Albert Einstein said of Mahatma Gandhi that: "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth." A deceptively simple man, Gandhi overturned the greatest Empire the world has ever seen. His country, India, was regarded by the British as "the jewel" of their Empire. For centuries they had held it by the force of arms. But the struggle for Independence from the British "raj" was won by a struggle, led by Gandhi, which used the power of peaceful non-cooperation.
In 1969 Gandhi was born to Hindu parents who lived in Gujarat in Western India. By a family arrangement he married Kasturbai Makanji when both were 13 years old. His family later sent him to London to study law, and in 1891 he became a lawyer. Soon afterwards, in order to obtain work, he went to Southern Africa.
Gandhi was appalled by the racial discrimination he encountered in Africa and immersed himself in the struggle for the rights of immigrant Indians. He also developed his creed of passive resistance against injustice, satyagraha, meaning "truth, force", and was frequently jailed as a result of the protests that he led. Before he returned to India with his wife and children in 1915, he had radically changed the lives of Indians living in Southern Africa.
In India, Gandhi began promulgating his ideals and leading the movement for independence from Britain. His lifelong belief in non-violent protest and religious tolerance was unshakeable. When Muslim and Hindu Indians acted violently against one another, or against the British raj who governed India, he fasted until such violence ended. He also led a "salt march" across India, persuading his followers to accept without retaliation the brutality of the police and soldiers. Independence, when it came in 1947, was attributed to the power of his non-violent form of protest, to passive resistance.
"Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man." said Gandhi. But to his despair India, with Independence, was partitioned into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. The last two months of his life were spent trying to end the appalling violence which ensued, leading him to fast to the brink of death, an act which finally quelled the riots. In January 1948, at the age of 79, he was killed by an assassin as he walked through a crowded garden in New Delhi to take evening prayers.
After his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the great fighter for Afro-American equality in the USA, said of Gandhi: "Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk."