Martin Luther King Jr.’s Pilgrimage to India

History still sees the legacies of the civil rights activist and independence leader Mahatma Gandhi as deeply intertwined.

Devanshi Patel

January 18, 2021

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Pilgrimage to India
MLK landing in India, feature

“Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began his address on the All India Radio in March 1959. 

On February 10 of that year — nine years after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi — King, his wife Coretta Scott, and colleague Lawrence Reddick landed at Delhi’s Palam airport for a five-week trip through India to pay homage to the figure who had informed their own efforts in the American battle for Civil Rights. 

As he disembarked, he told a group of reporters, “To other countries I may go as a tourist, but to India I come as a pilgrim.” Traveling across India, King met with prominent figures — from dining with activist Jayaprakash Narayan in Patna to marching alongside land reform leader Vinoba Bhave in Rajasthan. He even spent a night at Mani Bhavan, Gandhi’s Bombay residence, where he inscribed in the guestbook: “To have the opportunity of sleeping in the house where Gandhiji slept is really an experience I will never forget.”