Gandhi's Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi [NOOK Book]


More than half a century after his death, Mahatma Gandhi continues to inspire millions throughout the world. Yet modern India, most strikingly in its decision to join the nuclear arms race, seems to have abandoned much of his nonviolent vision. Inspired by recent events in India, Stanley Wolpert offers this subtle and profound biography of India's "Great Soul."
Wolpert compellingly chronicles the life of Mahatma Gandhi from his early days as a child of privilege to his humble ...
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Gandhi's Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi

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More than half a century after his death, Mahatma Gandhi continues to inspire millions throughout the world. Yet modern India, most strikingly in its decision to join the nuclear arms race, seems to have abandoned much of his nonviolent vision. Inspired by recent events in India, Stanley Wolpert offers this subtle and profound biography of India's "Great Soul."
Wolpert compellingly chronicles the life of Mahatma Gandhi from his early days as a child of privilege to his humble rise to power and his assassination at the hands of a man of his own faith. This trajectory, like that of Christ, was the result of Gandhi's passion: his conscious courting of suffering as the means to reach divine truth. From his early campaigns to stop discrimination in South Africa to his leadership of a people's revolution to end the British imperial domination of India, Gandhi emerges as a man of inner conflicts obscured by his political genius and moral vision. Influenced early on by nonviolent teachings in Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity, and Buddhism, he came to insist on the primacy of love for one's adversary in any conflict as the invincible power for change. His unyielding opposition to intolerance and oppression would inspire India like no leader since the Buddha--creating a legacy that would encourage Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and other global leaders to demand a better world through peaceful civil disobedience.
By boldly considering Gandhi the man, rather than the living god depicted by his disciples, Wolpert provides an unprecedented representation of Gandhi's personality and the profound complexities that compelled his actions and brought freedom to India.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
"The purer the suffering the greater the progress," Gandhi wrote, and it's wisdom that could serve as an epigraph for Wolpert's well-reasoned biography. Erik H. Erikson's Gandhi's Truth still stands as the most audacious examination of Gandhi's life; Wolpert, though, briskly gives us the entire story—we see India's liberator not only as an avatar/sage in the line of Krishna, Tolstoy, Emerson, Thoreau and Ruskin, but as a politician steely enough to face down an empire. First acquainting himself with his adversary's strengths by studying law in England, Gandhi then blueprints passive resistance in South Africa before inspiring millions with satyagraha (soul force) in his homeland. Devoutly single-minded, he's never easy on himself (as a guest, he cleans his hosts' toilets to break his ego) or, for that matters, on others (his wife lived life mainly in his absence). Wolpert, a professor of South Asian studies at the University of California, knows India. And he knows history, skillfully delineating Gandhi's influence on Dr. King, Nelson Mandela and other peaceful warriors. The irony that India is now among the world's leading militaristic forces isn't lost on Wolpert—but, like his subject, he takes the longer view, insisting that Gandhi's life, struggle and martyrdom remain exemplary, a passion that will continue to inspire.
—Paul Evans

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wolpert, a professor emeritus in South Asian history at UCLA, is well versed in the politics of India and has written numerous books on that country and its neighbor Pakistan. His new work is not so much a book on how Gandhi came to be the Mahatma, or India's "Great Soul," but a chronicle of India's independence movement after WWI and the communal violence that led to the 1947 partition along religious lines. The most absorbing part of the book shows how Gandhi's legal training at Inner Temple in London and his work to protect the rights of Indians in South Africa at the turn of the century led to his agitation for Home Rule in India. Wolpert skillfully uses Gandhi's own writings there are 90 volumes of his collected works and descriptions of meetings and travels to organize mass passive resistance, including boycotts and marches, to explain how Gandhi's nonviolent resistance, or Satyagraha, essentially forced the British to grant dominion status to 300 million Indians. However, Wolpert does not convincingly illustrate how Gandhi came to believe in nonviolence and how he transformed himself from a rich Anglophile and lawyer into a near-godlike figure who valued equality, self-control, celibacy and the relinquishing of wealth and desires. Wolpert touches on the fact that Gandhi's transformation alienated his children and wife (whom he married at age 11) even while he expressed an "intensely personal passion" for various Western missionaries and forced some ashram devotees to sleep by him naked. By supplying more detail than useful analysis, Wolpert's effort is ultimately disappointing, and, in the end, Gandhi remains a recognizable but cryptic figure. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199728725
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,207,996
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Stanley Wolpert is Distinguished Professor of South Asian History Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has published twenty books on South Asia, including Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny, A New History of India, and Jinnah of Pakistan.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Midnight in Calcutta

MAHATMA GANDHI fell into "darkest despair" on the eve of India's independence in August 1947. Savage fighting spread from Punjab and the North-West Frontier to Eastern Bengal and Bihar. Brutal violence unleashed a year earlier by Muslim thugs in Calcutta had triggered Hindu counterattacks and the murder of more Muslims in Bihar. Mayhem, rape, and murder spread to the villages of Bengal as well, each report inciting more massacres of innocents as communal hatred raged across most of South Asia's subcontinent.

    On July 17, 1947, acting on the advice of India's prime minister-in-waiting, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the consent of Pakistan's governor-general-to-be M. A. Jinnah, Viceroy Lord Mountbatten won his government's final approval to partition Punjab and Bengal along religious lines prior to Great Britain's withdrawal from India. Their plan to carve up British India was never approved of or accepted by Gandhi, however, who realized too late that his closest comrades and disciples were more interested in power than principle, and that his own vision had long been clouded by the illusion that the struggle he led for India's freedom was a nonviolent one.

    "Who listens to me today?" a despondent Gandhi muttered. "And why should anyone?" To disillusioned devotees, the Mahatma ("Great Soul") freely confessed his "bankruptcy," admitting that he lived in "a fool's paradise." Nonetheless, the seventy-seven-year-old little Father (Bapu) of his nation did not surrender to sorrow. Great Soul that he was, Gandhi carriedon,passionately ignoring daily threats to his life, refusing to silence his criticism of the government, and rejecting appeals to remain in New Delhi to celebrate the dawn of India's freedom at midnight on the Fifteenth of August 15, 1947. "What is there to celebrate?" This "vivisection of the Mother," as he called partition, was fit only for prayer and "deep heart-searching," not for fireworks, proud speeches, and songs.

    Gandhi had tried to win Nehru over to his faith in the virtues of simple living, urging his aristocratic Anglophile heir to give up India's democratic throne, abandon the great house he planned to occupy, and instead move into a "village hut." He argued: "I believe that if India, and through India the world, is to achieve real freedom, then ... we shall have to go and live in the villages—in huts, not in palaces." Gandhi feared now that India was approaching its doom, whirling mothlike round the hot light of power till its wings would burn. His duty was to save India from that sad fate, though he well understood it might take his last passionate breath. As Delhi draped itself in miles of festive electric lights and the saffron, white, and green bunting of India's bright national flag symbolizing wishful Hindu-Sikh-Muslim unity, Bapu entrained for Bengal on his lonely pilgrimage of prayer for peace.

    "What to do?" was the mantra he muttered daily that November as he walked barefoot through the blood-soaked mud of Noakhali District's scorched villages in Eastern Bengal's anguished Delta. He had gone there in response to his old Quaker friend Muriel Lester's personal plea, made after she had met Hindu widows who had watched their husbands butchered by Muslims. Before their husbands could be cremated, those widows were dragged off to be "converted" and "married" to the same killers. "These women had a dead look," Muriel wrote him, a look of "utter blankness." Gandhi soon saw worse things in Noakhali. Believing as he did that "Truth is God," he could not understand how so much he thought true about India turned out to be so violently false.

    Lured back to Delhi by appeals from the new viceroy seeking Gandhi's wise advice on how to stop the killings, Bapu offered it. But Mountbatten was staggered by what this naked "old fool" told him. He consulted Nehru, who explained that the "old boy" was "out of touch" and could hardly be taken seriously when he urged the viceroy immediately to replace his own Congress ally and heir with their most hated Muslim League enemy, Jinnah. Mountbatten agreed, understanding little more about India than what Nehru, Nehru's closest comrade, V. K. Krishna Menon, and his own clever wife, Lady Edwina, explained to him. They all agreed that Gandhi was a saint, but saints should never indulge in practical politics or govern nations, should they?

    Gandhi realized soon enough that it was all a charade, a polite royal brush-off, once the tea party ended, the carriages were called, and the servants escorted him down the garden path. That was when he decided to leave Delhi and return to Noakhali, where he was at least listened to, if not worshipped, by villagers too uneducated to be insincere, too timid for flattery or duplicity, too poor to fear that he wanted anything from them. These were the people he loved best and felt most at ease and at home among. Mostly naked, with no possessions to worry about losing, they had nothing to hide; they were as remote from regal Mountbattens and Nehrus as Noakhali was from New Delhi.

    But before reaching Noakhali, his train steamed into Calcutta's noisy, bustling station, arriving five hours late in that smoky magnificent "City of Dreadful Night." Imperial bullies later hammered her into the richest, sexiest, sickest capital of the grandest empire on earth, built along the wrong side of a river named Hughli atop dung-filled mud at whose ancient womb worshippers of the Mother Goddess Kali laid petals of puja and slaughtered sacrificial goats and lambs. Gandhi considered all modern cities satanic, the ugliest fruit of Western civilization. He had long sought refuge from their soul-crushing noise, industrial speed, and poisonous air, preferring the harmony of India's ancient village community. And the train ride (he adamantly refused to fly) was exhausting. Noisy crowds awaiting his arrival at every stop, shoving, shouting, banging at his carriage windows; even a glimpse of the Mahatma—his darshan—was considered a blessing to devout Hindus. He tried to wave them off and to spin or pray in peace, but they never left him alone, testing his patience, causing him often to lose it, making him shout angrily at them through toothless gums. Too tired to move on immediately to East Bengal, he got into a car that was waiting at Calcutta's station to drive him to suburban Sodepur, where his Bengali disciple Satish Chandra Das Gupta had established a retreat for the hand-spinning of cotton.

    He never planned far ahead. "One step enough for me," he often said, quoting the last words of the hymn he loved best, "Lead, Kindly Light," by Cardinal Newman. He waited at all times for instructions from his "inner voice" before making his next move. Only now he heard many voices, mostly those of anxious Muslims importuning him to stay in Calcutta. The Muslim minority there feared that the transfer of power to a Hindu Congress government in West Bengal would revive riots that had started a year ago, on August 16. That was proclaimed "Direct Action Day" by Quaid-i-Azam ("Great Leader") Jinnah, president of the Muslim League. Of all his failures, the one Gandhi regretted most was not convincing Jinnah of the error of his insistence on partition, the dreadful operation that was to bring Pakistan to birth by virtually bleeding Mother India to death. If only Mountbatten and Nehru had agreed last April to tempt Jinnah by offering him the premier crown of thorns! Now it was too late, and the sole penance Gandhi could perform was to spend the remaining days of his life in Pakistan, trying to protect minorities there from extortion and violence by the Muslim majority. He resolved to leave India, moving either to Karachi or Lahore on that final pilgrimage, but first he would visit Noakhali once again to bring what little comfort his unarmed presence could to Hindus living there in daily fear of death.

    Calcutta's anxieties that the previous year's orgy of terror would be repeated, however, inspired him now to launch one of his most creative initiatives in problem solving. The man most widely blamed for the mass murder of Hindus and the torching of their property in the days and weeks following Direct Action Day was Bengal's Muslim League Chief Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Every British officer, including Governor Sir Frederick Burrows and Chief of the Eastern Command Lt. General Sir Francis Tuker, pointed to Suhrawardy as the villain of the terror that exploded after he gave Calcutta's police a special holiday to "celebrate" Direct Action. What those self-righteous British officers failed to explain, of course, was why the army they commanded was kept in barracks until the rioters had done their worst work. As soon as troops did show themselves, marching through the streets up Garden Reach, Metia Bruz, Beliaghatia, and along the Lower Circular Road, the killers slipped away. Calcutta's Marwari Hindu merchants and bankers also pointed fingers at Suhrawardy. So did their sycophants in every court and bazaar, who soon hired their own thugs to wreak vengeance on Muslim quarters of the city, gutting homes and shops there for months.

    Suhrawardy by now was stripped of Calcutta's chief ministership, replaced by Dr. Profullah Chandra Ghosh, leader of West Bengal's Hindu Congress majority provincial government. Nor would Suhrawardy be picked to become chief minister of East Pakistan; his less popular Muslim League rival Khwaja Nazimuddin had been selected instead by Jinnah to take that post in Dhaka. Jinnah knew that Suhrawardy's dream had been to preside over an independent nation of Bengal—Bangladesh—a new nation state he had lobbied hard to have carved out of the Eastern quarter of British India. His vision was to integrate Hindu majority West Bengal and Muslim majority East Pakistan into a single unified land of Bengali speakers, whose language and culture would transcend any differences of religious doctrine or practice. Mountbatten, however, refused even to consider Suhrawardy's brilliant plan, just as he had ignored Gandhi's proposal to replace Nehru with Jinnah. Though Suhrawardy's dream of becoming the king of Bengal was thus aborted, he lived to emerge less than a decade later (but only briefly to remain) as prime minister of Pakistan. He was removed by martial coup and died a few years later in Beirut.

    Gandhi had long known and liked Suhrawardy, who for three decades had admired him as well. So when Muslim friends pressed him to stay on in Calcutta, at least until after Independence Day, the Mahatma agreed to do so, on one condition—that Shaheed Suhrawardy share the same roof with him so that they could appeal to Muslims and Hindus alike to live in peace in this greatest of all Indian cities. "Adversity makes strange bed-fellows," Gandhi told his prayer meeting that August 11. Suhrawardy agreed, and they moved into the abandoned Hydari House, a once-splendid residence whose terrified Muslim owners had fled, leaving it to be robbed and ruined by looters and hoodlums. They seemed an odd couple, the almost naked Bapu and Bengal's Big Daddy dressed meticulously in his white linen or beige silk suits. But Gandhi's genius for symbolic gestures was never wiser than this experiment in Hindu-Muslim cohabitation. It visibly demonstrated to Calcutta's millions of angry and fearful Hindus and Muslims alike that a Mahatma and the Muslim League leader most often blamed for instigating the worst of last year's riots could peacefully live under a single roof. They stayed there together for almost a week, answering the most hostile, angry questions as honestly as they could, as fearlessly as both of these remarkable men had lived all their lives. It proved to be a potent lesson in the practical possibility of peaceful coexistence, cooperation, and the powers of love. Of the lessons Gandhi had labored most of his life to teach, this was one of the most important. The interlude with Suhrawardy, however, was his last demonstration of the miraculous force of love and the value of trust and faith in one's fellow man as well as in truth. Pacifist Horace Alexander, whose leadership of the Society of Friends had first brought him to India in 1929, was invited by Gandhi to join them in Hydari House, where Alexander proved useful in helping to keep crowds of irate Hindus from breaking in that first night. "Why have you come here?" they shouted at Gandhi. "Why did you not go to places from where the Hindus have fled?"

    "I have come here to serve not only Muslims but Hindus," he explained. The hooligans told him to "go away," but Gandhi was never easily dissuaded or intimidated from doing what he believed to be right. "You can obstruct my work, even kill me. I won't invoke the help of the police. You can prevent me from leaving this house, but what is the use of your dubbing me an enemy of the Hindus? I will not accept the label." The Mahatma then asked them what good it would do now to "avenge" the wrongs committed in 1946.

    On August 14, Gandhi argued again with the young Hindus who had so angrily challenged him the previous day. By evening he had won their hearts and minds. "What a spell-binder this old man is!" one of them cried. "No matter how heavy the odds, he does not know ... defeat." That same convert volunteered to help guard Hydari House against any future attacks. An estimated ten thousand people gathered to hear Gandhi's prayer that evening. "If the flames of communal strife envelop the whole country," Bapu asked, "how can our newborn freedom survive?"

    He awoke at 2 A.M. on August 15, having slept through Nehru's "Tryst with Destiny" speech at midnight. When he left Hydari House for his morning walk, crowds followed him, keen for just a glimpse of the Mahatma. Soon after he returned, West Bengal's new cabinet arrived, seeking his blessings. "Wear the crown of thorns," Gandhi told them. "Strive ceaselessly to cultivate truth and non-violence. Be humble. Be forbearing ... beware of power; power corrupts. Do not let yourselves be entrapped by its pomp and pageantry. Remember, you are in office to serve the poor in India's villages."

    How obvious it seemed to him now, that simple prescription for using power most wisely, and yet how long it had taken him to learn. And how difficult it was to avoid life's lures and traps, the pomp and the wrong passions.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Introduction 3
1 Midnight in Calcutta 7
2 Dawn in Gujarat 13
3 The Impact of Victorian London 20
4 Brief Interlude at Home 28
5 Early Traumas and Triumphs in South Africa 34
6 Between Two Worlds 42
7 Satyagraha in South Africa 50
8 Victory through Suffering 67
9 The Impact of World War I 82
10 Postwar Carnage and Nationwide Satyagraha 99
11 Cotton Spinning 115
12 Rising of the Poison 127
13 The Road Back to Satyagraha 135
14 The Salt March and Prison Aftermath 144
15 From Prison to London and Back 152
16 Imprisoned Soul of India 165
17 Return to Rural Uplift Work 174
18 Prelude to War and Partition 182
19 War and Peaceful Resistance 191
20 War behind Bars 205
21 NoPeace 213
22 Walking Alone 224
23 Freedom's Wooden Loaf 237
24 Great Soul's Death in Delhi 243
25 His Indian Legacy 257
26 His Global Legacy 264
Notes 269
Select Bibliography 299
Index 303
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 20, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    SMES IR book review 2008 (Mrs. Korzep)

    Gandhi¿s Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi<BR/>Stanley Wolpert<BR/>Professor of History of Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles<BR/>Written many books about modern India and Pakistan<BR/>One-sided point of view on how Gandhi is a man to be idolized<BR/>Nonfictional biography<BR/>Pacifism, independence<BR/>If the people of Russia and Georgia were to use Gandhi¿s example of nonviolent reasoning, there would be no need for Russia to have to make a decision on whether to keep their troops in Georgia or take them out. If they were using a pacifistic view of things than their fight for oil would be solved. They could use rational persuasion to fairly figure out their issue and make both countries happy. Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge follower of Gandhi¿s ways, he once said, ¿Operating through the Gandhian method of non-violence is one of the most potent weapons available to the oppressed people in their struggle for freedom¿ (264). The few criticisms I was able to find about this book were both good. Wolpert did a very good job of writing this book. Even though he thought very highly of Gandhi, he kept this book strictly facts few opinions. He had a lot of detail that helped us to have a further understanding of Gandhi and his life, and he did this with a very open-mind. Not only did Wolpert write this book very well, he wrote the book from a point of view that anyone could respect. He did not just write a book about how he thought of Gandhi; he wrote a biography on Mahatma Gandhi¿s life. This book is a very good book for any history teacher to use as a reference. It is very educational and not so much a fun read. I would recommend this book if you are writing a research paper because it will give you all the information you are looking for not just a few small facts that could be of very little help.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    Wtf theres a eroor

    This book is crap (actually i have never read this book) but still it is crap since oncw i bought it i cant read it

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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