In March 1930 Gandhiji began his now famous Dandi March. In April he had covered the 241 miles to his destination. It is time to take a look at this historic Salt Satyagraha…

“With this (salt), I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire,” said the Mahatma in April 1930. These famous and effective words were uttered in the middle of a series of moves that made British rule in India unpalatable.

Let's look at some motivating facts. The famous Salt March or Dandi March, which was from March 12, 1930 to April 5, 1930, covered 241 miles (or about 386 km) and had 79 participants. (Two more marchers were included later, making it 81). It started from the Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi. There is also information on some of the participants. “Thirty-two came from the Gujarat Provinces, six from Cutch, four from Kerala, three from the Punjab, three from Rajputana, two from Bombay, and one each from Sindh, Nepal, Tamilnad, Andhra, Utkal, Karnatak, Bihar and Bengal.”

The March left its impact on world leaders, like American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. Much later he said, “Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the Sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of Satyagraha (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force; Satyagraha, therefore, means truth force or love force) was profoundly significant to me ….”

To Mr. Pascal Alan Nazareth, former Ambassador of India to Mexico, and now involved in the setting up of the Sarvodaya International Trust, an international Mahatma Gandhi movement, there is immense significance attached to the Salt March. He says, “Mahatma Gandhi is now such a revered global icon of Truth, Non-Violence and Peace that not many are aware he was in fact a militant and a brilliant strategist. His innovative Satyagraha strategy literally means ‘firmly adhering to Truth' but actually implies ‘Truth Force' or ‘Soul Force'.

“The Salt March is especially notable for its strategising aspect. Salt, a daily requisite for even the poorest individual, was abundant in the seas along India's long coastline. Yet Indians were barred from making it. Only the colonial government could produce and sell it. Besides, a tax levied on it annually collected Rs.60 million. Gandhiji's march to Dandi along with his well trained disciples was carefully planned to pass through areas well prepared for Satyagraha over several months. Hundreds joined the march en route.

By the time they reached Dandi, the marchers were over 30,000. With all of them joining Gandhiji in making salt, and millions of others doing likewise in coastal towns and villages all over India (including Vedaranyam), it was mass defiance of an unjust British law. It decisively broke the shackles of fear with which Britain had led India in bondage.

“The Salt March was also a communications masterpiece. News about it was carried in over 1,000 newspapers worldwide. The New York Times editorialised that whereas Britain had lost America on tea, it was losing India on salt! TIME magazine put Gandhiji on the front cover of its January 4, 1931 issue as its ‘Man of the Year'.

“The incredible success of the Salt March finally convinced the British Government that it had no option but to negotiate with him. He was therefore invited, first to talk with Viceroy Lord Irwin in New Delhi and subsequently with the British Government in London. That is certainly a high point in the history of Gandhian Satyagraha.”On stamps

It is equally interesting to look at the subject of philately and the Salt March. A number of stamps and covers have been issued on the subject. The South India Philatelists' Association says two stamps (of the value 35p each) were issued on October 2, 1980, with the title “50th Anniversary of Dandi March – Gandhi's defiance of Salt Tax Law”. There was also a miniature sheet of four stamps.

On April 5, 2005, a miniature sheet of four stamps (of the value Rs. 5 each) was released to mark the 75th year.

In 2005, the 75th year of the March was re-enacted, from March 12 to April 6, 2005, along the route taken by the Mahatma. This year, 2010, the 80{+t}{+h} year of the event seems to have slipped past quietly. News reports talk of just a few local events.