Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, India, Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected spiritual and political leaders of the world.
Known as the father of the Indian Nation, Gandhi helped liberate India from the British rule through nonviolent resistance. The name ‘Mahatma’ was given to him by the people of India, meaning Great Soul.
At age 13, Gandhi underwent an arranged marriage ceremony between him and Kasturba, a girl of the same age. Gandhi and his wife had four children.
Gandhi moved to London to study Law and returned in1891 to India to practice. In 1893 he took on a contract to do legal work in South Africa where he spent 20 years opposing discriminatory legislation against Indians.
He developed a method of action based upon the principles of courage, nonviolence and truth called Satyagraha. He believed that the way people behave is more important than what they achieve. Satyagraha promoted nonviolence and civil disobedience as the most appropriate methods for obtaining political and social goals. In 1915 Gandhi returned to India. He supported the Home Rule movement, and became leader of the Indian National Congress, advocating a policy of non-violent non-co-operation to achieve independence. His goal was to help poor farmers and laborers protest oppressive taxation and discrimination. He struggled to alleviate poverty, liberate women and put an end to caste discrimination, with the ultimate objective being self-rule for India.
Following his civil disobedience campaign (1919-22), he was jailed for conspiracy (1922-4). In 1930, he led a landmark 320 km/200m march to the sea to collect salt in symbolic defiance of the government monopoly. On his release from prison (1931), he attended the London Round Table Conference on Indian constitutional reform. In 1946, he negotiated with the Cabinet Mission which recommended the new constitutional structure. After independence (1947), he tried to stop the Hindu-Muslim conflict in Bengal, a policy which led to his assassination in Delhi by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic.
Even after his death, Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence and his belief in simple living–making his own clothes, eating a vegetarian diet, and using fasts for self-purification as well as a means of protest–has been a beacon of hope for oppressed and marginalized people throughout the world.