Thanks so much for coming by and taking the time to comment so thoughtfully. I deeply appreciate it.

Love and peace


Artamia profile image

Artamia 6 years ago from GTA, Canada

:: Namaste.

Thank-You, Tonymac, for your essay about great Mohandas Gandhi.

Always enjoy reading from You and admire Your wordsmithing talents and com-passionate 'ear' and 'eye' to important facts and details.



"If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide."

~ Mohandas Gandhi


seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 6 years ago

Great hub about a great man. Well done.

Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

Ghandi's reputation was much restored by the film in the 1980's with Ben Kingsley. He did have mixed results in some parts of his life but he really followed his ideas. He was political, and knew the risks involved in those beliefs. His story is amazing. Thanks for reconnecting us all with his life and his accomplishments.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

I saw about the ashes on the news. To me, he was a great man.

Moulik Mistry profile image

Moulik Mistry 6 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

Very good article - the world requires a few dedicated Gandhis to make peace prevail...

stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Almost everyone liked him. He was likeable. God Bless You. Wonderful hub.

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Stars - he was indeed, my friend. Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace


daydreamer13 profile image

daydreamer13 5 years ago

Beautiful! What a wonderful hub!

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Daydreamer - thanks so much for those kind words. I appreciate your stopping by very much.

Love and peace


nifty@50 profile image

nifty@50 5 years ago

It's curious why men of non violence like Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi met with violent deaths. Perhaps this world is not fit for their wisdom & grace. Great hub tonymac04!

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Nifty - it is curious, I agree. I think that to many people in power the message brought by these men of peace was too threatening.

Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words.

Love and peace


minimal_mystic profile image

minimal_mystic 5 years ago from Coast of South Africa

@ Tony and Nifty

have u read 'Illusions, The Story of a Reluctant Messiah' by Richard Bach ?

he deals with this concept (and a few more) in quite a revealingly light-hearted way

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Minimal Mystic - I have to say I have not read this book, but will try to get hold of it and do so. Thanks for the suggestion and for stopping by.

Love and peace


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