Date: April 7, 1930
Source: © Bettmann/Corbis.
About the Photographer: This photograph is part of the collection of the Corbis Corporation, headquartered in Seattle, with a worldwide archive of over 70 million images.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, India was ruled by the British. Considered to be among the most significant movements in the world, the Indian independence struggle began on May 10, 1857, when a few Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army united to rebel against the rulers. Known as "India's First War of Independence," this uprising paved the way for future rebellions against British rule. For many years after the Revolt of 1857, there was a growing political and social awareness in India, and Indian leadership emerged at the national and provincial levels.
In 1885, the Indian National Congress (INC) was established with a fundamental motive of developing an Indian presence in legislative councils, universities, and special commissions. By 1900, led by the INC (or Congress), now a national political organization, the Indian Independence Movement had gained momentum. In 1905, the Governor General of India, Sir George Curzon, ordered a partition of Bengal (an eastern state in India) that led to widespread agitation and a Congress-led boycott of British goods. Called the Swadeshi Movement (using only Indian-made goods), the boycott was widespread, and it prompted the British government to introduce several legislative reforms.
In 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948; later referred to as Mahatma Gandhi), a barrister by profession, returned to India from South Africa. While in South Africa, Gandhi protested against the racial discrimination policies of the government. On witnessing numerous cases of discrimination against Indians in India, Gandhi (as a leader of INC) initiated the historic Non-cooperation Movement in 1918. The movement encouraged Indian citizens to use non-cooperation as a means of passive revolt against the British government. During the Non-cooperation Movement, Gandhi and other leaders vehemently protested the Rowlatt Acts (or the Black Acts of 1919), which prohibited freedom of the press and gave the British government unprecedented authority to arrest anyone. In 1922, however, the movement came to an abrupt end when the non-violent philosophy of Gandhi was violated by an angry mob that set a police station on fire in Chauri Chaura, a town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
In 1930, the Civil Disobedience Movement—another non-violent method of protest—was initiated. Adopting the underlying principles of the Non-cooperation Movement, the Civil Disobedience Movement targeted the Salt Act implemented by the British. The Salt Act stated the that production or sale of salt by anyone other than the British government was illegal. In addition, heavy taxes were levied on salt. Most Indians (who were agricultural laborers at the time) were not allowed to collect easily accessible salt from coastlines. Instead, they had to pay a substantial price for the salt. Stating that the Salt Act symbolized the discriminatory and unjust attitude of British rule, Gandhi and his followers decided to launch a movement to defy the Salt Act.
On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and his supporters set out, on foot, for the coastal village of Dandi in the western state of Gujarat, some 240 miles from their starting point in Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The march is popularly known as the Salt Satyagraha (persuasion of truth) or the Dandi March. The primary source is a photograph taken of Gandhi with other prominent members of India's freedom movement participating in the Dandi March of 1930.
See primary source image.
For decades, the British had imposed a tax on salt that adversely affected poor Indians. The tax was levied at one thousand percent the cost and amounted to five percent of the total tax collected by the British in India. International communities and press, including the American press, severely criticized the British rule for taxing a basic and naturally available commodity.
Considered as the turning point in the Indian independence movement, the Dandi March gained huge popularity and nationwide attention. As the march progressed, thousands of activists joined in. At every stop along the way, Gandhi addressed the crowds with the purpose of educating them about the independence movement. Twenty-five days after it started, the non-violent march ended on April 5, 1930, at the small coastal town of Dandi. The following day, Gandhi set out to the seashore, picked up a lump of salt, and declared, "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire."
Soon after breaking the law, Gandhi encouraged other Indians to produce and distribute salt themselves. Consequently, millions of people nationwide broke the salt law. The British government arrested thousands of people (including Gandhi and other leaders of the INC) for making and selling salt.
Gandhi's non-violent march, widely acknowledged as an event that shook the British Empire, reverberated throughout the nation, becoming a milestone in the Civil Disobedience Movement for Indians independence. Gandhi continued to work towards India's independence which was achieved seventeen years after the Dandi March in August 1947.
The Dandi March and the Civil Disobedience Movement inspired many other individuals working for freedom and independence, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. As of the 2000s, the Dandi March is re-enacted in India and other countries every year.
Weber, Thomas. On the Salt March: The Historiography of Gandhi's March to Dandi. New York: HarperCollins Publishers India, 1997.
Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal. "Defiance of Salt Tax." <http://www.mkgandhi.org/civil_dis/civil_dis.htm> (accessed May 22, 2006).
Country Studies US. "Mahatma Gandhi." <http://countrystudies.us/india/20.htm> (accessed May 22, 2006).
Economist.com. "Gandhi, Salt and Freedom." December 23, 1999. <http://www.economist.com/diversions/millennium/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=347107> (accessed May 22, 2006).
Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. "The Salt March." <http://www.saltmarch.org.in> (accessed May 22, 2006).
Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. "History: Milestones in Indian History." <http://mha.nic.in/ his3.htm> (accessed May 22, 2006).