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Throughout history most national heroes have been warriors but Gandhi ended British rule over his native India without striking a single blow A frail man he devoted his life to peace and brotherhood in order to achieve social and political progress Yet less than six months after his nonviolent resistance to British rule won independence for India he was assassinated by a religious fanatic Gandhi was one of the gentlest of men a devout and almost mystical Hindu but he had an iron core of determination Nothing could change his convictions This combination of traits made him the leader of Indias nationalist movement Some observers called him a master politician Others believed him a saint To millions of Hindus he was their beloved Mahatma meaning great soul Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on Oct 2 1869 in Porbandar near Bombay His family belonged to the Hindu merchant caste Vaisya His father had been prime minister of several small native states Gandhi was married when he was only 13 years old When he was 19 he defied custom by going abroad to study He studied law at University College in London Fellow students snubbed him because he was an Indian In his lonely hours he studied philosophy In his reading he discovered the principle of nonviolence as enunciated in Henry David Thoreaus Civil Disobedience and he was persuaded by John Ruskins plea to give up industrialism for farm life and traditional handicrafts--ideals similar to many Hindu religious ideas In 1891 Gandhi returned to India Unsuccessful in Bombay he went to South Africa in 1893 At Natal he was the first so-called colored lawyer admitted to the supreme court He then built a large practice His interest soon turned to the problem of fellow Indians who had come to South Africa as laborers He had seen how they were treated
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