“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Practicing nonviolent methods of civil disobedience to lead India to independence from British rule, expand women’s rights, end untouchability and build religious and ethnic goodwill, the renowned Mahatma Gandhi inspired civil rights and freedom movements across the world. Many influential leaders including the 14th Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have followed in Gandhi’s footsteps.
But like anyone, Gandhi had his fair share of oddities, lesser known accomplishments, rough starts and controversies. Below is a list of several of those.
A bit of a faddist and food reformer, he spent 35 years experimenting with his dietary regime in an effort to find the perfect vegetarian diet.
As a young man, Gandi was extremely shy, even when he began practicing law in 1891. His first law practice in Bombay failed, because he was too overwhelmed by stage fright to publically present cases in court. Gandhi overcomes this fear during his time in South Africa where he practices law for more than 20 years.
To disprove a British claim that Hindu men were “unmanly,” he formed a group of stretcher-bearers called the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps during the Boer War. Gandhi and his men carried wounded soldiers from the frontlines to field hospitals often miles away when the terrain was too rough for ambulances.
He regularly practiced sexual abstinence within his marriage.
He would invite naked young women and girls, including his grandniece, to his bed to test his “chastity.”
In efforts to get Indians to wear homespun cloth over British textiles, as well as encourage women to actively participate in the Indian freedom movement, Gandhi invented a small, portable spinning wheel to make the task less cumbersome. It was part of a larger effort to boycott all British products and services.
He used fasting and threats of suicide during India’s freedom movement to force the British controlled government to meet his demands. His longest fasts lasted twenty-one days.
To learn more about the venerable Mahatma Gandhi and his life’s work, check out the sixth episode of Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, a Parcast Network podcast series.
Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths examines the lives and tragic deaths of people who changed history and influenced pop culture.