On this day in 1948, political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, is assassinated in New Delhi by a Hindu fanatic. Eventually known as “Mahatma,” or high soul, Gandhi was born and raised in a Hindu merchant caste family in coastal Gujarat, western India. As a young man he trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, but found no fruitful legal work back in India. Gandhi instead took a clerk’s contract to work in South Africa, where he first employed the nonviolent civil disobedience of Jainism in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights.
After his return to India in 1915, Gandhi commenced a decades-long movement seeking independence from Britain for the entire Indian subcontinent, and was jailed several times while leading strikes, boycotts, protests and other mass acts of civil disobedience to recognize the rights and freedoms of his country-men. Finally under British PM Clement Attlee, India won her independence, but with the proximity to Pakistan and no resolution to Muslim-Hindu animosity, Gandhi continued his mission to quell hatred and heal wounds.
When gunned down by Nathuram Godse, Gandhi was 78, and bore the title of Father of the Nation; he is venerated as both high soul and martyr by millions to this day.