Mahatma Gandhi

Last Updated: October 9, 2018

Definition - What does Mahatma Gandhi mean?

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) led the nonviolent resistance movement that eventually led to India's independence from Britain in 1947. Although his birth name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he was given the name of Mahatma, meaning “great soul,” during his years of activism in South Africa. In India, he is also known as bapu (father). Gandhi has inspired freedom and civil rights movements around the world.

Mahatma Gandhi was born into the Hindu faith and is said to have practiced Karma yoga, the yoga of action.

Yogapedia explains Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi was advised by yogis of his time, including Sri Mahadev Desai, who helped him perform asanas. He also practiced pranayama breathing exercises and relied on mantras and meditation.

His activism took a particular form of nonviolence that he called satyagraha, or “insistence on truth.” According to Gandhi, the doctrine of satyagraha is that satya (truth) exists, but asatya (untruth) does not; therefore, truth cannot be destroyed. He believed that it was through patience and compassion that his opponents would gradually come to see the truth.

As an immigrant, Mahatma Gandhi began his activism in South Africa in the early 1900s, returning to his native land after World War I to support India's freedom. He was best remembered for wearing only a loincloth and shawl, for his hunger strikes to protest injustices and for peaceful non-cooperation that led to his several arrests. He was assassinated by a Hindu fundamentalist less than a year after India's independence.

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