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Meet Sergeant Gandhi: In 1915, he was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind medal for his loyalty towards British Empire

Right up to the mid-1920s, Gandhi too struggled to explain his stand and gave contradictory statements. But, when the war ended, Gandhi felt Britain’s cause a righteous one and fought for it

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Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn, in the late 1920s. Image source: Wikipedia
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  • In 1914, Gandhi served as a sergeant-major of the British Army and in the next five months, he managed to convince Indians to join the corps
  • Gandhi got affected with pleurisy and left England in December and came India in January, 1915
  • In 1918, regarding the war effort, Gandhi donated a sum of Rs 102 from his own pocket

In August 1914, in South Africa, a British steamer SS Kinfauns Castle had reached the English Channel from Cape Town, when one of the passengers received important news: Germany and the British Empire were at war.  When, the person reached Britain, he declared absolute support to the British war effort and suggested to raise an Indian volunteer unit.

This person was none other than the barrister Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Political gurus and Historians have always taken a great interest in the matter and struggled a lot to understand, why a follower of non-violence and peace had offered support to the British Empire during the First World War.

There are many debates going around regarding the incident. Some believe that Gandhi, being a loyalist had a great faith in the British, while quite a few believe that he saw an opportunity to exact the political concessions from the British during the First World War.

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Right up to the mid-1920s, Gandhi too struggled to explain his stand and gave contradictory statements. But, when the war ended, Gandhi felt Britain’s cause a righteous one and fought for it.

Gandhi_and_Indira_1924
Young Indira with Mahatma Gandhi during his fast in 1924. Image source: Wikipedia

“We have to understand that Gandhi was a politician back then, and like all politicians, he did contradict himself several times. But at that time in India, there was no demand for total independence or ‘poorna swaraj’ but dominion status. So it wasn’t just Gandhi but most political leaders of that time, cutting across party lines, supported in varying degrees the British war effort,” says military historian Squadron Leader Rana T S Chhina (Retd), according to a TOI report.

Gandhi was clear that the Indian Army would be needed on the Western Front. Therefore, he was also certain that many Indians would get wounded and need medical attention. As a result, Gandhi suggested raising an Indian ambulance corps and due to Gandhi’s loyalty towards the British, it was soon sanctioned by the British war office.

This incident took place in 1914, but this was not the first time that the Indians were asked by Gandhi to join British force and support them during the 1899-1902 Second Boer War as well as in Zulu War in 1906. He served as a sergeant-major of the British Army and in the next five months, he managed to convince Indians to join the corps. After joining, some of them also later served in the Brighton and Southampton hospitals where Indian victims were treated. Gandhi was accompanied by Kasturba (his wife) and Sarojini Naidu, who also supported the British Empire unconditionally.

Mahatma Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu at the 1942 AICC session. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Mahatma Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu at the 1942 AICC session. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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Soon, Gandhi got affected with pleurisy and left England in December and came India in January, 1915. This was the year, when Gandhi was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind medal, said a TOI report.

After coming back to India, he continued to support the cause of the British but he also fought the British rule in India by organizing several movements- Champaran Satyagraha in 1917 and the Kheda Satyagraha in 1918. After, Kheda Satyagraha ended he became actively involved in campaigning for the war as a recruiting officer of the empire and appointed fighters. Other leaders who joined him were Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopalkrishna Gokhale and Mohammed Ali Jinnah who promoted the empire’s cause in several degrees.

Vedica Kant, a UK based author came to India to launch her first book, ‘If I die here, who will remember me? India in the First World War‘ says, Gandhi was not like other leaders. “Like others who demanded or expected concessions from the British in return for support to the war, Gandhi, right from the beginning, gave unconditional support. Gandhi was also instrumental in expanding the recruiting bases of the Indian Army to Gujarat and other places: places that didn’t have the so-called martial races as identified by the British. By 1918, the empire was in dire need of men and they had to look to Gujarat, Bengal, Madras etc for recruiting,” she adds.

Among the many recruiting centres that were set up, one was also set up in Gujarat was set up at Pollen Dharamshala in Godhra. This was in April 16, 1918 where a large gathering took place- Thakores of Rewa Kantha Agency and Panch Mahals as well as common people were present when they heard about Gandhi presenting a report about his recruiting work. Gandhi mentioned that the Kaira area had contributed the maximum in Gujarat.

Mahatma Gandhi after being assasinated in New Delhi, January 30, 1948. Image source: Wikipedia
Mahatma Gandhi after being assasinated in New Delhi, January 30, 1948. Image source: Wikipedia

Regarding the war effort, Gandhi donated a sum of Rs 102 from his own pocket. The money collected amounted to Rs 4,500 and additional 1,000 rupees came from a concert held in the evening. As a result, the British government felt a sense of gratitude and awarded recruiters and recruits.

“Voluntary enlistment is the right key to self-government, to say nothing of the manliness and broadmindedness it confers. The honour of our women is bound up with it inasmuch as by enlisting ourselves, we shall acquire that capacity for self-defence, the absence of which at present makes us unable to protect our women and children… The opportunity for military training now open to us all will not present itself in the future… A man who is afraid of death is constitutionally incapable of passive resistance. For a proper appreciation of the true significance of passive resistance the power of physical endurance needs to be cultivated. He alone can practise ‘ahimsa’ who knows ‘himsa’ not in the abstract but in fact,” Gandhi addressed in a mass gathering in Borsad taluka on June 26, 1918.

After the war ended, when British came with repressive measures, Gandhi lost faith in the system. He as well as others started categorizing Indian soldiers, who volunteered for the war as mercenaries and this is where the whole thing went wrong, says Kant. “The Indian Army fought with the consent of the Indian leadership. And that’s why our soldiers cannot be called mercenaries. Now, people today may not like it that so many Indians fought for the empire, but you can’t just write them out of history,” she further adds.

Due to the ongoing politics between the Indian leaders and the British, Indian soldiers never found their rightful place in the pages of history.

-by Deepannita Das, sub-editor at NewsGram. Twitter: @deepweep

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12 Interesting Facts About Somnath Temple Probably You Didn’t Know

The Somnath Temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot.

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Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
  • Somnath Temple is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode
  • The first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past
  • Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga

Somnath Temple is a specimen of fine architecture of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas Shrines of Shiva. This place is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode, therefore it is dubbed as Eternal Shrine. This legendary temple has been vandalized numerous times in the history but with the help of some Hindu Kings, the temple was reshaped each time.

Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. The temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot. Lord Shiva has a strong connection here and also known as shrine eternal.

Somnath Temple History

According to popular tradition, the first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past. The second temple has been built at the same site by the “Yadava kings” of Vallabhi around 649 CE. In 725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. In 815 CE, the Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple, a huge structure of red sandstone.

Also Read: Top 10 Famous Hindu Temples of Tamil Nadu

The Chaulukya (Solanki) king Mularaja possibly built the first temple at the site sometime before 997 CE, even though some historians believe that he may have renovated a smaller earlier temple.

Somnath Temple Attacks

Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga. Ghazni took away the wealth of almost 20 million dinars. As per historical records, the damage to the temple by was quite negligible because there are records of pilgrimages to the temple in 1038, which has no much mention of any damage to the temple.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

But claims are there that Mahmud had killed 50,000 devotees who tried to defend the temple. The temple at the time of Ghazni’s attack appears to have been a wooden structure, which is said to have decayed in time.

According to an inscription of 1169, Kumarapala rebuilt it in “excellent stone and studded it with jewels,”

Also Read: Angkor Wat: History behind Cambodian Hindu temple

Then in 1299, the Somnath Temple was invaded by Alauddin Khalji’s army, led by Ulugh Khan. They defeated the Vaghela king Karna and sacked the Somnath temple. Legends state that the Jalore ruler Kanhadadeva later recovered the Somnath idol and freed the Hindu prisoners, after an attack on the Delhi army near Jalore. However, some other sources state that the idol was taken to Delhi, where it was thrown to be trampled under the feet of Muslims.

The Somnath Temple was rebuilt by Mahipala I, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra in 1308 and the lingam was installed by his son Khengara sometime between 1331 and 1351.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage.

In 1395, the temple was again destroyed for the third time by Zafar Khan, the last governor of Gujarat under the Delhi Sultanate and later founder of Gujarat Sultanate.

In 1546, the Portuguese who were based in Goa attacked ports and towns in Gujarat including Somnath Temple and destroyed several of its structures.

Somnath temple to Dwarka

Dwarka is an ancient city in the Indian state of Gujarat. It is very near to Somnath temple and due to its relevance to Hindu pilgrimage; people do tend to visit this place also.

Also Read: The Temple of Death: The Abode of Yamraj

The magnificent Temple of Dwarka has an elaborately tiered main shrine, a carved entrance and a black-marble idol of Lord Krishna.

Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons

The road distance between Dwarka and Somnath is 231 km and the aerial distance from Dwarka to Somnath is 210 km. One can also cover the distance through train which is almost 398km distant.

Here are some facts that are attached to this sacred and architecturally marvellous temple.

  1. The present-day Somnath Temple was built in five years, from 1947 to 1951 and was inaugurated by then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad.
  2. Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga, the Philosopher’s stone, which is associated with Lord Krishna. The stone is said to be magical, which was capable of producing gold. It is also believed that stone had alchemic and radioactive properties and thus it remains floating above the ground.
  3. The temple finds its reference in the sacred texts of Hindus like Shreemad Bhagavat, Skandpuran, Shivpuran and Rig-Veda. This signifies the importance of this temple as one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India.
  4. According to records, the site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times as it was said to be the junction of three rivers, Kapila, Hiran and the mythical Saraswati. The meeting point was called as Triveni Sangam and is believed to be the place where Soma, the Moon-god bathed and regained his lustre.
  5. According to Swami Gajanand Saraswati (a Hindu scholar), the first temple was built 7, 99, 25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skanda Puran.
  6. The temple is said to be located at such a place that there is no straight-line land between Somnath seashore till Antarctica continent. In a Sanskrit inscription, found on the Arrow-Pillar called Baan-Stambh is stated that the temple stands at a point on the Indian piece of land, which happens to be the first point on land in the north to the south-pole on that particular longitude.

    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
  7. According to the text of Skanda Purana, the name of Somnath Temple will change every time the world is reconstructed. It is believed when Lord Brahma will create a new world after ending the one we are living, Somnath will acquire a new name of Pran Nath Temple.
  8. On the walls of Somnath Temple, the sculptures of Lord Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu can be seen.
  9. According to another reference in the Skanda Purana, there are about 6 Brahmas. This is the era of 7thBrahma who is called Shatanand.
  10. The flag mast on the peak of Somnath Temple is 37 feet long and it changes 3 times a day.
  11. The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati.
  12. Non-Hindus doesn’t require any special permission to visit Somnath Temple. The decision was taken in view of security issues.Now, pack your bags and begin your journey to one of the most the sacred places of India.