Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) was a leader in India's successful,
non-violent struggle for Independence from Great Britain. Gandhi is often referred
to as Mahatma, which means "Great Soul."
Gandhi's Early Life
Gandhi was born in Porbandar, India, on October 2, 1869. His father was an
influential local leader (he was the Dewan of Porbandar). As was customary at the
time, Gandhi was married at age 13; his wife's name was Kasturba. Gandhi's father
died when Gandhi was only 16 years old. In 1888, Gandhi's first child (the first of
four sons) was born, and he soon sailed to London, England, to continue his legal
Gandhi became a lawyer and returned to India in 1891, a few months after his
mother died; he was 21 years old. After unsuccessfully trying to practice law in
India, he moved to Natal, South Africa, to work at a law firm in 1893.
Gandhi Moves to South Africa
In South Africa, Gandhi was faced with devastating racism against Indians. He and
other Indians were barred from first class railroad cars in the presence of whites,
barred from many hotels, beaten, and often mistreated. He used the law to fight
against terrible injustices to local Indians. He also began to formulate a method for
fighting political injustice in a non-violent manner, using boycotts, non-
cooperation, the writing of letters and pamphlets, and passive resistance. Gandhi
called these ideas Satyagraha, which means "insistence on truth." After more than
seven years of pressure from Gandhi and his supporters, the South African
government gave in to some compromises.
Gandhi returns to India
In 1914, after his success in South Africa, Gandhi returned to India; his temporary
job had turned into a 20-year campaign for human dignity. At 45 years old, Gandhi
entered Indian politics in the quest for Indian Independence. He continued his use
of non-violent methods in order to force the British government to loosen their
control of India. Gandhi organized the boycott of British goods, led peaceful
marches, fasted, and urged the mass defiance of many unfair British laws. Gandhi
was jailed by the British in 1922 for his civil disobedience; he was sentenced to six
years, but was released after two years. During Gandhi's imprisonment, Jawaharlal
Nehru led the Independence movement.
An Independent India