“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Gujarati: મોહનદાસ કરમચંદ ગાંધી; Hindi: मोहनदास करमचंद गांधी, pronounced: [moːˈɦənd̪aːs kəˈrəmtʃənd̪ ˈɡaːnd̪ʱi] ( listen); 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement. Pioneering the use of non-violent resistance to tyrannical colonial rule through mass civil disobedience, saying, “I shall resist organized tyranny to the uttermost.” He developed a model to fight for civil rights and freedom that he called satyagraha. He founded his doctrine of nonviolent protest to achieve political and social progress based upon ahimsa, or total nonviolence for which he is internationally renowned.
Gandhi led India to its independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is often referred to as Mahatma (or “Great Soul,” an honorific first applied to him by Rabindranath Tagore). In India, he is also called Bapu (or “Father”) and officially honoured as the Father of the Nation. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated in India as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.
After earning a degree in law in 1891 from the University College London, Gandhi settled in South Africa to practice law, following some unsuccessful attempts to establish practice in India. Gandhi first employed non-violent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming 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, increasing economic self-reliance, but above all for achieving Swaraj—the independence of India from foreign domination.
Gandhi famously led Indians in protesting the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi strove to practice non-violence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn he had hand spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian food, and also undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and social protest.
Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948, by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist who felt Gandhi was sympathetic to Muslims. January 30 is hence observed as Martyrs’ Day in India.