From: Gandhi and His Spinning Wheel: The Story Behind an Iconic Photo, Time Life, September 2014:
In typed notes that accompanied Bourke-White’s film when it was sent from India to LIFE’s New York offices in the spring of 1946, the significance of the simple spinning wheel in the photo is made abundantly clear:
[Gandhi] spins every day for 1 hr. beginning usually at 4. All members of his ashram must spin. He and his followers encourage everyone to spin. Even M. B-W was encouraged to lay [aside] her camera to spin. . . . When I remarked that both photography and spinning were handicrafts, they told me seriously, “The greater of the 2 is spinning.” Spinning is raised to the heights almost of a religion with Gandhi and his followers. The spinning wheel is sort of an Ikon to them. Spinning is a cure all, and is spoken of in terms of the highest poetry.
Gandhi was murdered two years after this photo was taken:
Nathuram Vinayak Godse was a right wing advocate of Hindu nationalism who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, shooting him in the chest three times at point blank range in New Delhi on 30 January 1948.
Godse was hanged for the murder a year later.