Biography of Indian Ruler Jawaharlal Nehru Part 1

About the famous Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru, biography and history of the ruler.

Famous and Infamous Rulers in History


Vital Statistics: The man who was to become one of the most powerful and revered leaders in 20th-century Asia sprang from the bluest blood in India. Born in Allahabad on Nov. 14, 1889, Jawaharlal Nehru was the first and only son of Motilal Nehru, one of the most distinguished lawyers and richest men in India. A member of Hindu's highest caste, a Kashmiri Brahman, Nehru exuded an aura of aristocracy.

Slim and tall by Indian standards, with finely sculpted features and an aquiline nose, Nehru was elegantly handsome and somewhat vain about his thinning hair. When dressed in Western clothing in his youth, he more closely resembled a refined young Englishman than an Indian. A man who enjoyed vigorous good health most of his life, Nehru loved active sports such as skiing, swimming, mountain climbing, and horseback riding, and kept fit by following a daily hatha-yoga regime, which included standing on his head each morning. Although generally a vegetarian, Nehru didn't strictly adhere to his country's religious dietary practices. He would on occasion eat meat, and when he was out of India he would drink wine.

In accordance with Indian custom, Nehru's father arranged his son's marriage to a young woman who also belonged to the Brahman caste, although Nehru himself disparaged the caste system. Nehru was 26 when he married 16-year-old Kamala Kaul in March, 1916. The couple had a son who died when he was two days old and a daughter, Indira, who later followed in her father's footsteps and became India's prime minister in 1966. Nehru's wife was an invalid during much of their marriage and died in 1936. Nehru never remarried.

During the struggle for India's independence from British rule, Nehru was sentenced to prison nine times between 1921 and 1945 and spent a total of nearly nine years behind bars. An almost cultlike adoration sprang up around the nationalist leader, who was affectionately called Pandit, ("wise man"). After leading the fight for his country's freedom for two decades, Nehru became prime minister in 1947 and ruled the country nearly single-handedly for almost 17 years until his death on May 27, 1964.

Personal Life: As the only son of a wealthy and influential Indian, Nehru led a pampered childhood in westernized surroundings, growing up on the family's palatial estate, which boasted an indoor swimming pool, riding stables, and magnificent gardens. Because of the 11-year age gap between the first of his two younger sisters and him, he was a lonely child taught by a series of governesses and an English tutor. As was the practice among upper-class Indians, Nehru was sent off to England at the age of 16 for his formal education. While studying at Harrow and Cambridge for the next seven years, Nehru assumed the guise of a fashionable young English gentleman, playing tennis, rowing, and developing a taste for gambling. A rather undistinguished scholar, Nehru was extremely shy; while on the Cambridge debating team, he often paid fines for not speaking during the entire term.

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