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Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
Outline Map of India
Label a Map of India
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 education.
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
On August 15, 1947 India became an independent country; it had been a British colony since 1857. The fighting worsened, and India split into two countries in 1948, India (mostly Hindu) and Pakistan, East and West (mostly Muslim) -- East Pakistan is now a separate country called Bangladesh. Gandhi was against the partition of India and very upset at the violence between the two religious groups. He fasted in protest of the widespread violence between Hindus and Muslims; it helped somewhat, shaming both sides, but the conflict continues to this day.
Jawaharlal Nehru became the Prime Minister of India. Although Gandhi wanted India to retain its traditional village economy, Prime Minister Nehru disagreed with Gandhi on this topic, and began the modernization of India, building factories, railroads, and modern roads.
Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. This great man has influenced many generations of people; Martin Luther King, Jr. used Gandhi's methods of non-violent protest to affect social change in the USA.
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