Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, (October 2, 1869â€“January 30, 1948) was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of Satyagrahaâ€”a philosophy that is largely concerned with truth and 'resistance to evil through active, non-violent resistance'â€”which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is commonly known in India and across the world as the Mahatma (Sanskrit: mahÄtmÄ â€” "Great Soul" - an epithet given by Tagore) and as Bapu (Gujarati: bÄpuâ€”"Father"). In India, he is officially accorded the honour of Father of the Nation and October 2, his birthday, is commemorated each year as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday. On 15 June 2007, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution declaring October 2 to be the "International Day of Non-Violence."
Gandhi first employed peaceful civil disobedience in the Indian community's struggle for civil rights in South Africa. Upon his return to India from Africa, he organized poor farmers and laborers to protest against oppressive taxation and widespread discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for the alleviation of poverty, for the liberation of women, for brotherhood amongst different religious and ethnic groups, for an end to untouchability and caste discrimination, and for the economic self-sufficiency of the nation, but above all for Swarajâ€”the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi famously led his nation in the disobedience of the British salt tax imposed in India with the 400 kilometre (248 miles) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and in an open call for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years on numerous occasions in both South Africa and India.
Gandhi practised and advocated non-violence and truth, in all situations. He lived simply, organizing an ashram that was self-sufficient in its needs. Making his own clothesâ€”the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl woven with a charkhaâ€”he lived on a simple vegetarian, and later, fruitarian diet. He underwent long (at times over a month) fasts, for both self-purification and protest. Image: DB King