Mohandas karamchand Gandhi 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British, and in turn inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. the honorific mahatma first applied to him in 1914 in south africa, is now used throughout the world.
born and raised in a hindu family in coastal gujarat, western india, Gandhi was trained in law at the inner temple, london, and called to the bar at age 22 in june 1891. After two uncertain years in india, where he was unable to start a successful law practice, he moved to south africa in 1893 to represent an indian merchant in a lawsuit. he went on to stay for 21 years. it was in south africa that gandhi raised a family, and first employed nonviolent resistance in a campaign for civil rights. in 1915, at age 45, he returned to india. he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against 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, and above all for achieving swaraj or self-rule.
Gandhi’s vision of an independent india based on religious pluralism was challenged in the early 1940s by a new muslim nationalism which was demanding a separate muslim homeland carved out of india. in august 1947, britain granted independence, but the british indian empire was partitioned into two dominions, a hindu-majority india and muslim-majority pakistan. as many displaced hindus, muslims, and sikhs made their way to their new lands, religious violence broke out, especially in the punjab and bengal. eschewing the official celebration of independence in delhi, gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to provide solace. in the months following, he undertook several fasts unto death to stop religious violence. the last of these, undertaken on 12 january 1948 when he was 78, also had the indirect goal of pressuring india to pay out some cash assets owed to pakistan. some indians thought gandhi was too accommodating. among them was nathuram godse, a hindu nationalist, who assassinated gandhi on 30 january 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest.
Gandhi’s birthday, 2 october, is commemorated in india as gandhi jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the international day of nonviolence. gandhi is commonly, though not formally considered the father of the nation in india. gandhi is also called bapu.