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
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 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
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.
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 Chaturmas1.
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 Chandrayana2 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
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.