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Gandhi: The Myths About the Mahatma

September 17, 2021

Mahatma Gandhi is a towering, larger-than-life historical figure who changed the geopolitical makeup of the world of the 20th century. But how much do you really know about Gandhi, what he did, and why it’s important? As we prepare to release a book about the man, here’s a look at some of the misconceptions about Gandhi.

His name isn’t Mahatma.

That’s an honorific, which translates from Sanskrit, the ancient language central to the Hindu faith, as “great soul.” It’s similar in usage to “saint,” and peers and leaders first started using it to refer to Gandhi in 1915. (His given first name: Mohandas.)

His nonviolent method of protest overthrew British rule in India.

Gandhi’s leadership is a major factor in India gaining its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, but it’s the result of his non-violent protesting — and political skill — that brought about lasting change. India is a large and populous country and in the early 20th century was politically divided because of a stratified society based on religion and caste. Gandhi managed to unite the majority of the disparate country and rally them into supporting his drive for independence.

 

He wanted India to remain intact.

The country today called Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim nation, and it was partitioned off from India in 1947. While Gandhi frequently called for unity and one whole, complete, independent India regardless of faith, he supported the partition as a political measure.

His assassination was a one-time violent attack.

While it was certainly tragic and shocking when Gandhi was murdered by a political opponent in 1948, it was far from the first time that Gandhi was the target of a deadly plot. Between 1934 and 1948, at least six attempts on his life were carried out.

 

Show Me History is Portable Press’s series of graphic novels that make history and historical figures come alive. Check out the whole line, including the newest addition, Gandhi: The Peaceful Protester.

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