Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as mahatma Gandhi, was a Indian

nationalist leader, who established his country's freedom through a nonviolent revolution.

Gandhi became a leader in a difficult struggle, the Indian campaign for home rule.

He believed and dedicated his life to demonstrating that both individuals and nations owe

it to themselves to stay free, and to allow the same freedom to others. Gandhi was one of

the gentlest of men, a devout and almost mystical Hindu, but he had and iron core of

determination. Nothing could change his convictions. Some observers called him a

master politician. Others believed him a saint.

Gandhi became a leader in a difficult struggle, the Indian campaign for home rule.

He worked to reconcile all classes and religious sects. Gandhi meant not only technical

self-government but also self-reliance. After World War I, in which he played an active

part in recruiting campaigns, he launched his movement of passive resistance to Great

Britain. When the Britain government failed to make amends, Gandhi established an

organized campaign of noncooperation. Through India, streets were blocked by

squatting Indians who refused to rise even when beaten by the police. He declared he

would go to jail even die before obeying anti-Asian Law. Gandhi was arrested, but the

British were soon forced to release him. Economic independence for India, involving the

complete boycott of British goods, was made a result of Gandhi's self-ruling movement.

The economic aspects of the movement were serious, for the exploitation of Indian

villagers by British industrialists has resulted in extreme poverty in the country and the

virtual destruction of Indian home industries. As a solution for such poverty, Gandhi

supported revival of cottage industries; he began to use a spinning wheel as a token of the

return to the simple village life he preached, and of the renewal of native Indian


Gandhi became the international symbol of a free India. He lived a spiritual and

ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and meditation. He employed propaganda, agitation,

demonstration, boycott, noncooperation, parallel government, and strikes. He refused

earthly possessions, he wore the loincloth and shawl of the lowliest Indian and lived on

vegetables, fruit juices, and goat's milk. Indians thought of him as a saint and began to call

him Mahatma. Mahatma meant great soul, a title reserved for the greatest leaders.

Gandhi's nonviolence was the expression of a way of life understood in the Hindu

religion. By the Indian practice of nonviolence, Gandhi said, Great Britain would

eventually consider violence useless and would leave India.

The Mahatma's political and spiritual hold on India was so great that the British

authorities dared not to interfere with him. In 1921 the Indian National Congress, the

group that spearheaded the movement for nationhood, gave Gandhi complete executive

authority, with the right of naming his own successor. A series of armed revolts against

Great Britain broke out, culminating in such violence that Gandhi confessed failure of the

civil-disobedience campaign he had called, and ended it. The British government again

seized and imprisoned him in 1922.

In 1930 the Mahatma proclaimed a new campaign for civil disobedience, calling

upon the Indian population to refuse to pay taxes, particularly the tax on salt. The

campaign was a two hundred mile march to the sea, in which thousands of Indians

followed Gandhi from Ahmadabad to the Arabian Sea, where they made salt by vaporating

sea water. Once more Gandhi was arrested, but he was released in 1931, halting the

campaign after the British made compromises to his demands. In the same year Gandhi

represented the Indian National Congress at a conference in London.

In 1932, Gandhi began new civil-disobedience campaigns against the British.

Gandhi fasted for long periods several times; these fasts were effective measures against

the British, because revolution might well have broken out in India if he had died. In

September 1932, while in jail, Gandhi undertook a fast unto death to improve the status of

the Hindu Untouchables. The British, by permitting the Untouchables to be considered as

a separate part of the Indian voters, were, according to Gandhi, aid an injustice. Although

he was himself a member of the Vaisya (merchant) caste, Gandhi was the great leader of

the movement in India dedicated to terminating the unjust social and