Gandhi Jayanti

October 2

It is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, it is true that the story will take the shape of an autobiography.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1940

India, a land overflowing with the holy days of its many religions, has only three official national holidays of its own: Republic Day, Independence Day, and Gandhi Jayanti.

The first two celebrate the power and the freedom of the state and its people. The third celebrates the power and humbleness of a man, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on this day in 1869 in Porbander, Gujarat. He was influenced by his mother’s Jainism, and its concept of Ahimsa, but he was not particularly religious, or even spiritual as a child.

His father died when he was 15, and at 18 he left India to study law at University College London. It was there, when faced with the different lifestyles of Westerners, he reflected on his own beliefs. As a vegetarian, he joined the Vegetarian Society, and began reading in earnest the scriptures of Hinduism, including the Bhagavad Gita, as well as doctrines on Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.

After returning briefly to India, he took a position at an Indian firm in South Africa. The post was supposed to be for a year, but Gandhi stayed for twelve. First he worked with Indians to oppose a bill denying Indians the right to vote. The bill passed despite his efforts. In 1897, he was nearly lynched by an angry white mob, but Gandhi refused to prosecute his assailants.

Then Gandhi led the Indian resistance against forced registration in South Africa. It was during this time Gandhi solidified his theories of peaceful resistance through civil disobedience, eventually forcing the government to agree to a compromise.

In 1915, at age 45, Gandhi returned to his homeland. He would spend the remaining 30+ years of his life fighting–through nonviolence–for the independence of his country, for the rights of his countrymen, and for peace between his brothers. It was this last cause for which he would give his life.

Gandhi’s weapons included strikes, protests, and boycotts of British goods. He encouraged Indians to spin their own cloth and renounce British titles of nobility.

Following a mass protest that ended in violence in 1922, Gandhi served two years in prison for sedition. Afterward, Gandhi worked to bridge the gap between the Indian political divisions that had intensified during his imprisonment.

In the Spring of 1930, Gandhi led the 400 kilometer Salt March, in which thousands of Indians journeyed to the sea to make their own salt, in protest of the Salt Tax. The British arrested tens of thousands of Indians in the wake of the campaign.

Gandhi continued his opposition to British rule throughout World War II. In 1947, India finally won its long awaited independence. To avoid an impending civil war between India’s Muslims and Hindus, Gandhi reluctantly agreed to support the partition of the country into two republics, India and Pakistan.

Just as Gandhi feared, the partitioning was accompanied by mass bloodshed.

On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was taking his nightly walk through the garden of the Birla Bhavan house in New Dehli when he was shot and killed by a radical Hindu, angry at Gandhi’s support of payment to country of Pakistan.

At his request, his ashes were spread throughout India.

“It is a superstition and an ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority. Many examples can be given in which acts of majorities will be found to have been wrong, and those of minorities to have been right. All reforms owe their origin to the initiation of minorities in opposition to majorities…

Democracy cannot be evolved by forcible methods. The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within…

Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands dyed red with innocent blood.”

Gandhi on Democracy

Gandhi was instrumental in civil rights movements on two continents, Asia and Africa. His teachings inspired leaders of the civil rights movement on a third continent, North America, after Gandhi’s death.

For these reasons and more, in 2007 the United Nations declared October 2 “International Day of Non-Violence.” The Dalai Lama once said of Gandhi:

His life has inspired me ever since I was a small boy. Ahimsa or nonviolence the powerful idea that Mahatma Gandhi made familiar throughout the world. Nonviolence does not mean the absence of violence. It is something more positive, more meaningful than that, for it depends on wholly on the power of truth.

See also: School Day of Peace and Non-Violence

China National Day

October 1


By population, it’s the biggest National Day in the world. On this day (October 1) in 1949 Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China declared victory against the National army of Chiang Kai Shek and announced the birth of a new nation. A grand ceremony was held in Tiananmen Square celebrating the new People’s Republic of China.

Over sixty years later the Chinese continue to celebrate the country’s National Day with three full days of festivities. The holiday runs from October 1 to October 3 each year, but the whole week is referred to as a “Golden Week”. The other “Golden Week” is during Chinese New Year.

Parades, fireworks, and music concerts are some of the key features of the holiday, especially in larger cities like Shanghai. In the past, approximately 800,000 volunteers have helped out around the country to ensure the festivities go smoothly. (Guardian 9/30/09)

The main parade in Beijing can involve hundreds of thousands of people. The parade is an opportunity to show national spirit, and also for the government to strut its military stuff in peacetime.

Of course not all spectators are equally enthralled.

“This is basically a live action Powerpoint presentation, except more painful because the slides actually have to slowly walk by.”

Chen Xi, 10/1/09

But most see a great deal of symbolism and take pride in the ceremonies:

” Amid 60 gun salutes, 200 national flag guards in olive green uniforms walked down the platform of the Monument to the People’s Heroes in the center of Tian’anmen Square, marching northward on ared carpet toward the national flag post.

“The guards walked a total of 169 steps, which symbolized 169 years since 1840, a watershed in China’s history when the country lost the Opium War with Britain. That eventually led to the scramble of Western powers in China.

“The founding of the People’s Republic ended China’s history of being humiliated by outside forces. The country now is emerging as a major political and economic power on the international stage…

“…The 440,000-square-meter Tian’anmen Square is believed to be the largest city square in the world. Six decades ago, the founding ceremony of the PRC was held on the square and late Chairman Mao Zedong announced the birth of New China. Mao himself pressed the button to hoist the first national flag of the PRC.”

Flag-raising Ceremony Held for China’s National Day Celebration


Late September – Mid-October

This week starts off the world’s largest folk festival and bier-drinking extravaganza.

Oktoberfest takes place, as the name implies, in September. It lingers into October, but tourists arriving mid-month will be disappointed to find they’ve arrived just in time for the dregs. During Oktoberfest the center of Munich metamorphosizes into an amalgamation of Bier Tents, the largest of which–the Hofbrauhaus tent–holds up to 10,000 people.

Germans drink their beer by the liter, not the pint, and refer to the beverage as “liquid bread”. Back in the day, because of corrosive pipes, it was safer to drink fermented alcohol than water.  The quality of the water has improved over the centuries, but the love of bier has not diminished.

Hofbrauhaus Tent
An Oktoberfest Bier Tent

Oktoberfest dates back to the royal wedding of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Theresa of Saxony in 1810.

Ludwig was the son of a French army officer, Maximilian, the brother to the Duke of Zweibrucken.  Due to a string of fortunate deaths, (I love royal European genealogies) Maximilian inherited dukedoms of Zweibrucken and Berg, as well as the titles Elector of Bavaria, Count Palatine of the Rhine and Arch-Steward of the Empire. Maximilian gained the title of King of Bavaria in 1806.

The Crown Prince was married on October 12, 1810, and Munich celebrated with a great horse race five days later. The outdoor event was so popular, Ludwig and Theresa’s anniversary was celebrated annually, the first beer tents appearing in 1818. The people kept celebrating even after King Ludwig was forced to abdicate during the Revolutions of 1848.

His glory would be overshadowed by his grandson. Ludwig II, also known as ‘Mad’ King Ludwig (though historians shun this moniker). The latter was famous for creating some of Germany’s most beautiful castles before his mysterious death in 1886

Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle

The German monarchies were abolished altogether after World War I, but the tradition of Oktoberfest carries on to this day, as Germans require little incentive to consume mass quantities of beer, pretzels and sausages. At last year’s Oktoberfest, 6 million participants poured down 7,000,000 liters of the “liquid bread” and produced approximately 2 million pounds of refuse.

More on Oktoberfest as the celebration continues!

The author and friend at the world-famous Alpine Village Oktoberfest, in Torrance, California