Throughout history most national heroes have been warriors, but Gandhi ended British rule over his native India without striking a single blow. A frail man, he devoted his life to peace and brotherhood in order to achieve social and political progress. Yet less than six months after his nonviolent resistance to British rule won independence for India, he was assassinated by a religious fanatic. Gandhi was one of the gentlest of men, a devout and almost mystical Hindu, but he had an iron core of determination. Nothing could change his convictions. This combination of traits made him the leader of India's nationalist movement. Some observers called him a master politician. Others believed him a saint. To millions of Hindus he was their beloved Mahatma, meaning 'great soul.'
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on Oct. 2, 1869, in Porbandar, near Bombay. His family belonged to the Hindu merchant caste Vaisya. His father had been prime minister of several small native states.
Gandhi was married when he was only 13 years old.
When he was 19 he defied custom by going abroad to study. He studied law at University College in London. Fellow students snubbed him because he was an Indian. In his lonely hours he studied philosophy. In his reading he discovered the principle of nonviolence as enunciated in Henry David Thoreau's 'Civil Disobedience,' and he was persuaded by John Ruskin's plea to give up industrialism for farm life and traditional handicrafts--ideals similar to many Hindu religious ideas.
In 1891 Gandhi returned to India. Unsuccessful in Bombay, he went to South Africa in 1893. At Natal he was the first so-called 'colored' lawyer admitted to the supreme court. He then built a large practice.
His interest soon turned to the problem of fellow Indians who had come to South Africa...