On this day in 1869—at the height of Victoria’s Empire—a new world hero was born, right under the Queen’s nose. His name, Mohandas Gandhi, was later changed to the honorific Mahatma (meaning “venerable” or “high-souled”).
Gandhi was born of a merchant class family, one which could afford to send him to law school in London. As a young lawyer, he moved to South Africa where he began his life-long strategy of organizing non-violent disobedience, agitating for civil rights equality for the many ethnic Indians living in that country. Later, in his homeland, he organized peasants, farmers, and factory workers to push for equality under the law. Gandhi envisioned an India free of British colonization, a country where the caste system was dismantled, and a nation of religious tolerance and harmony. And, always, he insisted on non-violence. On several occasions, he fasted to near-death to bring attention to these important issues.
Sadly, he was assassinated at the age of 78. Today, Gandhi is unofficially (but widely) considered the Father of the Nation. 2 October, his birthday, is a national holiday. And worldwide, the day is celebrated as the International Day of Non-Violence.
The piece of British art pottery, pictured above, was made during the 1920’s or 1930’s. It reflects the British interest in “Orientalism” in general, and the Indian aesthetic in particular. While it is a stretch to credit Gandhi as the inspiration for such a piece, it is certainly true that the ceramicist (and initial owner of the vase) would have been quite aware of the simple Indian lawyer pushing for change. What they may not have realized is just how much this man would change the world. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.
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