Harilal Gandhi

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Harilal Gandhi
Harilal Mohandas Gandhi in 1910.jpg
Harilal Gandhi in 1910
Born Harilal Gandhi
(1888-08-23)23 August 1888
Delhi, British India
Died 18 June 1948(1948-06-18) (aged 59)
Bombay, Bombay State, India
Other names Hiralal Gandhi, Abdulla Gandhi
Spouse(s) Gulab Gandhi
Children Rani, Manu, Kantilal, Rasiklal, Shantilal
Parent(s) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Kasturba Gandhi

Harilal Mohandas Gandhi (23 August 1888 – 18 June 1948) was the eldest son of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.[1] He had three younger brothers Manilal Gandhi, Ramdas Gandhi and Devdas Gandhi.

Early life

Harilal was born on 23 August 1888 not long before his father left for England for higher studies. He too wanted to go to England for higher studies and hoped to become a barrister as his father had once been. His father firmly opposed this, believing that a Western-style education would not be helpful in the struggle against British rule over India.[2] Eventually rebelling against his father's decision, in 1911 Harilal renounced all family ties.

Harilal was married to Gulab Gandhi and they had five children, two daughters, Rani and Manu, and three sons, Kantilal, Rasiklal and Shantilal. Rasiklal and Shantilal died at an early age. He had four grandchildren (Anushrya, Prabodh, Neelam and Navmalika.) via Rani, two (Shanti and Pradeep) via Kanti, and one (Urmi) via Manu. He became detached from his children after Gulab’s death in a flu epidemic.

Neelam Parikh, the daughter of Ranibehn, the eldest of Harilal's children, wrote a biography of him, entitled Gandhiji's Lost Jewel: Harilal Gandhi.

He appeared at his father's funeral in such derelict condition that few recognized him. He died of tuberculosis on 18 June 1948 in a municipal hospital (now known as Sewri TB Hospital) in Bombay, Union of India, five months after his father was assassinated.

Religious conversions

Conversion to Islam

In May of 1936, at the age of 48, Harilal publicly converted to Islam and named himself Abdulla Gandhi.[3]

Conversion to Hinduism through Arya Samaj

However, later in 1936, on his mother Kasturba Gandhi's request he converted back to Hinduism through the Arya Samaj and adopted a new name, Hiralal. [4]

Gandhi's Letters

In June 1935, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter [5] to Harilal, accusing him of "alcohol and debauchery". In the letters,[6] Mahatma Gandhi stated that Harilal's problems were more difficult for him to deal with than the struggle for Indian republic.


Harilal died of tuberculosis four months after Gandhi’s death on the night of June 18 at the age of 59. Being alcoholic he was racked by liver disease, and possibly syphilis. But records at the Sewri Hospital suggest that he died a lonely death. Harilal’s death certificate is preserved at the BMC’s archives in Vakola. It mentions 8 pm on 18 June 1948, as the time of death. There is no mention of any family members on the document, but it reveals that he was admitted to the hospital after being found unconscious in Kamathipura. [7]

Gandhi, My Father

The troubled relationship between Harilal and his father is the subject of the film and play Gandhi, My Father. The film adaptation was released on 3 August 2007 and directed by Feroz Abbas Khan and produced by Anil Kapoor. Harilal is portrayed by Akshaye Khanna. Khan's play, Mahatma vs. Gandhi,[8] while different from this film, had a similar theme. There is also a Marathi play named Gandhi virudh Gandhi.

Further reading

  • Harilal Gandhi: What Life[9] by Chandulal Bhagubhai Dalal
  • Gandhiji's Lost Jewel: Harilal Gandhi[10] by Nilam Parikh, grand daughter of Harilal Gandhi
  • Dinkar Joshi (1 January 2007). Mahatma Vs Gandhi. Jaico Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-7992-700-7.
  • [11]


  1. ^ *Gandhi Family Tree
  2. ^ "The Mahatma and his son". The Hindu. 22 July 2007. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  3. ^ Gandhi, Rajmohan (2006), pp374
  4. ^ Gandhi, Rajmohan (2006) p. 376
  5. ^ http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140512/main8.htm
  6. ^ "Gandhi three autograph letters signed to his son". Mullock's Auctions. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  7. ^ Mishra, Lata. "OLD HOSPITAL RECORDS REVEAL LONELY DEATH OF GANDHI'S SON". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  9. ^ https://www.vedamsbooks.com/no49306.htm
  10. ^ "The Prodigal Who Didn't Return". Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  11. ^ Gandhi, Gopalkrishna (28 April 2007). "Review: A Son's Story: Harilal Gandhi: A Life". Economic and Political Weekly. 42 (17): 1501. JSTOR 4419514.
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