Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a legendary national leader as well as the freedom fighter, was born in Porbandar, Gujarat, on October 2, 1869. Throughout his life, Gandhiji worked for the welfare of the society. A patriotic leader, he played a major role to free India from the British Empire through non-violence and peace. He was highly influenced by the teachings of Christ and the 19th-century American writer Henry David Thoreau.
Gandhiji earned his law degree from the University College, London. Later he worked as a legal adviser at Durban in South Africa for 20 years. There he was treated as a member of an inferior race and as a result had to undergo hardships. He had to suffer imprisonment several times. He was humiliated and tortured by the white South Africans. As a social activist, he spread the importance of non-violence and truth among the general public. His teachings and principles won him admirers like Leo Tolstoy. For the upliftment of Indians in South Africa, he founded a cooperative colony, Tolstoy Farm, in 1910. At the time of the Boer War, he organized a Red Cross unit and ambulance corps for the British army. As a result of his constant effort, the South African government granted concessions in matters related to Indian marriages and abolished the poll tax.
When he returned to India on January 9, 1915, Gandhiji was highly moved by the pathetic condition of the poor Indians under the British yoke. He determined to work for the independence of the country. Meanwhile, he set up the 'Sabarmati Ashram' which was a relief for a number of destitutes. He strongly protested against the evil Acts formulated by the British government such as the Rowlett Act and Simon Commission. His enlightening speeches awakened the general public. He encouraged people to give up the Western culture and promote Swadeshi or native culture. In accordance with this, Gandhiji advocated the revival of cottage industries.
In 1930, Gandhiji led the Salt Satyagraha in Dandi (Gujarat), which called for complete independence. In the march, Gandhiji and his followers set off on a 200-mile journey from Sabarmati Ashram to the seashore, with an intention to pick up a few grains of salt. Primarily, the movement was focused on tax free salt extraction. Soon after this, Gandhiji was imprisoned for 6 months. Meanwhile in June 1927, the British Government introduced Simon Commission which had no Indian members. To protest against the act, Gandhiji organized the Civil Disobedience Movement. Subsequently, the then viceroy Lord Irwin invited Gandhiji to discuss the matter. As a result, they signed an agreement on March 5, 1931.
Gandhiji was a rare example of peace and non-violence. He lived a calm and ascetic life. He ate vegetables, fruit juices and goat's milk, and wore the loincloth and the lowliest shawl. He believed in the principle of Swaraj and used fasting as a means to acquire the rights.
After years of effort and struggle, India attained freedom on August 15, 1947. But at that time Pakistan was separated from India. This hurt Gandhiji and he strived for the unity of Hindus and Muslims. Finally on January 30, 1948, he was killed by a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse. Gandhiji remains a symbol of peace and virtue. The legacy he has handed down to the Indians is priceless.