The end of the First World War in November 1918 inaugurated a definite stage in the history of India’s struggle for freedom. Indian politics assumed a revolutionary character. The most outstanding event was the emergence of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi who was to steer the political destiny of India for nearly three decades.

With his magical appearance in Indian politics, the Indian National Movement entered into a phase- a phase of mass politics and mass mobiliasation. He played a dominant role in the national movement and under his dynamic leadership India achieved her independence.

Born on October 2, 1869 at Porabandar in Kathiawar region of Gujurat in a vaishya family, Gandhi was deeply influenced by the courageous, virtuous and saintly qualities of his father Karamchand Gandhi and mother Putli Bai. At the age of thirteen he married Kasturi Bai who served her husband with devotion till the end of her life. After passing Entrance Examination, he proceeded to England in 1888 to study law and after three years came out as barrister. Returning to India in 1891, he started practice as a lawyer both at Rajkot and Bombay, but failed to establish himself as a lawyer.

He joined a firm in South Africa in 1893 as its solicitor and spent twenty-one years of his life in that Dark Continent fighting for the rights and dignity of the Indians. Influenced by writings of Tolstoy, Ruskin and Thoreau, Gandhi organised Satyagraha (non-violent passive resistance) against the racial laws in South Africa. By 1915 he had become a skilled political mobilizer and had evolved a political technique of flexibility which was to be his weapon when he returned to India.


Returning to India in 1915, Gandhi at the advice of his political guru, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, kept himself out of Indian politics for one year. He founded the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad in May 1915 where he started practicing the ideals of truth and non-violence. He was a passive onlooker of Indian politics till 1917 when he emerged like a morning sun from his self-imposed exclusion.

The great merit of Gandhi was that he could identify himself with the masses and brought the latter into the limelight of Indian politics through the novel weapon of Satyagraha. Gandhi explained that Satyagraha was not mere passive resistance, but an active mass resistance to unjust rule.

The real experiment of Satyagraha was started in April 1917 when he had gone to Motihari, the headquarters of Champaran district of Bihar to protect the interests of the indigo cultivators against the English indigo planters. He disobeyed the order, issued by the Magistarte of Champaran, debarring him from entry into Motihari and stood for trial and pleaded guilty.

The whole country stood behind him on the Champaran issue which forced the Government to withdraw the case against him and most of the grievances of the cultivators were redressed. The success in Champaran was followed by Ahmedabad mill workers’ strike for an increase of pay and the demand of the peasants of Khaira in Gujurat for remission of land revenue due to poor harvest under the leadership of Gandhi.


The experiment of Satyagraha at Chmparan, Ahmedabad and Khaira proved to be a great success and established Gandhi as leader of unique qualities and paved the way for its adoption in a wider field. The enactment of the Rowlatt Act in 1919 provided an opportunity to him to launch Satyagraha at a national level. The British rule was opposed through two mass movements, Khilafat and Non-Court-operation which though emerged out of the separate issues, adopted a common programme of action.