Art exhibitions, charity events and tributes marked the anniversary in India, although some accused the government of failing to live up to Gandhi's spirit.
The ruling Congress party, had ordered a year of events to mark the occasion and said in a statement: "By the force of moral example and restraint in the face of vicious provocation, Gandhi and his followers were able to affect a change of heart in their oppressors."
On September 11, 1906, Gandhi, then a young, little-known lawyer working in South Africa, joined a meeting of fellow Indians in a Johannesburg theatre to protest against a proposed law that would force Indians to carry identity documents and be fingerprinted.
Indians had initially been brought to South Africa as indentured workers by the British, who at that time ruled both countries.
Gandhi convinced those present to resist or ignore the law but without resorting to violence.
He called the idea 'Satyagraha' which literally translates as 'insistence on truth'.
Thousands of Indians were jailed, including Gandhi, for refusing to cooperate and for burning their identity books.
The government eventually agreed to some of Gandhi's demands.
Phumzile Mlambo-Nckuka, the South Africa's deputy president, placed a wreath at Gandhi's main New Delhi memorial on Monday morning.
But as many praised Gandhi's legacy, it was not clear how relevant his legacy was for many young Indians.
In a survey published on Sunday by the Economic Times newspaper, young Indian business leaders and students were asked who was the biggest icon of today's times. Bill Gates won with 37 per cent, beating Gandhi who received 30 per cent.