For nearly thirty years Congress was dominated by Gandhi, and India influenced more by him than by any other single man. It is not too much to say that the destiny of India was modified and the world itself influenced by this single personality. An unimpressive figure with a reedy voice, an ingratiating manner, and an astute expression concealed a character of great charm and baffling complexity. Gandhi was one of those men who concealed thought in the volume of his speech and meaning in a wealth of explanation. He was always explaining himself and was never understood. He convinced those whose attention was caught by one facet or other of his character in turn that he was a fanatic, a visionary, a consummate tactician, a saint, a prophet, or a trickster. To this day he remains an enigma; the only fact of which we can be quite certain is the magnitude of his influence upon the people and events of his time and afterward.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in Porbandar, a port in the Kathiawar Peninsula of western India and the capital of a small Hindu state. His father was the hereditary dewan or prime minister of the state, and the young Gandhi thus had a hereditary connection with politics, though authoritarian ones, and state service. Unlike so many of the leaders of the new India, Gandhi was not a Brahmin. He came from the Vaishya or merchant caste, popularly known as banya in the north, which in Kathiawar and Gujarat had close connections with the dissenting Hindu sect of the Jains. In the Jain religion nonviolence to every sentient being is an article of faith, so that we can at once see one origin of the later Gandhi's characteristic doctrine. As a youth he was sent to London to study, and duly qualified as a barristerat-law. His departure and return provoked a crisis in his community, one half considering that he had lost caste by crossing the ocean to unholy regions. While in London he came into touch with liberal and


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India: A Modern History
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