Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was an Indian lawyer and anti-colonial nationalist.
He engineered nonviolent resistance to lead the powerful move campaigning for India’s independence from British rule. This then inspired movements for civil rights and freedom movements across the globe.
The honorific Mahātmā (Sanskrit: “great-souled”, “venerable”), first given to him in 1914 in South Africa, is now used throughout the world.
He was born and raised in a Hindu family in coastal Gujarat, studied law at the Inner Temple, London, and was called to the bar at age 22 in June 1891. After two tumultuous years in India when his career did not kickstart, he moved over to South Africa in 1893 to represent an Indian merchant in a lawsuit. He lived in South Africa for 21 years. It was here that Gandhi raised a family and first advocated nonviolent resistance in a campaign for civil rights. In 1915, aged 45, he returned to India.
In India, he started by organizing peasants, farmers, and urban laborers to protest against excessive land tax and discrimination. Taking leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, and above all for achieving swaraj or self-rule.
Also in 1921, Gandhi adopted the use of an Indian loincloth (short dhoti) and a shawl (in the winter) woven with yarn hand-spun on a traditional Indian spinning wheel (charkha) as a sign of identification with India’s rural poor. He also began to live modestly in a self-sufficient residential community, ate simple vegetarian food, and undertook long fasts as a means of self-purification and political protest.
He enlightened Indians about anti-colonial nationalism to the common people making them aware of how they were being exploited. Gandhi led them in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930 and in calling for the British to quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned many times and for many years in both South Africa and India.
Gandhi’s vision of an independent free India based on religious pluralism was challenged in the early 1940s by a new rising Muslim nationalism that demanded a separate Muslim homeland carved out of India.
In August 1947, Britain granted independence, but the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs made their way to their new lands, horrific religious violence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal. The partition of India poured out blood, sorrow, and death, houses in villages and people were burned alive.
Renouncing the official celebration of independence in Delhi, Gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to provide solace. In the months following, he undertook several hunger strikes to stop religious violence. The last of these, undertaken on 12 January 1948 when he was 78, also had the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some cash assets owed to Pakistan. Some Indians felt Gandhi was too accommodating and did not like his push for the acceptance of Muslims. Among them was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest.
Gandhi’s birthday, 2 October, is commemorated in India as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Nonviolence. Gandhi is called the Father of the Nation in India, though not an official name and was commonly called Bapu (Gujarati: endearment for father).
Here are some of his famous quotes
महात्मा गांधी, #FatherOfTheNation