While it can be said that there were several other revolutionaries who impacted the Indian movement for independence, none had a greater impact on the outcome and the subsequent revolution than Mahatma Gandhi. While it can be said that it didn’t ultimately directly result in Indian independence being realized, it did catalyze the process that would lead to the independence being obtained. The impact of Gandhi’s approach to protest can still be felt today, as it instilled a very intrinsic value of civil disobedience, as compared to direct, violent protest.
For over a hundred years, Indian citizens were subjected to the brutal advances of British colonialism. (Sackett, 2014) As a result, many citizens in India were denied their rights, and subsequently, those who were interested in pursuing further educations and opportunities had to go to England to do so seriously. Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in a town called Porbandar, Kathiawar, India. Originally, Gandhi was a student of law in London, and pursued this avenue until in 1893, when he went to South Africa, where he spent a subsequent 20 years opposing discriminatory legislation and laws that were set in place against the Indians. (Sackett, 2014)

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It was during this time that he found a strong surge in respect and following for civil disobedience, and pioneered Satyagraha, or the ability to resist through massive peaceful civil disobedience. Over the course of this time, he became one of the major political and spiritual activists and leaders in India and abroad. At this point, Gandhi had firmly established himself as a leader in civil politics, and in 1914, Gandhi returned to his homeland of India. (Rushdie, 1998)

During this time, he supported the Home Rule movement, and became an advocate for and leader in the Indian National Congress, choosing to pursue a policy of non-violent resistance through means of non-co-operation. (Rushdie, 1998) He felt as if this was the most appropriate avenue for his protests, and continued doing so by helping the impoverished farmers and workers protest and express their views. He also protested the oppressive nature of taxation and discrimination from both the English and from the citizens within the Indian community. (Schroeder, 2012)

Pending his release from prison once more in 1931, he was in attendance at the London Round Table Conference on Indian constitutional reform. (Jalal, 1994) This was highly influential, as it showed to the general public that he had a deep appreciation of and knowledge for the common good of the Indian community. Then, in 1946, he was able to provide negotiations with the Cabinet Mission, which was in charge of recommending a new constitutional structure. After India gained independence in 1947, he was involved in an attempt to bring the Hindu-Muslim conflict in Bengal to an end, but was in turn assassinated in Delhi by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic. (Jalal, 1994)

Another important leader in the Indian nationalist movement was Surendranath Banerjee. He was integral in forming the Indian National Association. His type of political thinking was deeply influenced by liberal progressive thought, and he was largely inspired by the idea of free thought and expression for all Indian citizens. (Jalal, 1994) He, alongside Rabindranath Tagore, were largely involved in helping to create the foundation for the liberation of India. Tagore was a prominent author and orator in India, who’s impact was mostly felt through the dissemination of knowledge that he helped to instill and promote among the the Indian community. These men, as well as individuals such as Lala Lajpat Rai, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai and Sri Aurobindo, were all important in developing Indian nationalism, but not so much as Gandhi.

The impact that Gandhi had on the world around him can still be felt today, as he has become both a cultural icon and a symbolic leader of revolution and civil disobedience throughout the world. While it’s true that there were several other leaders at the time who had a hand in the development of Indian independence, Gandhi was able to create an intrinsic value within his fellow citizens of India, for demanding the same rights.

  • Sackett, Matt. “Mohandas Gandhi.”History. Time Warner Cable, 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 2 Sept. 2015. .
  • Rushdie, Salman. “Mohandas Gandhi.” TIME. VOX Media, 13 Apr. 1998. Web. 2 Sept. 2015. .
  • Schroeder, Brenton. “Mahatma Gandhi.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 Sept. 2015. .
  • Jalal, Ayesha. The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge South Asian Studies) (1994)