Gandhi Trail through Durban

Gandhi arrived in Durban, Natal (now kwaZulu-Natal) in 1893 to serve as legal counsel to a merchant Dada Abdulla! In June, Dada Abdulla asked him to undertake a rail trip to Pretoria, Transvaal, a journey which first took Gandhi to Pietermaritzburg, Natal. There, Gandhi was seated in the first-class compartment, as he had purchased a first-class ticket. A White person who entered the compartment hastened to summon the White railway officials, who ordered Gandhi to remove himself to the van compartment, since 'coolies' (a racist term for Indians) and non-whites were not permitted in first-class compartments. Gandhi protested and produced his ticket, but was warned that he would be forcibly removed if he did not make a gracious exit. As Gandhi refused to comply with the order, a White police officer pushed him out of the train, and his luggage was tossed out on to the platform. The train steamed away, and Gandhi withdrew to the waiting room. "It was winter," Gandhi was to write in his autobiography, and "the cold was extremely bitter. My overcoat was in my luggage, but I did not dare to ask for it lest I should be insulted again, so I sat and shivered". He says he began to think of his "duty": ought he to stay back and fight for his "rights", or should he return to India? His own "hardship was superficial", "only a symptom of the deep disease of colour prejudice."

M.K Gandhi spent about 20 years in South Africa, predominantly in the Natal area. His experiences in South Africa are considered the formative years of his international passive resistance stance against discrimination, and many sites in Durban and surrounding areas are dedicated to his political and social influence. For more information on the museums and key sites that are dedicated to Gandhi, and which form part of an unofficial Gandhi Trail.

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Last updated : 03-Oct-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 14-Jul-2011