Mohandas K. Gandhi was born in Porbandar in the Gujarat region of India on October 2, 1869 to the prime minister of Gujarat and a devout Hindu mother. Gandhi was married at a young age of thirteen in an arranged marriage to a girl named Kasturba Makhanji. Young and soft-spoken Gandhi began his major education in the University of Bombay and then afterwards transferred to University College in London where he studied philosophy, religion of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity among others—as well as training to become a barrister. Having a hard time finding work in India, young Gandhi managed to get a one-year contract at an Indian Law firm in South Africa.
For the next 21 years, Gandhi lived in South Africa and came to oppose the apartheid system established there where he worked to improve the civil rights and living conditions of Indians. He established a political movement called Natal Indian Congress for the purposes of calling for non-violent civil protests as well as demanding racial equality among all peoples. Gandhi used the method of satyagraha that accepted the laws in principle, however called for disregarding highly suppressive regulations.
In 1915, Gandhi returned to an India whose people’s rights were taken away by British authorities. Then Gandhi sought to unite Hindus, Muslims, and Christians alike. He called for a non-violent protest movement in Bihar, India and afterwards gained popularity throughout the country. By 1920 he was well known and by 1922 Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to six years of imprisonment for civil disobedience. In 1930, Gandhi lead his famous salt “march to the sea”—a symbolic march that signified protests against salt taxes. During the Second World War, Gandhi directed another civil movement called “Quit India”; as a result, he was arrested once again for slightly more than two years.
During 1947, the British partitioned the Indian Subcontinent into two nations: Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. Gandhi strongly opposed this partition as he was concerned that during the partition, many lives would be lost due to religious strife. His fears came true as millions migrated around the subcontinent and thousands of lives were lost. Gandhi underwent a long fast which aided in hastening peace negotiations. On January 30, 1948, 78 year-old Gandhi was assassinated as he was walking towards his prayer meeting. It is related that the last words he said was “Hé Rām”, meaning “Oh God”.
Gandhi’s ideas of peaceful protest inspired many great leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Nelson Mandela. Though he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times, Gandhi was never awarded one—with different theories given as to why. On the second day of every October, India celebrates Gandhi’s birthday as a national holiday. Gandhi has been a universal symbol of peace worldwide and continues to inspire many to achieve world peace.