Did you know?
Mahatma Gandhi was first married at the age of 13.
Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi was born in British-ruled India in 1869 and died in the Union of India in 1948. The rite of passage for humanitarian hero Mahatma Gandhi took him from an India that was ruled by the British Empire to a South Africa weighed down by prejudice and injustice. Ghandi spent 21 years in South Africa, and it is here his political views and leadership skills were developed.
Ghandi came to South Africa in 1893 after accepting a position at an Indian law firm. He witnessed the atrocities committed against, and recognised the enforced subordinate nature of, the Indian community in both his home country and South Africa. He first used non-violent civil disobedience in South Africa during the Indian community's struggle for civil rights.
After experiencing some of the discriminatory laws against non-whites first-hand, he realised the task that lay ahead was huge. But he firmly took many social injustices in both hands and tried to resolve them in a non-violent manner through mass civil disobedience, using satyagrah, the philosophy and practice of non-violent or civil resistance.
He believed in 'respectful disagreement' and urged the South African Indian community not to resort to violence, but to make their voices heard by peacefully protesting against discrimination. Those who protested were beaten or jailed, and the ruthless manner in which the government controlled the Indian community made international headlines. This led to negotiations between Gandhi and then-prime minister Jan Smuts.
Time magazine named Gandhi the Man of the Year in 1930 and in 2011, and also named him as one of the top 25 political icons of all time. Gandhi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times between 1937 and 1948, making the shortlist only twice, in 1937 and 1947. He was again nominated in 1948 but was assassinated before nominations closed, and the committee chose not to award the peace prize that year.
A global humanitarian icon, Ghandi is said to have been a unique character in South African and global history – Mahatma (which means 'great soul' in Sanskrit) could take on strong colonial forces without a weapon to hand, but was also petrified of the dark. This didn't stop him from battling against – and triumphing against – some of the darkest forces in modern history.