Though Gandhi is often regarded as a super-serious, pious man, this colorized photograph emphasizes his wry smile. In fact, it gives a sense that perhaps he’s fondly remembering those youthful indiscretions he left behind. This is surprising, considering the hardships he endured while leading India to liberation.
According to Wikimedia Commons, the original photograph was taken in 1931. The previous year, Gandhi was embroiled in the Salt March, which took place between March and April of 1930 (via History). It was organized in defiance of the British Salt Act enacted in 1882, which forbade the people of India from collecting their own salt and forced them to buy heavily-taxed British products instead. In response, Gandhi led a march from Sabermanti to Dandi (240 miles or so), gathering thousands of supporters along the way. Their goal was to make salt at Dandi, a town on the Arabian Sea, and they did just that.
Around 60,000 arrests were made as supporters defied the British across India. Gandhi was incarcerated for some months and freed in January of the very year this photograph was taken. And this wasn’t the first time he was imprisoned — he was found guilty of sedition against the government in 1922 and served two years of his six-year sentence before his appendicitis saw him released on medical grounds, per National Geographic. The amiable leader lived to see India become free, but not for long — he was tragically assassinated the following year.