Barrister Gandhi on way to South Africa

Original Location + Cardinal Points: South Africa,  Africa

Present Location: Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, New Delhi

Date/Period: 1906 


At the age of 24, when Gandhi was a newly qualified lawyer, he was sent to South Africa on a brief assignment. He was to defend the case of a local Indian trader who had landed in a commercial dispute. He stayed in South Africa for 21 years and during this period, he broadened the horizon of his outlook on the ethical and political front. In 1894, he founded the Natal Indian Congress. As he encountered racism during his stay, he developed non-violent protests against the exploitation of the non-white skinned people by the Whites. In no time, he was seen as the leader of the Indian community in South Africa. This gave rise to the well known South African refrain, "India gave us a Mohandas, we gave them a Mahatma"

Social Significance

"When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi left for Durban, South Africa at the invitation of an old family acquaintance from Rajkot, Dada Abdullah Sheth, his “mission was simply to win a lawsuit, earn some money, start a career, As he wrote later “I went there only to try my luck in South Africa”. But the South Africa to which he arrived in May 1893 was a sharply divided society, by colour, religion, and profession. Englishmen called all Indians as ‘coolies’ or ‘samis’. The early unfortunate incidents involving himself vividly revealed to the sensitive mind of young Gandhi the abjectness and degradation of the Asian people in South Africa. Even as a child Gandhiji had shown the courage of conviction to protest against any kind of discrimination between man and man on the basis of his birth, creed, and colour. Even when his mother forbade him to play with a boy of his own age because he was an “untouchable”, he revolted against this age old taboo. Once again in South Africa he launched a determined revolt against the tyranny of the white races."