Mahatma Gandhi was a patriot, a statesman, a huge moral force, and the rebuilder of his country. His teachings overturned the British Empire, and changed the history of the former Soviet Union, The United States of America, South Africa, and many other nations around the world.
In many ways Gandhi was a contradiction. He was a poor student, but he travelled to a foreign university, graduated, and insisted on education as an important part of his beliefs. (Most of the Indian Paper Money issues commemorating Gandhi's birth feature this important idea). He was a shy person, but he became used to, and was able to use, publicity, and to talk to large crowds and world leaders. He believed in compromise, but he developed an iron will. He stood like a rock in a stormy sea of conflicts, never yielding until the correct decision had been made, even though it meant risking his own life.
Mahatma Gandhi was born on Oct 2, 1869, in Porbandar, on the western coast of India, to a Hindu family of the merchant caste. His family was not wealthy, although his ancestors were politically prominant. His father and grandfather were both governors of his birth city. He was a poor student, but he persevered, as he recognized the importance of education. He was married at age 13. He graduated from high school, and went to England to study law. Gandhi became a barrister in England in 1891. He then returned to India, where he found that he was unable to argue in court. He travelled to South Africa in 1893, to represent the commercial interests of a Muslim-owned trading firm.
Immediately, Gandhi was confronted by racial inequality. He and his baggage were thrown off a train, because he had purchased a first class ticket, he was not allowed to sit in first class, and he refused to sit in third class holding a first class ticket. The incident upset him enough that he was able to deliver his first speech in public. After he was finished with the law case, he was persuaded to stay behind to try to help the Indians living in South Africa get the right to vote. He started to change his ideas, aiming for a simpler life, and reducing his expenses and his wants.
During the Boer War (1899-1902), Mahatma Gandhi organized a stretcher-bearer service. He still believed in patriotism and the "Mother Country". His non-violent support was the formation of the Indian Ambulance Service, whose members showed extreme bravery, being mentioned in dispatches. It was his first experience with Indians of all castes and religions working together for a common cause. It was also an example of his beliefs that rights and obligations go together, that one should not exist without the other. During the Zulu uprising of 1906, he again organized an Indian Ambulance Service. The service aided the injured Zulus, whom the British would not touch, as well as the injured British.
Gandhi founded the Phoenix and Tolstoy ashrams, where the residents aimed for self-sufficiency, doing all their own work in extreme simplicity. Gandhi learned to make sandals. He developed the concept of Satyagraha, of holding fast to the truth, or of keeping strong in a righteous cause. That cause was the passage in 1907 of the Black Act, which required all Indians to register and get fingerprinted. He was arrested twice under the act, and eventually met with Jan Smuts, the South African Prime Minister, to try to arrange a compromise. Gandhi eventually registered, but the act was not repealed as had been promised. Gandhi was then attacked and beaten for betraying his cause, but he forgave his attackers, who had been arrested.
In the next two years, Mahatma Gandhi was arrested twice more, and given sentences of jail time with hard labour. In 1911 he again met with the government, after they had passed a law making all Indian marriages invalid, and making wives the equivalent of concubines. He worked with Indian women, who persuaded the Indian coal miners to strike. Gandhi was arrested, but 50,000 coal miners were on strike, and several thousand people were in jail. Eventually, the government yielded.
Successful, Gandhi and his family returned to India, where he went on his first walkabout, taking about a year to see the changes that had occurred since he had left India so long ago. In 1917 he was working with the indigo farmers, settling their dispute. He tried to raise hygienic standards, starting with those at schools. He then got involved in a dispute between textile workers and mill owners. Finally, in an attempt to solve thie dispute, he announced that he would fast until a settlement was achieved. His fast kept the dispute non-violent, and a settlement was reached 3 days later.
In Gujurat, Mahatma Gandhi organized a tax revolt, to help poor peasants who were being taxed more that they could afford. After 4 months with no tax income, payment remission was granted.
Then came the crucible of his career, the incident that reforged his thoughts and beliefs. The passage of the Rowatt bill led Gandhi to call a hartal, a national protest, when shops and businesses were closed. He was arrested, which led to the Amritsar massacre, martial law, arrests, and floggings. He spoke at a Muslim conference, where for the first time he called for non-cooperation with Britain. Gandhi had now found an issue which would appeal to all India. He called for the unity of Hindus and Muslems, the removal of untouchability, equality for women, the popularization of hand-spinning, and reconstruction of the village-based economy.
Mahatma Gandhi then got involved in a protest in aid of a poor man who was not allowed to collect salt. He decided to go on a 281 mile walk across India. Again he was arrested, after focusing the attention of the world on this inequality. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison, but was released after 2 years, as he had a serious attack of appendicitis.
Gandhi immediately got deeply involved in the drive for independance from Britain. He favoured one India, composed of both Hindus and Muslims. However, the British favoured the separation of the different religions, and this led to bloodshed, rapings,and murders. Gandhi went to different areas across India which had seen the worst incidents, and his presence was able to cold down the situation, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, he could not be everywhere, and India went through some of the worst times it had seen for almost a hundred years.
We know that India and Pakistan were separated, and the bad blood from this separation continues today, sixty years later. This Mahatma Gandhi was not able to change, although he tried. He would walk into the areas of the worst murders and atrocities, accompanied only by his secretary. He would call the community leaders together, and arrange a compromise that would calm the confrontations. Areas of rapings and shootings would remain calm, and he would go on to the next one. His presence was such a moral force that, although any of these confrontations could have been fatal for him, he was able to settle any area that he went into.
It is ironic hat, after India became independant, Gandhi survived a bomb attempt, and then 10 days later he was shot by a Hindu fanatic. He had a regular audience, and although he was late, he still attended it. He was shot at point-blank range, and did not survive.
Mahatma Gandhi is remembered for his ideas- equality, rights with responsibilities, non-violence, compromise when possible, always standing up for the right conclusion, simplicity, education, and hygiene. His way of peaceful non-violent protest has been used all over the world. He sincerely wanted to improve the life of everyone.
The Coins and Paper Money Issues of India Featuring Gandhi
India issued a series of coins and paper money commemorating the life of Ghandi in 1969 and 1970. The coins include the 20 Paisa, made of nickel-brass, the 50 Paisa and 1 Rupee, made of nickel, and the 10 Rupees, made of 0.800 fine silver. These coins show a simple head of Gandhi, and the Asoka pillar on the other side. They bear the dates 1869-1948.
The paper money includes a 1, 2, 5, 10, and 100 Rupees. These have two different designs. All Indian 1 Rupee bills issued from 1917, with one exception, show the picture of a 1 Rupee coin with a date. In 1969, the regular coin design was not issued, and instead the special 1 Rupee Commemorative coin, bearing the dates 1869-1948, is pictured on each side. The higher value bills show Mahatma Gandhi seated, reading a book, putting a focus on his teaching of the value of education. The front of the higher value bills show the regular designs. There are three signature varieties, with I. G. Patel on the 1 Rupee bills, and either L. K. Jha or B. N. Ardarkar on the 2, 5, 10 and 100 Rupees bills. The colours are restrained, and emphasize the peacefulness of Gandhi.
A set of the historic Gandhi Commemorative issue, with 1 Rupee, 5 Rupees, and 10 Rupees in paper money, is available from the eBay shop of coinsnpaper, operated by the author, David Larson. Click here to visit the coinsnpaper shop on eBay. The bills are almost uncirculated (AU) condition or better, with a possible corner counting fold away from perfection. They will have staple holes, because almost all Indian paper money was stapled in bundles whenever it was counted.
The current issue of paper money of India has denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 Rupees. The front has a similar design for all denominations. All have a benevolent-looking bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the right, and a clear watermarked area at the left. The back designs are all different. The 5 Rupees shows a farmer plowing with a tractor, the 10 Rupees shows an ornamented design featuring the heads of a tiger, elephant, and rhino, the 20 Rupees shows coconut trees, the 50 Rupees shows Parliament House, the 100 Rupees shows the Himalaya Mountains, the 500 Rupees shows Gandhi leading a line of protesters, and the 1000 Rupees shows different features of the modern Indian economy- farming, oil platforms, computers, sattelites, technology, and industrial design. They put the focus on what India has created since the time of Gandhi, and are much more colourful than the restrained 1969 issues.
I am not offering the current bills now, but if you are interested in them, please let me know and I will try to get them for you.
Coinsnpaper is a store that specializes in coins and paper money of countries around the world. The owner, David Larson, has done money displays and worked on the numismatic collections of various museums in North America. The money of Mahatma Gandhi has long been a favourite of his, because he believes numismatics, the study of coins, tokens, medals, paper money, and script, embraces history, economics, metallurgy, calligraphy, design, and culture. These coins and paper money issues highlight all of these areas.