Mahatma Gandhi's India
To show how one personís actions can inspire others and really make a difference.
by Jude Scrutton
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To show how one person’s actions can inspire others and really make a difference.
Preparation and materials
- You need some pictures of Mahatma Gandhi as a lawyer and as a holy man.
- Images of pre-Victorian and post-Victorian maps showing the growth of the British Empire.
- Whiteboard or flipchart.
- Discuss the fact that over the time of Queen Victoria’s reign (ending in 1901) the British Empire grew considerably. Point to India and explain that this was one of the biggest and most densely populated countries within the British Empire.
- Millions of Indians lived a poor and miserable life. Not only did many Indians hate the English who governed them but they were divided into many different religious groups. Each of these groups at the time believed that it was wrong for someone from their faith to have anything to do with people from other faiths.
Many Indians longed to be free of British rule and to run their country for themselves. However, the British were large and all-powerful, and the Indians were not unified enough among themselves – there was conflict between the religious groups – to form a resistance movement with any influence.
What they needed was a leader. A man who would be respected and obeyed.
- One day in 1914 a man called Gandhi got off a ship from South Africa in Bombay. He was wearing traditional Indian clothes, a white robe.
When he arrived in India Gandhi had been a well-regarded lawyer for some time, famous for the work he had done for Indian people living in South Africa and helping them improve their lives.
Gandhi thought that it was imperative to get rid of British rule in India. What do you think he did to try and attempt this? (Students will probably think of violent protests, war.)
- Explain that Gandhi knew that his hopes would not be realized while the Indians were fighting among themselves. There was a message that he told his people as often as he could. (Write the message as you say it, or have it prepared as a slide.) His message was:
This habit of looking down on people with different religions and different kinds of families must stop. It is time to be kind to everyone. When we look on ourselves as one people, we can turn our attention to fighting the British.
- Ask the students again how they think the Indians managed to overthrow British rule, then continue the quote:
But we must not fight with guns. We must fight with our minds. We must be non-violent. We must refuse to obey British Law. When the soldiers come to arrest us we must let them. We must go to Prison for what we believe. We must make it impossible for the British to stay in India.
- Many Indians believed in Gandhi and followed his teachings. They saw him as a great leader and named him ‘Mahatma’ (which means ‘great one’).
His principles made the country very hard for the British to run. Gandhi’s disciples soon reached into the millions. They did not fill in the forms they were asked to. They did not pay taxes. And they met regularly and the leaders would speak out against the severe laws.
Over a number of years more and more people joined Gandhi and demanded that their country be given back to the Indians. Finally, in 1947 the British left India to be ruled by Indians.
- However, even then Gandhi was not satisfied. His people still remained divided and the Muslims and Hindus could not agree. The British had divided the country into two to give territory to each of these groups, so creating the nation of Pakistan.
Gandhi hated this division and spoke out about it many times. He wanted reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims. Many disagreed with him, however, and on 30 January 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a fellow Hindu.
- Discuss how Jesus was also a man who brought great changes to people’s lives through non-violent protest and teachings on how to live. He too was executed for these beliefs and teachings as they went against what people from some religious groups taught.
Time for reflection
Faith and belief in one’s principles are very important but it is imperative that we accept other people’s views when they differ from ours.
We should not react violently to people with other beliefs, but rather try to respond positively.
Lord, help us to stand up for the forgotten, the unloved, the oppressed.
Let our actions show your love.
Help us to find ways to do this,
and let us not walk on the other side of the road ignoring the problem.
‘Lord of the dance’ (Come and Praise, 22)