Martyrs’ Day is observed on January 30 to commemorate the death of Mahatma Gandhi, who was assassinated on the same day in 1948. Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he is widely regarded as ‘Bapu’, or ‘Father of the nation’ in India. Gandhi, regarded as one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century, bravely led his country to freedom — but was killed by the bullets of violent extremists. Indians commemorate the day by remembering his ultimate sacrifice to the nation and preaching his values of non-violence, unity, and morality.
History of Martyrs' Day
Martyrs’ Day is observed on the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who successfully led his country to freedom from the British Empire. Born in the small town of Gujarat, Gandhi studied to become a barrister and lived a pretty austere life, until he made his first trip to South Africa, and everything changed.
Life in South Africa exposed him to the deep class divisions of society and the evils of inequality. Gandhi’s life experiences shaped his worldviews. The discrimination he suffered in South Africa inspired him to fight for equality, the pain of losing his first child at the age of 16 made him a furious opponent of child marriage, and so on.
During India’s struggle for freedom, Gandhi advocated for peaceful demonstrations and inspired everyone to lead by example. He negotiated many peace treaties with the Britishers, before giving them the final ultimatum of departure. As the Indian constitution came into ratification, Gandhi took on the impossible task of building a country out of many provinces and territories.
Gandhi was vehemently opposed to the idea of partition of India. Even after the declaration of independence, he held regular demonstrations to establish his resistance. Gandhi’s objection to the partition was met harshly with Hindu nationalists, who accused him of appeasing the Muslims. On the eve of January 30, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, a notorious Hindu nationalist, shot Gandhi three times at point-blank.
Gandhi’s lifelong quest for non-violence ended with a bullet in his chest. On Martyrs’ Day, Indians from all around the world come together to celebrate the legacy of a great hero and acknowledge the futile destruction caused by violent extremism.
Martyrs' Day timeline
The All-India Muslim League begins campaigning for a separate Muslim country, an idea vehemently opposed by Gandhi.
The Indian National Congress begins negotiating for the full independence of India from British rule.
As India gains independence from British rule and splits into two nations, Gandhi continues to hold protests against partition.
Gandhi is murdered by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse for his opposition to the partition of India.
Martyrs' Day FAQs
Why is Mohandas K. Gandhi called Mahatma Gandhi?
The Hindi word ‘Mahatma,’ translates to ‘the great soul’ in English. M.K. Gandhi was considered the foremost spiritual and national leader of his homeland India. The common people gave him the name of Mahatma as he led his country to freedom.
What is Mahatma Gandhi famous for?
Gandhi is famous for his role in the Independence Movement of India, and for his philosophy of nonviolence that inspired a generation of civil rights leaders around the world, including Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
Who is a martyr?
A martyr is a person who is sentenced to death or killed on behalf of a cause, principle, or belief. Historically, people who have given their lives to the cause of social justice are called martyrs.
How to Observe Martyrs' Day
Read about India’s struggle for independence
India’s struggle for independence lasted for 100 years. It started in the year 1857 when the first resistance against the British Raj was registered in the eastern provinces of the country. On January 30, read all about the century-long Indian Independence Movement.
Honor the great martyr
You can honor Gandhi by propagating his core principles of non-violence, truth, and harmony. Share his message with the people you know. You can also post a remembrance on social media.
Condemn violent extremism
It was hate and violent extremism that took Gandhi’s life. A similar kind of intolerance and hatred is on the rise in this 21st century. On Martyrs' Day, denounce extremism and pledge to eradicate the roots of evil from your community.
5 Facts About Mahatma Gandhi That You’ve Never Heard Before
It’s the American inspiration
Gandhi’s inspiration for the Civil Disobedience movement came from reading an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.
He worried the British
The Brits were terrified of Gandhi’s influence on the public and did not allow photos of him to circulate.
His experiments with food
Gandhi had inexplicable control over his body, which he developed through years of experimentation with various food items and diets.
An enemy in Winston Churchill
The British Prime Minister hated Gandhi and called him a 'half-naked Fakir,' an animosity not reciprocated by Gandhi.
Gandhi, the author
Gandhi had an unmatched passion for writing — over 50,000 pages of his written words are available to read online.
Why Martyrs' Day is Important
We remember Gandhi’s values
On his death anniversary, we remember Gandhi’s core values: morality, truth, harmony, non-violence, and simplicity. We also pledge to instill these values in our lives.
We remember the ultimate sacrifice
A martyr’s life doesn’t end with a bullet, for they are immortalized by their actions. Gandhi and countless other freedom fighters paid the ultimate sacrifice. Martyrs' Day is a solemn remembrance of their courage and resilience.
We honor the fight for democracy
January 30 is a great day to remind ourselves that freedom isn’t free, and democracy is so much more than the votes we cast. We must continue to take actions that keep our democratic values alive.
Martyrs' Day dates