Famous Family History Mahatma Gandhi Children

About the family of famous Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi, history of his sons.


(1869-1948), Indian political leader

His Fruits: "You want my sons to be holy men before they are men!" Gandhi's wife once exclaimed. It was true. "A blot which I have never been able to efface," wrote Gandhi, was his own absence when his father breathed his last. At that moment, Mohandas was in bed with Kasturbai, his pregnant child-wife; he never forgave himself. He abandoned sexual relations at age 37 and evidently saw his four sons as living reminders of his own sexual "curse." All of them, according to one account, "tried to live up to their father's expectations of them, but each, in his own way, failed, and in Gandhi's attitude toward their failure there was, by his own testimony, an element of guilt for sexual excesses in his childhood marriage." His sons resented their upbringing as disciples. They were not, for example, allowed the formal education which Mohandas himself had received and which would have provided them with their own choice of livelihood.

Harilal Gandhi (1888-1948) rebelled most strongly. He renounced all family ties in 1911 and embarked upon a tragic, lifelong path of self-destruction. He became a Muslim convert, an alcoholic, an embezzler; accounts of his arrests, public drunkenness, and destitution became commonplace. "I was a slave of my passions when Harilal was conceived," said Mohandas. Harilal appeared at his father's funeral in such derelict condition that few recognized him. He died in a tuberculosis sanitarium two months later.

Manilal Gandhi (1892-1956) was in disgrace in 1916 after he lent his elder brother some money. Mohandas sent him to South Africa, where he edited an Indian newspaper. Later he spent a brief period in India, bitterly astonished at the Mahatma's genial, old-age mellowness.

Ramdas Gandhi (1898-1969) had no taste for asceticism, yet participated in the grueling civil protests of the 1930s. Numerous jailings wrecked his health. Born and raised in South Africa, he never adjusted to the idealistic poverty imposed by his father.

Mohandas acted as midwife at the delivery of his youngest son, Devadas Gandhi (1900-1957).

Alone of all the sons, Devadas stayed near his father, sometimes being granted the privilege of serving as his secretary.

In 1976 Gandhi's direct descendants numbered 47 in five nations. According to Ved Mehta, author of Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles, they "do everything from selling life insurance to working in space engineering; one is a Moral Re-Armament evangelist." Deposed Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi is no relation.

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