The life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is a story of heroic effort to establish the values of Truth and Non-violence in human life. In pursuing this objective Gandhiji became a Mahatma from a mere ‘Monya’. He became a messenger, for the people of the world surrounded by fire of violence in the twentieth century. He also became ‘The Father of The Nation’. He saved India and Britain from mutual hate and revenge by resorting to the experiment of Truth and Non-violence in India’s struggle for freedom. This created an atmosphere which made it possible for other countries of Asia and Africa to free themselves without bloodshed from the hold of the European countries which had subdued them in the nineteenth century.
Being born in a middle class Vaishnava family and brought up in that atmosphere till he joined school and received instruction according to the system then prevailing, he lived, dressed and dined in the way all children of that class did. Later, he went to England for studies and changed his dress to suit the conditions of that country. But in food and certain other matters, he remained true to the lesson he had learnt early in life. On his return to India after being called to the Bar, he passed through difficult times as all beginners in the profession of the law have to do and it was as a lawyer that he went to South Africa to help a client. He had, however, to spend many years there as the condition of Indians and the treatment they received demanded that he should serve them rather than return to India. His struggle with the authorities brought about a considerable change in his life and by the time he returned to India, he had already become a Mahatma. His dress in India on his return was different from what he used to wear when he was practicing as a Barrister and conformed to the old Kathiawadi type.
If in South Africa it was the Railway Ticket Collector who paved the way for the birth of a Satyagrahi, in India it was a poor peasant from Champaran, Rajkumar Shukla, who provided him a platform to test the power of Satyagraha on the Indian soil. His campaign in favour of the non-co-operation movement brought about another change which identified his outward appearance with that of the humblest and lowliest of the land and he stuck to the loin cloth till he departed with the name of God on his lips.
Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned several times in his pursuit of non-cooperation and undertook many ‘fasts’ to protest against the oppression of the down trodden in India.
He invented the techniques of mass –civil disobedience in South Africa which were later emulated in India and across the world.
On January 30th, 1948, the assassin’s bullet ended the physical existence of Mahatma Gandhi and made him immortal who left an indelible legacy to the mankind –‘My life is my Message’.
On 2nd October, 2014, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, launched a nation-wide cleanliness campaign on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary. The concept of Swachh Bharat is to provide sanitation facilities to every family, including toilets, solid and liquid waste disposal systems, village cleanliness, and safe and adequate drinking water supply. We have to achieve this by 2019 as a befitting tribute to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, on his 150th birth anniversary. This turned the people's thoughts to Gandhi's idea of cleanliness. What is the need of it? How did Gandhiji influence and communicate this idea to the nation? To answer these questions it is necessary to know Mahatma Gandhi's views about cleanliness.
Indians gained freedom under the leadership of Gandhiji, but his dream of a clean India is still unfulfilled. Mahatma Gandhi said "Sanitation is more important than independence". He made cleanliness and sanitation an integral part of the Gandhian way of living. His dream was total sanitation for all. Cleanliness is most important for physical well-being and a healthy environment. It has bearing on public and personal hygiene. It is essential for everyone to learn about cleanliness, hygiene, sanitation and the various diseases that are caused due to poor hygienic conditions. The habits learnt at a young age get embedded into one's personality. Even if we inculcate certain habits like washing hands before meals, regular brushing of teeth, and bathing from a young age, we are not bothered about cleanliness of public places. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” Gandhiji dwelt on cleanliness and good habits and pointed out its close relationship to good health. No one should spit or clean his nose on the streets. In some cases the sputum is so harmful that the germs infect others. In some countries spitting on the road is a criminal offence. Those who spit after chewing betel leaves and tobacco have no consideration for the feelings of others. Spittle, mucus from the nose, etc, should also be covered with earth. (Navajivan dated 2 November, 1919).
The Gandhi family was well known in Rajkot. His father and grandfather served as dewans (Prime Minister) in Rajkot and other neighbouring states. Being a Prime Minister's son and a barrister to boot, he must have needed guts to go round the town for a house to house inspection of the drains. Gandhi seldom failed to show moral courage when necessary. In his town, a mehtar (sweeper) called Uka did the scavenging. If Gandhi ever touched Uka, his mother, Putlibai, made him take a bath. Gandhi, otherwise a docile obedient son, did not like it. The 12 years old son would argue with his mother; "Uka serves us by cleaning dirt and filth, how can his touch pollute me? I shall not disobey you, but the Ramayana says that Rama embraced Guhaka, a chandal (a caste considered untouchable). The Ramayana cannot mislead us." Putlibai could find no answer for his argument. He criticized many western customs but repeatedly admitted that he learnt sanitation from the west. He wanted to introduce that type of cleanliness in India. Pointing to our unhygienic habits, Gandhiji strongly emphasized observing cleanliness in lavatories, and wrote "I shall have to defend myself on one point, namely, sanitary conveniences. I learnt 35 years ago that a lavatory must be as clean as a drawing-room. I learnt this in the West. I believe that many rules about cleanliness in lavatories are observed more scrupulously in the West than in the East. The cause of many of our diseases is the condition of our lavatories and our bad habit of disposing of excreta anywhere and everywhere. I, therefore, believe in the absolute necessity of a clean place for answering the call of nature and clean articles for use at the time. I have accustomed myself to them and wish that all others should do the same. The habit has become so firm in me that even if I wished to change it I would not be able to do so. Nor do I wish to change it"
Indian civilization is at least 5000 years old. It has remarkable achievements to its credit in the fields of spirituality, science and arts all through its history barring the last three hundred years. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the whole world constitutes a single family, has been its eternal motto. Gautama Buddha, the Light of Asia, Tirthankara Mahavira, and Mahatma Gandhi the greatest proponents of Ahimsa were born here.
India welcomed all those who wanted to trade with it and also those who sought refuge here irrespective of the faith they professed, the language they spoke, and the traditions they followed. Once they were here, they were allowed to live the way they wanted. They all became Indians. No wonder then that the followers of the world's six major religions live in India today;'and there is hardly a religious community not represented in the country.' India is the home of 1618 languages and dialects. Indian constitution recognizes twenty-one languages as national.' India is a multi-ethnic society too; it has descendants of six ethnic groups.
Ahimsa (Nonviolence) constitutes the core value of Indian civilization. It has played a vital role in the evolution of Indian culture and Indic religions. It directs people's behaviour towards peaceful conflict resolution; accommodation; and Vasudhaiva kutumbakam (whole world is a family). The Vedic-Hindu philosophy', which directs day-to-day life of majority of Indians, considers Ahimsa as Dharma (duty). It enjoins on people not to hurt anyone by thought (manasa), words (vacha) and deeds.
Source : www.gandhi.gov.in