Bombay, 18 mei 1964
Indian political and spiritual leader, called the Mahatma [great-souled] and regarded as the father of independent India. After practicing law in South Africa, where he fought for the rights of the Indian population there, he returned (1915) to India. Already regarded as a leader in the nationalist movement, he began working for Indian independence from Great Britain. He gave up Western ways to lead a life of abstinence and spirituality. He asserted the unity of all people under one God and preached Christian and Muslim ethics along with the Hindu. He became a proponent of satyagraha [passive resistance] as a way to end British rule. His efforts led the British to jail him several times, but so great was his following that his threats to fast until death usually forced his release. In the Indian National Congress, India's chief political party, he led the fight to rid the country of the caste system/mahatma Gandhi.