41. Drink and Drugs

Liquor, as we say, is an invention of the devil. In Islam it is said that when Satan began to beguile men and women he dangled before them the "red water". I have seen in so many cases that liquor has not only robbed men of their money but of their reason, they have for the time being forgotten the distinction between wife and mother, lawful and unlawful. I have seen drunken barristers wallowing in gutters carried home by the police. I have found on two occasions captains of steamers so dead drunk as to be incapable of keeping charge of their boats till they came to their senses. For both flesh-meats and liquor the sovereign rule is "We must not live in order to eat and drink and be merry, but eat and drink in order to make our bodies temples of God and use them for service of man." Liquor may be a medical necessity on occasions; and when life seems to be extinct it may be possible to prolong it with a dose of liquor, but that is about all that can be said for it.

India's Case for Swaraj, P. 403

You will not be deceived by the specious arguments that India must not be made sober by compulsion, and that those who wish to drink must have facilities provided for them. The state does not cater for the vices of its people. We do not regulate or license houses of ill-frame. We do not provide facilities for thieves to indulge their propensity for thieving. I hold drink to be more damnable than thieving and perhaps even prostitution. Is it not often the parent of both?

Young India, 8-6-'21

Drink is more a disease than a vice. I know scores of men who would gladly leave off drink if they could. I know some who have asked that the temptation might be put away from them. In spite of the temptation having been put away at their instance, I have known them to steal drink. I do not, therefore, think that it was wrong to have removed the temptation. Diseased persons have got to be helped against themselves.

Young India, 12-1-'28

Having identified myself with labour, I know what ruin drink has bought to the homes of labourers given to drink. I know that they will not touch liquor if it was not within easy reach. We have contemporaneous evidence that drinkers themselves are in many cases asking for prohibition.

Harijan, 3-6-'39

The drink habit destroys the soul of man and tends to turn him into a beast, incapable of distinguishing between wife, mother and sister. I have seen men who forget this distinction under the influence of liquor.

Harijan, 9-3-'34

The drink and the drug evil is in many respects infinitely worse then the evil caused by malaria and the like; for, whilst the latter only injure the body, the former saps both body and soul.

Young India, 3-3-'27

I would rather have India reduced to a state of pauperism than have thousands of drunkards in our midst. I would rather have India without education if that is the price to be paid for making it dry.

Young India, 15-9-'27

Nothing but ruin stares a nation in the face that is prey to the drink habit. History records that empires have been destroyed through that habit. We have it in India that the great community to which Shri Krishna belonged was ruined by that habit. This monstrous evil was undoubtedly one of the contributory factors in the fall of Rome.

Young India, 4-4-29

If I was appointed dictator for one hour for all India, the first thing I would do would be to close without compensation all the liquor shops, and compel factory owners to produce humane conditions rooms where these workmen would get innocent drinks and equally innocent amusements.

Young India, 25-6-'31


There is a school who favour limited and regulated consumption of alcohol and believe it to be useful. I have not found any weight in their argument. Even if we accept their view for a moment, we have still to face the fact that innumerable human beings cannot be kept under discipline. Therefore, it becomes our duty to prohibit alcoholic drinks even if it were only for the sake of this vast majority.

Parsis have strongly supported the use of toddy. They say that although toddy is an intoxicant it is also a food and even helps to digest other foodstuffs. I have carefully examined their argument and have read a fair amount of literature pertaining to this subject. But I have been a witness of the terrible straits to which toddy reduces the poor and therefore I have come to the conclusion that it can have no place in man's food.

The advantages, attributed to toddy, are all available from other foodstuffs. Toddy is made out of Khajuri juice.

Fresh Khajuri juice is not an intoxicant. It is known as nira in Hindustani and many people have been cured of their constipation as a result of drinking nira. I have taken it myself. Though It did not act as a laxative with me, I found that it had the same food value as sugarcane juice. If one drinks a glass of nira in the morning instead of tea etc., he should not need anything else the breakfast.

As in the case of sugarcane juice, palm juice can be boiled to make palm jiggery. Khajuri is a variety of palm tree. Several varieties of palm grow spontaneously in our country. All of them yield drinkable juice. As nira gets fermented very quickly, it has to be used up immediately and therefore on the spot. Since this condition is difficult to fulfill except to a limited extent, condition is difficult to fulfill except to a limited extent, in practice, the best use of nira is to convert it into palm jiggery. Palm jiggery can well replace cane-juice jiggery. In fact some people prefer it to the latter. One advantage of palm jaggery over sugarcane jaggery is that it is less sweet and therefore one can eat more of it... If the palms that are used for making toddy are used for making jaggery, India will never lack sugar and the poor will be able to get good jaggery for very little money.

Palm jaggery can be converted into molasses and refined sugar. But the jaggery is much more useful than refined sugar. The salts present in the jaggery are lost in the process of refining. Just as refined wheat flour and polished rice lose some of their nutritive value because of the loss of the pericarp, refined sugar also loses some of the nutritive value of the jaggery. One may generalizes that all foodstuffs are richer if taken in their natural state as far as possible.

Key to Health, pp.32-4


I have a horror of smoking as of wines. Smoking I consider to be a vice. It deadens one's conscience and is often worse than drink, in that it acts imperceptibly. It is a habit which is difficult to get rid of when once it seizes hold of a person. It is an expensive vice. It fouls the breath, discolours teeth and sometimes even causes cancer. It is an unclean habit.

Young India, 12-1-'21

Smoking is in a way a greater curse than drink, inasmuch as the victim does not realize its evil in time. It is not regarded as a sign of barbarism, it is even acclaimed by the civilized people. I can only say, let those who can, give it up and set the example.

Young India, 4-2-'26

Tobacco has simply worked havoc among mankind. Once caught in its tangle, it is rare to find anyone get out again... Tolstoy has called it the worst of all intoxicants.

In India people use tobacco for smoking, snuffing and also for chewing...Lovers of (or seekers after) health, if they are slaves to any evil habits, will resolutely get out of the slavery. Several people are addicted to one, two or all the three of these habits. They do not appear loathsome to them. But if we think over it calmly, there is nothing becoming about blowing of smoke or keeping the mouth stuffed with tobacco and pan practically the whole day long or keep on opening the snuffbox and take snuff every now and then. All the three are most dirty habits.

Key to Health, pp. 39-42