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Who is Mohandas Gandhi?

By Rebecca Partington
Updated May 23, 2024
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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (also widely known as Mahatma Gandhi) was an important leader in India during its independence movement, influencing people both spiritually and politically. He was born in 1869 in Porbandar in the Indian state of Gujarat and died in 1948. When he was 13, he was married to Kasturbai.

After Mohandas Gandhi's father passed away in 1885, he went to England to become a barrister. He passed the bar examination in 1891 and returned to India, where he discovered that his mother had passed away while he was overseas. In 1893, he took a job that sent him to South Africa, where Gandhi first realized the degree to which racism was present in the world.

He found himself the subject of discrimination as an Indian in South Africa, the best known example of which was an incident in which he used a first-class train ticket. A white passenger in the first-class area complained about Gandhi's presence, so a railway employee tried to get him to move to the third-class area. Gandhi refused to do so and was ejected from the train. He then began to organize Indians in South Africa to protest discrimination, as well as working to raise awareness of British oppression of Indians in India.

Gandhi returned to India with his family in 1901 and took a tour of the country to examine the conditions of the poor. They then returned to South Africa, during which time Gandhi founded communes in which people came to keep their lives as simply as possible. He also developed his theory of satyagraha, which means to nonviolently resist oppression and discrimination through civil disobedience. Gandhi and his growing number of followers used satyagraha to formulate their resistance against discrimination, which meant they resisted nonviolently even in the face of bodily harm or death. They finally gained concession to their demands in 1914, after which Gandhi and his family returned to India.

Once there, he spread the philosophy of satyagraha and acted as an intermediary in many disputes between the British and the Indians. During this time, he became known world-wide as a leader. Clashes between the British and the Indians severely worsened, however, and in the early 1920s, Gandhi reconstructed the Indian National Congress, which then became a force for independence.

At the beginning of World War II, England was unable to fully protect India from the advancing Japanese armies. Mohandas Gandhi asked England to "quit India" and let the country take care of itself. He and other Congressional leaders were arrested, and Gandhi undertook another of his frequent long-term fasts. While he was imprisoned, both his wife and his close friend and secretary died.

After so much struggling, India finally gained its freedom from the British empire in 1947. Unfortunately, in 1948 Gandhi was shot three times on his way to a meeting and died of his wounds. By the time of his death, he was loved by millions and widely known as Mahatma (great soul) and bapu (father).

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Feb 15, 2013
@SarahGen-- I think he was assassinated by an extremist Hindu.

Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a leader for all Indians, regardless of caste or religion, and this had upset a lot of extremist Hindus who wanted to maintain the caste system or who were upset about other religious minorities.

By turquoise — On Feb 14, 2013

@Tufenkian925-- I completely agree. Mahatma Gandhi has been and will always be an excellent example for people who want to fight injustice. He was a leader who helped his people recognize their situation and demand independence, but without causing harm to anyone.

I would like to however refute a common argument made about Gandhi's movement. Nonviolent resistance was a very important tool in the Indian fight for independence, but the transition wasn't entirely peaceful.

Along with Gandhi's movement, there were also violent movements across India. Heroes like Bhagat Singh and his friends emerged at this time. So the British were under a lot of pressure, both by Gandhi's nonviolent resistance and violent resistance by young Indians.

By SarahGen — On Feb 14, 2013

Who shot Gandhi and why?

By anon215973 — On Sep 20, 2011

He was really a great man.

By arod2b42 — On Jan 11, 2011

Gandhi was born into a noble family and yet was able to calmly resist discrimination and disrespect. He demonstrated true nobility by pursuing a Christlike kingship, and I'm sure he is enjoying his status in the next life.

By ShadowGenius — On Jan 10, 2011

So many martyrs of the 20th century were just too good for this world. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others like them were shot and killed. May such voices be heeded in the future and not suppressed violently, when they are publicly advocating necessary rights.

By TrogJoe19 — On Jan 09, 2011

The ethnic situation in South Africa is a long and harmful conflict, with much injustice on the part of the power class, and much rape and harmful resistance on the part of the oppressed class. Mohandas Gandhi was a man who won the respect of people everywhere when he found himself seen as an outcast and chose to resist peacefully. This would not have been easy, since he was an educated and respectable person, and his humbling himself to a calm and consistent resistance was truly noble and earth-shattering.

By Tufenkian925 — On Jan 06, 2011

Gandhi was a clear and solid example of peaceful protest in an era of bloodshed and war. The 20th century stands in contrast to his solid stance of non-violence, and he will stand out as a symbol for all of history. He truly was a great soul and a father to anyone seeking to earnestly and prayerfully combat the injustices of this world.

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