MAHATMA GANDHI MEDIA AND RESEARCH SERVICE

MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

Chapter 01, Early Years, 1869 – 1892, 13min 28sec, Reel 1, 2

The film depicts the early phase of Gandhi's "experiments with truth". It was during this period that the foundation of his deep devotion to Ram - the Lord - was laid and he realised the beauty of the Bhagawad Gita which opened a new way of life for him. He acquainted himself with the principal religions of the world and tried to harmonise his inner and outer urges. The conviction that Truth is the substance of all morality took deep root in him and 'to return good for evil' became his guiding principle.

Watch and download film


Commentary

Reel 01

 

Sequence 01 The country that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bharata Varsha.

In this ancient land, from time immemorial, the eternal snows of the Himalayas rapt in deep meditation have formed a part of the life of the people bound by a sacred thread of common heritage.

 

2 The plains are watered by a thousand streams that mingle in the music of great rivers linked up with India's civilization and culture carrying fertility and wealth, spreading life and strength ... Traversed by green and fertile hills,... blossoming trees bright with orchard gleams ... and fields of waving corn, ... touched by the golden rays in the East, ... India is bounded on three sides by the palm-clad seashores... chanting to the tune of the ocean-waves.

 

3 On the West coast, the sea of Oman splashes against the solid rocks of the city of Porbandar in Saurashtra. The houses are chiefly built of white and soft stone. The distant Barda Hills keep guard over the "White City", otherwise known as Sudamapuri.

 

4 Porbandar has been mainly a commercial town. An enterprising and sturdy people have traded from remote antiquity with lands beyond the seas-Arabia and Africa.

 

5 The town was the ancestral home of the Gandhis who belonged to the Vaishnav cult.

 

6 It was here that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on the morning of October 2, 1869. This house is associated with an incident which instilled the spirit of Satyagraha in Mohan's blood.

 

7 The Gandhi family played an important part in the political life of the state. Uttamchand Gandhi, Mohan's grandfather, was the Diwan of Porbandar. Being a staunch believer in the purity of justice, once he had a tussle with the Regent for sheltering an innocent grocer. The soldiers of the state shelled his house.

With a firm determination to sacrifice himself and the members of his family at the altar of justice, he remained undaunted praying to God.

 

8 Karamchand Gandhi - Mohan's father - succeeded Uttamchand as Diwan. Karamchand, like his father, was a man of principle, and loved virtue more than wealth.

 

9 Mohan's mother, Putlibai, was deeply religious and had a strong personality. She would take the hardest vows without flinching. Her influence, more than any other, moulded the character of Mohan.

 

10 At the age of six, Mohan was sent to school close to his house. As a student, he was mediocre but punctual.

 

11 While he was very gentle and playful, he was obstinate. In this small room, his books and his lessons were his sole companions.

 

12 In the Gandhi family, the Tulsi Ramayana was recited regularly. Mohan was taught by Rambha, his nurse, to repeat the name of Rama, as a remedy for his fear of ghosts. That laid the foundation of his deep devotion to Rama.

 

Reel 02

 

Sequence 1 Mohan was only seven when his father left the service of the Porbandar State and moved with his family to Rajkot. Karamchand Gandhi was soon appointed the Diwan of the State.

 

2 Mohan and his brother Karsandas were admitted to the primary school.

Once, an itinerant show-man came to their place. One of the pictures he showed was of Shravana carrying his blind parents on a pilgrimage. The picture left, on Mohan's mind, an indelible impression of a son's devotion to his parents.

 

3 Just about this time, he happened to see the play 'Harishchandra' which inspired him to follow Truth and go through all ordeals for its sake.

 

4 Rajkot was one of the few towns in Saurashtra to have a High School. Young Mohan entered the Kathiawad High School when he was twelve.

 

5 Mohan was forbidden to touch a scavenger who used to come to their house. Though young and dutiful, he argued with his mother that untouchability was not sanctioned by religion and that touching a scavenger could not be sinful.

 

6 At the early age of thirteen, Mohan was married to Kasturbai of the same age at Porbandar. Soon he assumed the authority of a husband.

 

7 In 1887, Mohandas Gandhi passed the Matriculation Examination from the Ahmedabad center; ... and joined the Samaldas College at Bhavnagar but at the end of the first term, he left the college to proceed to England to study Law.

 

8 Laxmidas, his brother, arranged for funds to send him abroad. Mother consented only after Mohandas took an oath not to touch wine, women and meat. This oath saved him from many pitfalls in London.

 

9 At the age of eighteen, he sailed from Bombay on September 4, 1888 despite stiff resistance from caste elders to his going overseas.

 

10 On his arrival in London, Mohandas found everything strange around him. He almost starved himself as he found the vegetarian food tasteless. Yet he remained true to his vow.

 

11 He went in for well-tailored suits and took lessons in dancing and music to become an English gentleman.

 

12 Mohandas Gandhi joined the Inner Temple to qualify as a Barrister on November 6, 1888.

Informing his brother about his admission, he wrote that it filled his heart with joy and that he did not need meat or liquor in spite of bitter cold.

 

13 The aspirant after being an English gentleman, chose to convert himself into a serious student and framed his own time-table to the minute. He invested much money in text books, studied them with unflagging interest and he read Roman Law in Latin.

 

14 To simplify his living, he rented a room and cooked his own food. The change harmonised his inner and outer urges.

 

15 He joined the London Vegetarian Society, came in contact with many interesting persons, began his own experiments in dietetics ... and contributed articles on Hindu customs and diet to the society's magazine. Alcohol, he described as an enemy of mankind and a curse of civilization.

 

16 Towards the end of 1889, Mohandas read the Bhagawad Gita for the first time in Arnold's translation, "The Song Celestial", along with the original. The verse in the second chapter teaching that renunciation is the highest form of religion impressed him deeply. The Gita gave him the light he needed and opened to him a new way of life.

 

17 At the instance of a friend, Mohandas read the Bible. He liked the New Testament and the "Sermon On The Mount" went straight to his heart.

 

18 This reading whetted his appetite for studying the lives of great religious teachers and he acquainted himself with the principal religions of the world.

 

19 He first met Dadabhai Naoroji - the Grand old Man of India during this period. He became a source of inspiration to young Mohandas.

 

20 M. K. Gandhi passed his examination with credit and was called to the Bar on June 10, 1891.

 

21 His three years' stay in England was eventful as those were the years of great intellectual activity and freedom of thought and speech.

 

22 The sea was stormy on July 5, when Mohandas Gandhi, Barrister-at-Law landed at Bombay. The joy of home-coming was turned into boundless grief for him. She, whom he was so eager to meet, his beloved mother, had passed away.