Who gave the title of Mahatma to Gandhiji?

An RTI activist shot off a query to the Prime Minister’s Office seeking to know how, when and why MK Gandhi was given the title of \'Mahatma\'.

Published: 26th June 2012 11:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th June 2012 11:21 AM   |  A+A-

The RTI Act is a powerful weapon to get information on anything that is in public interest. However, a few RTI activists in the city are taking this a bit too literally, it seems. They are keen to know when and on what grounds was the Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, given the title of the Mahatma!

The Sanskrit word Mahatma, which means a great soul, is often taken to be Gandhi’s given name in the West. History books tells us poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore bestowed the title on Gandhi in 1915 while writing his autobiography after the latter called him Gurudev. But our RTI activists are not convinced.

One such RTI activist Raju Malthumkar shot off an RTI query to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking to know how, when and why MK Gandhi was given the honour of being called Mahatma. He also sought to know when he was called the Father of the Nation.

Officials at the PMO forwarded the request to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and the National Archives of India (NAI), Archeology Department. “The ICHR addressed a letter to me, in which it mentioned that it does not have any documentary information on this case. Even the National Archives of India also said that it had no information on this. They also mentioned in the letter that I am welcome to make use of their library and archival facilities on any further information I wish to know,” Raju said.

Apart from MK Gandhi, two others were also given the title of Mahatma. One was Mahatma Wesley Branch Rickey, a major league baseball executive and Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, also known as Mahatma Jotiba Phule, an activist, social reformer and a revolutionary from Maharashtra.

“Gandhiji was instrumental in bringing us freedom. When there are others who have been recognised by the government, why not Gandhiji?” questioned Raju. But all the same, he wants to know the “facts.”

Commenting on the issue, a research scholar, Anuradha Panchagada, Department of History, University of Hyderabad, said, “Mahatma is like an honour that has been given by people to Gandhiji. There are definitely pros and cons of being bestowed with such a title, but a prominent personality like Gandhiji surely does not need something like this in writing!”



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