Mahatma Gandhi

gandhiNames: Gandhi, Mohandas

Born: 2 October 1869, Porbandar, Gujarat, India

Died: 30 January 1948, New Delhi, India

In summary: lawyer, founder of the Natal Indian Congress, political prisoner, leader of the Indian community in South Africa, political activist against the White South African Government and the British Government in India

*Note: The focus of this biography is on Gandhi’s life and times in South Africa.

Early life and education

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born to a Hindu family on 2 October 1869, in Porbandar, Gujarat, India. He was the last child of Karamchand Gandhi, his father and his father’s fourth wife Putlibai. His father belonged to the merchant caste.  His early schooling was in nearby Rajkot, where his father served as the adviser or prime minister to the local ruler. India was then under British rule. His father died before Gandhi could finish his schooling.  At thirteen, the young Gandhi was married to Kasturba [or Kasturbai], who was of the same age as himself. She bore him four sons.

In September 1888 Gandhi set sail for England, to pursue a degree in law. Gandhi left behind his son Harilal, then a few months old. He spent three years stay in London being a serious student, living a very simple lifestyle.  He became deeply interested in vegetarianism and study of different religions. His stay in England provided opportunities for widening horizons and better understanding of religions and cultures.

Gandhi successfully completed his degree at the Inner Temple and was called to the Bar on 10 June 1891. He enrolled in the High Court of London; but later that year he left for India. For the next two years, Gandhi attempted to practice law in India, establishing himself in the legal profession in Bombay. Unfortunately, he found that he lacked both knowledge of Indian law and self-confidence at trial. His practice collapsed and he returned home to Porbandar. It was while he was contemplating his seemingly bleak future that a representative of an Indian business firm situated in the Transvaal (now Gauteng), South Africa offered him employment. He was to work in South Africa for a period of 12 months for a fee of £105.00.