I. Birth And Parentage
The Gandhis belong to the Bania caste and seem
to have been originally grocers. But for three generations, from my
grandfather, they have been Prime Ministers in several Kathiawad
States. Uttamchand Gandhi, alias Ota Gandhi, my
grandfather, must have been a man of principle. State intrigues
compelled him to leave Porbandar, where he was Diwan, and to seek
refuge in Junagadh. There he saluted the Nawab with the left hand.
Someone, noticing the apparent discourtesy, asked for an
explanation, which was given thus: 'The right hand is already
pledged to Porbandar.'
Ota Gandhi married
a second time, having lost his first wife. He had four sons by his
first wife and two by his second wife. I do not think that in my
childhood I ever felt or knew that these sons of Ota Gandhi were not
all of the same mother. The fifth of these six brothers was
Karamchand Gandhi, alias Kaba Gandhi, and the sixth was
Tulsidas Gandhi. Both these brothers were Prime Ministers in
Porbandar, one after the other. Kaba Gandhi was my father. He was a
member of the Rajasthanik Court. It is now extinct, but in those
days it was a very influential body for settling disputes between
the chiefs and their fellow clansmen. He was for some time Prime
Minister in Rajkot and then in Vankaner. He was a pensioner of the
Rajkot State when he died.
married four times in succession, having lost his wife each time by
death. He had two daughters by his first and second marriages. His
last wife, Putlibai, bore him a daughter and three sons, I being the
My father was a
lover of his clan, truthful, brave and generous, but short-tempered.
To a certain extent he might have been given to carnal pleasures.
For he married for the fourth time when he was over forty. But he
was incorruptible and had earned a name for strict impartiality in
his family as well as outside. His loyalty to the state was well
known. An Assistant Political Agent spoke insultingly of the Rajkot
Thakore Saheb, his chief, and he stood up to the insult. The Agent
was angry and asked Kaba Gandhi to apologize. This he refused to do
and was therefore kept under detention for a few hours. But when the
Agent saw that Kaba Gandhi was adamant, he ordered him to be
My father never
had any ambition to accumulate riches and left us very little
He had no
education, save that of experience. At best, he might be said to
have read up to the fifth Gujarati standard. Of history and
geography he was innocent. But his rich experience of practical
affairs stood him in good stead in the solution of the most
intricate questions and in managing hundreds of men. Of religious
training he had very little, but he had that kind of religious
culture which frequent visits to temples and listening to religious
discourses make available to many Hindus. In his last days he began
reading the Gita at the instance of a learned Brahman friend of the
family, and he used to repeat aloud some verses every day at the
time of worship.
impression my mother has left on my memory is that of saintliness.
She was deeply religious. She would not think of taking her meals
without her daily prayers. Going to Haveli -the Vaishnava
temple-was one of her daily duties. As far as my memory can go back,
I do not remember her having ever missed the Chaturmas .
She would take the hardest vows and keep them without flinching.
Illness was no excuse for relaxing them. I can recall her once
falling ill when she was observing the Chandrayana vow, but
the illness was not allowed to interrupt the observance. To keep two
or three consecutive fasts was nothing to her. Living on one meal a
day during Chaturmas was a habit with her. Not content with
that she fasted every alternate day during one Chaturmas .
During another Chaturmas she vowed not to have food without
seeing the sun. We children on those days would stand, staring at
the sky, waiting to announce the appearance of the sun to our
mother. Everyone knows that at the height of the rainy season the
sun often does not condescend to show his face. And I remember days
when, at his sudden appearance, we would rush and announce it to
her, She would run out to se with her own eyes, but by that time the
fugitive sun would be gone, thus depriving her of her meal. That
does not matter, she would say cheerfully, God did not want me to
eat today. And then she would return to her round of duties.
My mother had
strong commonsense. She was well informed about all matters of
state, and ladies of the court thought highly of her intelligence.
Often I would accompany her, exercising the privilege of childhood,
and I still remember many lively discussions she had with the
widowed mother of the Thakore Saheb.
Of these parents I
was born at Porbandar, otherwise known as Sudamapuri, on the 2nd
October, 1869, I passed my childhood in Porbandar. I recollect
having been put to school. It was with some difficulty that I got
through the multiplication tables. The fact that I recollect nothing
more of those days than having learnt, in company with other boys,
to call our teacher all kinds of names, would strongly suggest that
my intellect must have been sluggish, and my memory raw.