Who inspired Gandhi?

By Sunil Kumar

According to the book “Gandhi Before India” by Ramachandra Guha; Gandhi’s stay in South Africa was more instrumental in his life story than anything else.

As a student in the London Inner Temple; he was inspired by a book and a movement that was gaining currency in the world of that time; “Plea For Vegetarianism” by Henry Salt. Anyone familiar with Western culture knows that vegetarianism is not widely prevalent. So; this was a countercultural trend Gandhi aspired to given his own background, values and promises made to his mother and the Modh Baniya community.

Gandhi during the visit of Indian political le...

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in Gandhi during the visit of Indian political leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale to South Africa, Durban, 1912. Below row, center, from left: Dr. Hermann Kallenbach, Gandhi, Gokhale, Parsee Rustomjee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also; Gandhi was most affected by the discrimination he faced; and saw other Indians encounter in South Africa; Natal and Transvaal. The idea of Satyagraha; non-violent disobedience backed with a strong moral purpose was formed as a leader of the community there. Tolstoy; the Russian magnum opus writer of “War and Peace” was also an inspiration to Gandhi. As he got older; Tolstoy; a count, believed in a simpler life shorn of pretense.

Gandhi mentions that Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” left an abiding impression on him; and he realized the importance of universal love. In South Africa; he set up the Phoenix ashram/ farm where Indian cultural tenets combined with those of Ruskin(social/art critic) and Tolstoy.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale was more of a mentor to Gandhi when he came back from South Africa in 1914.


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