Gandhi also known as Mahatma Gandhi was born in Porbandar in the present state
of Gujarat on October 2, 1869 and got his education in law at University College in
London. On 1891, after having been admitting to the British Bar, Gandhi returned to
India and attempted to establish a law practice in Bombay, with little success. He was
appalled at the widespread denial of civil liberties and political rights to Indian immigrants
to South Africa. He threw himself into the struggle for elementary rights for Indians.
Gandhi remained in South Africa for 20 years. He suffered imprisonment many
times. During the Boar war, Gandhi organized an ambulance corps for the British army
and commanded a red cross unit. After the war he returned to his campaign for Indian
rights. In 1914, the government of the Union of South Africa made important concessions
to Gandhis demands, including recognition of Indian marriages and abolition of the poll
tax for them. His work in South Africa complete, he returned to India.
Following World War I, in which he played an active part in advocating
Salyagraha, launched his movement of passive resistance to Great Britain. A
demonstration against the Roulette Acts resulted in a massacre of Indians at Amritsar by
the British soldiers. In 1920, when the British government failed to make amends, Gandhi
proclaimed an organized campaign of noncooperation. Indians in public office resigned,
government agencies were boycotted, and Indian children were withdrawn from
government schools. All through India, Indians were squatting on the streets blocking
them. The Indians who refused to leave were beaten by the police. Gandhi was arrested,
but the British were soon forced to release him.
India completely boycotted British goods. The exploitation of Indian villagers by
British industrialists had resulted in poverty in the country and the virtual destruction of
Indian home industries. To remedy the poverty, Gandhi advocated the revival of cottage
industries. He began to use a spinning wheel as a token of the return to the simple village
life he preached.
Gandhi became the international symbol of free India. He lived a spiritual life,
fasting and meditating. He refused earthly possessions, he wore the loincloth and shawl of
the lowliest Indian and lived on vegetables, fruit juices and goats milk. Indians thought of
him as a saint and began to call him Mahatma, meaning great soul.
Gandhi was imprisoned off and on over the next several years. In 1930 he
proclaimed a new campaign of civil disobedience, asking the Indian population to refuse to
pay taxes, particularly the tax on salt. He led a mar to the sea, in which thousands of
Indians followed him from Ahmadabad to the Arabian Sea. Once again, he was arrested.
Gandhi fasted for long periods several times. His fasts were effective against the British,
because revolution might well have broken out in India if he had died. In September
1932, while in jail, Gandhi started a fast unto death to improve the status of the India
Untouchables. In 1934 Gandhi formally resigned from politics. A few years later, he
again returned. The Mahatma once again became the most important political figure in
By 1944 the Indian struggle for independence was in its final stages. The British
government had agreed to independence on the condition that the two contending
nationalist groups, the Muslin League and the Congress Party should resolved their
differences. India and Pakistan became separate states when the British granted India its
independence in 1947. During the riots that followed the partition of India, Gandhi
pleaded with Hindus and Muslims to live together peacefully.
On January 13, 1948m 12 days after his last fast, he was on his way to his evening
prayer meeting when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic.
Gandhis death was regarded as an international catastrophe. His place in
humanity was measured in terms of history. A period of mourning was set aside in the
United Nations General Assembly and condolences to India were expressed by all
countries. Religious violence soon waned in India and Pakistan and the teachings of
Gandhi came to inspire nonviolent movements elsewhere.