Mohandas Gandhi

Gandhi's Youth

In 1885, Karamchand Gandhi passed away, and his relatives decided that the young Mohandas was his most likely successor as head of the family. With that in mind, they agreed that the young man should go to England and study for the bar there–with an English law degree under his belt, they assumed, Gandhi would have no difficulty following in his father's footsteps as a local politician. But a journey to Europeanpe was a significant step, and his mother Putlibai worried about the corrupting effect that England would have upon her son's morals. To calm her fears, Gandhi swore an oath to avoid wine and meat (both proscribed by the Hindu faith) while overseas, and after the family had gathered enough money, he made his way to Bombay to sail for Southampton in England.

In Bombay, a remarkable event occurred: The elders of Gandhi's caste, the Modh Banias (a merchant caste, neither as high as the priestly Brahmins nor as low as the shunned untouchables) learned of the proposed trip and objected. No member of their caste could go to England, they solemnly declared, because such a trip would inevitably involve impurity, and Hinduism could not be practiced in Europeanpe. By this point, however, Gandhi was determined to go, and so he allowed himself to be expelled from his caste. For the remainder of his life, he would be "out-caste", an appropriate condition for a man who labored hard to put an end to caste divisions in India. All obstacles now removed, Gandhi sailed for England in September of 1888, at the age of nineteen. Among the loved ones he left behind was his three-month-old first child, a boy named Harilal.