What Was Gandhi like as a Teenager?

Mahatma Gandhi is often considered to be the pioneer of nonviolent protest for his movements against British rule in India throughout the first half of the 20th century. As a teenager, however, he rebelled against many of the rules of his Hindu upbringing. He was reported to take part in forbidden activities, such as eating meat, smoking and even petty theft. Witnessing his father’s tears after the confessions of his teenage transgressions is reported to have been what inspired Gandhi to use nonviolent means, such as hunger strikes, to incite social change.

More about Gandhi:

  • At 13, Gandhi married a fellow teenager through a marriage that had been arranged since he was 7. Even after taking a vow of celibacy, he stayed married until her death at age 74.

  • Although Gandhi is historically known for his peaceful means of social protest, he was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize despite being nominated four times. In 2006, the Nobel committee officially stated its regret over never having awarded Gandhi.

  • As a child, Gandhi was so fearful of interacting with his classmates that he would run home from school each day.

Frequently Asked Questions

What were the defining characteristics of Gandhi as a teenager?

As a teenager, Mahatma Gandhi was known to be introspective and shy. According to the Gandhi Research Foundation, he was an average student who was quite reserved and displayed no signs of the influential leader he would become. He was also deeply influenced by his mother's religious and moral values, which later played a significant role in his philosophy of non-violence and truth.

How did Gandhi's teenage years influence his development as a leader?

Gandhi's teenage years were formative in shaping his principles and values. His adolescence was marked by personal struggles, such as dealing with the death of his father and the dilemmas of arranged marriage at a young age. These experiences, as per the accounts from the National Gandhi Museum, contributed to his empathy and understanding of social issues, which later became central to his leadership and activism.

Did Gandhi receive any formal education during his teenage years?

Yes, Gandhi did receive formal education during his teenage years. He attended high school in Rajkot, where he was an average student, and later went on to study at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar, as noted by the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti. However, his formal education in India was not particularly distinguished before he left for London at the age of 18 to study law.

What were Gandhi's interests and hobbies as a teenager?

As a teenager, Gandhi's interests were relatively simple. He enjoyed reading, which was a habit instilled by his father, and he was particularly drawn to plays about Harishchandra, as they emphasized truth and integrity. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi highlight that he also had a brief stint with meat-eating and smoking in an attempt to emulate the British, but he soon abandoned these practices due to guilt and a commitment to his mother's values.

How did Gandhi's upbringing influence his teenage years?

Gandhi's upbringing had a profound impact on his teenage years. He was raised in a devout Hindu family, with a strong Jain influence that emphasized non-violence, fasting, and mutual tolerance among people of different creeds. According to the Gandhi Heritage Portal, these early cultural and religious influences laid the groundwork for his later principles of Satyagraha and Ahimsa, which became cornerstones of his philosophy and methods of peaceful resistance.

More Info: history.com

Discussion Comments


Leadership is not an innate quality and it has nothing to do with nationality.


That is a pretty prejudiced thought that Indians has no quality of leadership. Every society has one or other way to leverage and express it, which is difficult for Europeans to understand.


Awarding the Nobel Prize posthumously to an icon like Gandhi is like anointing Christ after his crucifixion.


The Europeans said an Indian has no qualities of leadership. Is that true?

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