Mahatma Gandhi


Born: Oct 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Kathiawar Agency, British Indian Empire
Died: Jan 30, 1948 (at age 78) in New Delhi, India
Nationality: Indian
Famous For: Leading the Indian independence movement against British rule

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most celebrated and cherished leaders and activists in history. Well-known for advocating a non-violent fight for justice, he led British-ruled India to independence and inspired people all around the world, including renowned civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

His ideologies and teachings were simple, virtuous, and timeless, and as such have found a place in the modern world more than six decades after his passing.

Early Life and Schooling

Gandhi was born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2, 1869, in a small Indian state called Porbandar. The last child of Karamchand Gandhi’s fourth wife, Putlibai, he was born into a middle-class family with a good education and religious devotion, but he went on to become a mediocre student in school.

In accordance with custom, Gandhi’s arranged marriage to Kasturba Makhanji was done when he was 13 years. Although their first child died soon after birth, the couple had four other sons.

At the age of 18, Mahatma Gandhi left his wife and infant son to go to college in London to train as a barrister and to study Indian law and legal theory. Since he was not very eloquent in English, he sought to acquaint himself with the language and lifestyle.

Although his Indian friends ate meat and encouraged him to do so, he refused partly because of a vow he had given to his mother. His passion for vegetarianism drove him to join the Vegetarian Society. In 1891, he passed the bar and travelled back to India to practice law which he soon gave up altogether.

Civil Rights Leadership

Following a job offer in South Africa, Gandhi set off at age 23 for the British colony. Soon after his arrival, he was asked to travel to Transvaal province, a journey that would require a train ride. Although he had a first-class coach ticket, he was asked to transfer to third-class and was subsequently thrown off the train after refusing to move. It is this experience that opened his eyes to the fact that Indians, too, faced the same injustice.

For the next two decades, Mahatma Gandhi developed invaluable ethical, political, and leadership ideologies that would shape his world. In 1894, he founded the Natal Indian Congress for both the elite and the castes and soon became the head of the Indian community.

His growing popularity was never without hiccups. When he returned from India on a trip to bring his family to South Africa, he was assaulted by a group of whites who saw him as a threat. His prestige grew tremendously out of this incident.

Gandhi’s Ideologies

In his quest for justice, Mahatma Gandhi coined a method he called “Satyagraha,” which was essentially standing up for truth, nonviolence, courage and civil disobedience. This was a doctrine that sparked massive boycotts all over South Africa.

In India, he led the same ideology in the fight for independence and although he was jailed severally he considered it worthwhile. India was granted independence in 1947, but it was split into India and Pakistan. But this was a move that Gandhi opposed because he believed Hindus and Muslims ought to have lived together.

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist who believed Gandhi was biased towards Pakistan. His funeral procession was five miles long and lasted five hours.