March 7th: The day Gandhi preached non-violent revolution in Myanmar

A photograph of the last meeting between U Nu and Mahatma Gandhi, taken at Birla House in Delhi, India on December 4, 1947. Photo and caption from The Irrawaddy.

This article by Wei Yan Aung is from The Irrawaddy, an independent news website in Myanmar, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule, arrived in Myanmar on March 7, 1929, to collect donations from Indian nationals for the Handloom Association of India, and share his experiences with the Burmese people.

He addressed people at Jubilee Hall and Fytche Square (now Mahabandoola Park) in Yangon. He held talks with Buddhist monks at Shwedagon Pagoda:

I am glad to find you telling me that the hponegyis (Buddhist monks) are leading the political movement in Burma, but you have a serious responsibility upon your shoulders when you undertake leading a political battle.

History shows that the clergy has not always interfered with the political matters to the benefit of mankind. Very often unworthy ambition has moved the clergy of the world as it has moved unscrupulous men to take part in politics, and if now you hponegyis aspire to lead the political movement of this, one of the fairest lands on the face of the earth, you are shouldering a tremendous responsibility.

In his two-week visit, he visited several towns in central and lower Myanmar. In Mandalay, he said:

In India it is a common saying that the way to swaraj (which means independence for India) is through Mandalay. The British government has taught you too a great lesson by incarcerating one of India’s great sons here.

The way to swaraj is the way of suffering—indeed no country has come to its own without suffering.

Indian political leader Subhas Chandra Bose was imprisoned in October 1924 in Mandalay for two and half years due to his defiance of colonial rule. During his visit, Gandhi said:

I have no other and no better guidance to offer to you than to commend to your attention the general principle of non-violence, in other words, self-purification.

He wrapped up his third visit to Myanmar on March 24. Prior to the 1929 visit, he had been in Myanmar in 1902 and 1915.

Gandhi’s preaching of non-violence later influenced Burmese State Councellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her fight for democracy. Gandhi Hall and Gandhi Hospital became significant places in Myanmar’s political and healthcare systems. U Nu, who became Myanmar’s first prime minister, paid a visit to Gandhi in New Delhi in 1947 before his assassination the following year.

1 comment

  • Ahimsa aka non-violence is the primary duty to be observed by the persons in all walks of life according to every religion of ancient India. Ahimsa Prathamo Dharma is the declaration by Mahabharata. It is one of the Pancha Sheela of Buddhism. It is one of the Yama (observance) of yoga philosophy. Now we could understand how some nations which are encouraging terrorism and violence are suffering. No doubt, Ahimsa is the call of the day. You can read more on ahimsa at

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