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A young Indian lawyer Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi conceptualized the

non-violent resistance against the tyranny in South Africa by defying the Transvaal
Asiatic Ordinance of 1906. This Ordinance required- the Indians to register and
submit themselves for physical examination, provide finger prints and carry
registration certificates at all times. It was humiliating and discriminating to the
Indians residing in the Transvaal. Further, the Transvaal Immigration Restrictions
Act, 1907 limited the inter- provincial movement of the Indians in South Africa. In
those days Indians were mostly living in the province of Natal of South Africa but
they wanted access to the prosperous province of the Transvaal.

Gandhiji experimented with his philosophy of Satyagraha in South Africa in
three phases. The first phase started with the decision to defy the Asiatic
Ordinance of the Transvaal and ended with the provisional settlement with
General Smuts on 30 January, 1908. It extended in the second phase when
General Smuts refused to repeal the Act. In the last phase, Indian men - women
and indentured labourers as well as other workers joined the struggle for
validation of Indian marriages and abolition of 3 tax. Finally, it culminated into
the Great Historic Transvaal March and ended with General Smuts Gandhi
agreement of 30 June, 1914.

The Historic Transvaal March of approximately 35 miles from New Castle to
Charlestown was planned to take the marchers into Transvaal and invite arrest.
The training imparted in Tolstoy Farm proved of great use. The mode of life
accepted by the satyagrahis on the Farm became an invaluable asset in the
struggle. In fact, the education in Phoenix was preliminary part a preparation for
the Satyagraha and rules applied to the families living in Phoenix Farm became
truly purposeful. All were fully prepared when the agitation started, excepting
those who were engaged in running the Farm as one of family member was kept
aloof. The padyatra was an effective way to raise consciousness and build unity.
Gandhiji himself led the first batch consisting of about 500 persons of whom 60
were women with their children, belonging to various Indian castes and
communities. The fellow passive resisters faced great difficulties during the march
although many local Indians helped the marchers in the route. Since the local
funds were not adequate to cover the overall expenses on the march, the
prominent Indians viz Ratan Tata and Nizam of Hyderabad came forward and
contributed a large amount in support of the struggle of Indians in Transvaal.
All kind of support was also extended to Gandhiji by his local friends like
Rustomjee alias Kakaji , Herman Kallenbach, Thampi Naidoo and H.S.L.Polak, etc.
was in his maiden March.

On the occasion of the Centenary of the Great Historic March, the National
Archives of India under the aegis of Ministry of Culture has presented this archival
exhibition wherein an attempt has been made to portray the experiment with
passive resistance made by Gandhiji for the cause of Indians dignity and freedom.
It also showcases the initial discontent of Indians in Transvaal, the details of the
March and its reflection on the Indian freedom struggle.

This exhibition aims to educate the visitors from all walks of society to
understand Gandhijis philosophy of non-violence Satyagraha and the
preeminent role played by the women during the Transvaal March by moving
shoulder to shoulder with their male counterpart. The exhibition also makes an
endeavour to create archival awareness among the masses through our rich
archival heritage on the theme.

Landmarks of the Transvaal March


15 September

Pioneer party of passive resisters left Durban for Volksrust by train to cross border

16 September Parsee Rustomjee and other passive resisters were charged at Volksrust as prohibited
2 October Herman Kallenbach and twelve women left Johannesburg for Maritzburg to court arrest

10 October Seven passive resisters detained at Volksrust on way to Charlestown
13 October P.K. Naidoo, Jiwan Premji and nine others went out hawking in Johannesburg to court
17 October Gandhi ji requested indentured Indians to strike until Government promised repeal
of 3 tax .
24 October Gandhiji wrote to Maganlal Gandhi that he proposed to lead 2,000 men into Transvaal
28 October The March began from Newcastle
30 October Gandhiji reached Charlestown with 200 men
31 October Gandhiji informed Secretary of Justice that if the surrendered Indians are not arrested,
they would march into Transvaal
2 November Gandhiji and 1,500 passive resisters were stationed at Charlestown
3 November Gandhiji informed Reuter that he would be moving with 1,500 men into Transvaal

4 November 1,700 passive resisters started March from Newcastle
6 November Gandhiji led the Great March at 6.30 a.m.
7 November Gandhiji appeared in Volksrust court and released on fifty pound bail
8 November Gandhiji arrived at Standerton
9 November Gandhiji arrested at Teakworth around 3 a.m. near Greylingstad on Dundee warrant
18 December Gandhiji, Polak and Kallenbach were released at Pretoria on Solomon Commissions