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Gandhi & Satyagraha

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  • March 26, 2006
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A Re-examination of the sources of Gandhi's Satyagraha
and its significance in the Indian Liberation movement

Perhaps one of the most eminent figures in the history of India, Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as the Mahatma, or "The Great Soul", was the spiritual and practical founder of active non-violent resistance, a concept called Satyagraha. Also known as ¡°soul-force¡± or ¡°truth-force¡±, Gandhi developed this revolutionary technique as a method of gaining political and social reforms against the injustices experienced by Indians under British Colonial rule. For most of his life, Gandhi devoted himself to perfecting the Satyagraha technique, teaching it to his followers and applying it in every kind of conflict that he ever encountered.

In this following paper, we will be examining the underlying sources of Gandhi's Satyagraha, where he drew inspiration for his philosophies on non-violence, and finally, we will take a look at the application of Satyagraha in terms of the Indian liberation.

The Roots of ¡®Satyagraha¡¯
The word Satyagraha is derived from the Sanskrit words "sat" which means "truth" and "agraha", meaning "firmness¡±, giving meaning to what Gandhi liked to call ¡°holding on to truth¡± or ¡°soul-force (Easwaran, 48). As Gandhi explains in his autobiography, the principles of Satyagraha came into existence long before the actual term was conceived. Therefore it is important to note that Satyagraha was no overnight revelation but the result of an ongoing collection of philosophies and ideals taken in from various sources throughout Gandhi¡¯s experiences.

Gandhi¡¯s philosophy on Satyagraha primarily stems from his association with two ancient religions, Hinduism and Jainism. Growing up in a region where both these religions were widely practiced, Gandhi gained exposure to their ways and principles early on in life (Arnold, 33). Core to both these religions, is the belief for reverence for all forms of life. From this...