In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared the day of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s birth, Oct. 2, as the International Day of Non-Violence. What a lovely and poignant way to celebrate the birthday of the man who has become known as the granddaddy of civil rights and freedom.
In honor of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, here are five curious facts about the great Indian nationalist that you may not have known.
1. Mahatma wasn’t his name
Many people incorrectly believe that Mahatma was Gandhi’s given name. However it is merely an honorific, said to have been bestowed upon him by the Bengali poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore. From the Sanskrit words maha (meaning “great”) and atma (meaning “soul”) it seems to have been a well-chosen title for the man. However, in his autobiography Gandhi notes that he never valued the title, and was often pained by it.
2. He was a teen groom
In May of 1883, at the age of 13, Gandhi was married to 14-year-old Kasturba Makhanji in an arranged marriage, according to the custom of the region. Kasturba had four sons with Gandhi and supported his endeavors until her death in 1944.
3. He dabbled in book agenting
Barrister, non-violent activist, vegetarian advocate, father of India, great leader? Yes. But, book agent? Indeed. In 1894 while working in South Africa, Gandhi indicated his growing interest in Esoteric Christianity by becoming an agent for promoting the Esoteric Christian Union’s literature.
4. He lived in an experimental community
Originally called the Satyagraha Ashram in honor of Gandhi’s movement toward passive resistance, the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad was home to Gandhi from 1917 until 1930. In developing the community, Gandhi and his followers envisioned a new social construct of truth and peace that would help to revolutionize contemporary models of living. The community fostered farming, animal husbandry, cow breeding, Khadi and related activities — as well as a school that focused on manual labor, agriculture and literacy to advance the efforts for self-sufficiency.
5. He never won the Nobel Peace Prize
The man perhaps more associated with peace than any other human being was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was nominated five times between 1937 and 1948, yet he made the short list only in 1937 and 1947. Gandhi was nominated in 1948 but was assassinated before nominations closed. The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee.