PART ONE : 1. BIRTH AND PARENTAGE
THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
by Mohandas K. Gandhi
1. 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 thus given: '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.
Kaba Gandhi 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 youngest.
My father was a lover of his clan, truthful, brave and generous, but short-tempered. To a
certain extent he might have been even 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
[=objected] 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 released.
My father never had any ambition to accumulate riches, and left us very little property.
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
The outstanding 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./1/ 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/2/ 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 see 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.
/1/ Literally a period of four months. A vow of fasting and semi-fasting during the four months of the rains.
The period is a sort of long Lent.
/2/ A sort of fast in which the daily quantity of food is increased or diminished according as the moon
waxes or wanes.
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 Thakor Saheb.
Of these parents I was born at Porbandar, otherwise known as Sundampuri, 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 strougly suggest that my intellect must have been sluggish, and my memory raw.