The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi/Volume I/1891

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Indian Vegetarians I[edit]

India is inhabited by twenty-five million[1] of people of various castes and creeds. The very common belief among the Englishmen who have not been to India, or who have taken very little interest in Indian matters, is that all the Indians are born vegetarians. Now this is true only in part. Indian people are divided into three main divisions, viz., the Hindus, the Mohammedans, and the Parsis. The Hindus are again divided into four chief castes, viz., the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaisyas, and the Sudras, Of all these, in theory, only the Brahmins and the Vaisyas are pure vegetarians. But in practice almost all the Indians are vegetarians. Some are so voluntarily, and others compulsorily. The latter, though always willing to take, are yet too poor to buy meat. This statement will be borne out by the fact that there are thousands in India who have to live on one pice (11/3d.) a day. These live on bread and salt, a heavily taxed article; for even in a poverty-stricken country like India, it will be very difficult,if not utterly impossible,to get eatable flesh-meat for 11/3d. The question who are vegetarians in India being disposed of, the natural question will be what is vegetarianism as practised by them? To begin with, Indian vegetarianism does not mean the V.E.M.[2] diet. The Indians, i.e., the Indian vegetarians, decline to take, besides fish, flesh and fowl, eggs, for they argue that to eat an egg is equivalent to killing life; since an egg, if left undisturbed would, prima facie, become a fowl. But, unlike some of the vegetarian extremists here, they not only do not abstain from milk and butter, but consider them sacred enough to be used on what are called "fruit-days", which occur every fortnight, and which are generally observed by the highcaste Hindus; because, as they put it, they do not kill the cow in taking milk from her. And certainly the milking of a cow, which, by the way, has been the subject of painting and poetry cannot shock the most delicate feelings as would the slaughtering of her. It may be worth mentioning en passant that the cow is an object of worship among the Hindus, and a movement set on foot to prevent the cows from being shipped off for the purposes of slaughter is progressing rapidly.

The Vegetarian, 7-2-1891

1. ^  Obviously, a slip for crores.

2. ^  V.E.M. probably means vegetables, eggs, milk.

Indian Vegetarians II[edit]

Indian vegetarians food generally varies with the parts they live in. Thus in Bengal the staple article of food is rice, while in the Bombay Presidency it is wheat. All the Indians generally--and the grown-up persons particularly, and among them the high-caste Hindus--take two meals a day with a glass or two of water between the meals whenever they feel thirsty. The first meal they take at about 10 a.m., which would correspond to the English dinner, and the second meal at about 8 p.m., which would correspond to supper so far as the name goes, though in reality, it is a substantial meal. From the above it will have been seen that there is no breakfast--which, seeing that the Indians generally rise at 6 o'clock, and even as early as four or five o'clock in the morning, they would seem to require--nor the ordinary midday meal. Some of the readers will no doubt wonder how the Indians go about without anything to eat for nine hours after their first meal. This may be explained in two ways, viz., first, the habit is second nature. Their religion commands some, and employment or custom compels others, to take not more than two meals in one day. Secondly, the climate of India, which except in some parts is very hot, will account for the habit. For even in England, it appears that the same quantity of food is not required in summer as in winter. Unlike the English, the Indians do not take each dish separately, but they mix many things together. Among some of the Hindus it is one of the requirements of their religion to mix all their food together. Moreover, every dish is elaborately prepared. In fact they don't believe in plain boiled vegetables, but must have them flavoured with plenty of condiments, e.g., pepper, salt, cloves, turmeric, mustard seed, and various other things for which it would be difficult to find English names unless they be those used in medicine. The first meal consists generally of bread or rather cakes--of which more hereafter--some pulse, e.g., peas, haricot beans, etc., and two or three green vegetables cooked together, or separately, followed by rice and pulse cooked in water, and flavoured with various spices. After this, some take milk and rice, or simply milk, or curdled milk, or even whey, especially in summer. The second meal, i.e., the supper, consists of much the same things as the first one, but the quantity is less and the vegetables fewer at this meal. Milk is more liberally used at this meal. The readershould be reminded that this is not the food that the Indians invariably use nor should he think that the above will be the typical dishes all over India and among all classes. Thus, for example, no sweets are mentioned in the specimen meals while they are sure to be used among the well-to-do classes at least once a week. Moreover, while, as said above, wheat preponderates over rice in the Bombay Presidency, in Bengal rice gets the better of wheat. So also with regard to the third exception which must prove the rule, the food among the labouring class is different from what is given above. To mention all the varieties would be the fill up volumes and to do so would, it is to be feared, divest the article of all interest. Bu tter, or if you please, clarified butter, is much more used for culinary purposes than in England or, it may be, even in Europe. And according to a doctor of some authority, if it would do no good, much use of better, in a hot climate like that of India would do no harm such as it might do in a cold climate like that of England. It will perhaps strike the reader that the fruit, yes, the all important fruit, is sadly conspicuous by its absence in the above mentioned specimen dishes. Some, among many of the reasons, are that the Indians do not know the proper value of fruit, that the poor people cannot afford to buy good fruit, and that good fruit is not available all over India, except in large cities. Indeed, there are certain fruits, not to be found here, which are used by all classes in India; but alas, these are used as superficial things, not as food, and no one knows their value chemically, because no one takes the trouble to analyse them.

The Vegetarian, 14-2-1891

Indian Vegetarians III[edit]

I n the previous article "more hereafter" was promised about the cakes. These cakes are generally made of wheat-flour. Wheat is first ground in a handmill--a simple contrivance to reduce the wheat to powder-not a mill requiring machinery. This powdered wheat is passed through a sieve with large holes, so that the coarsest bran is left out. Indeed, among the poor classes it is not passed through the sieve at all. Thus the flour, though not the same as that used by the vegetarians here, is far superior to the ordinary flour that is used here for the much-abused white bread. Some clarified butter, i.e., butter boiled and passed through a sieve-sometimes a useless process when the butter is quite pure-and then allowed to become cool-say a teaspoonful to a pound of flour--is mixed with the flour, a sufficient quantity of water is poured on it, and then it is kneaded with the hands until it forms itself into one homogeneous mass. This lump is divided into small equal parts, each as big as a tangerine. These are rolled into thin circular pieces about six inches in diameter with a wooden stick made specially for the purpose. Each piece is separately and thoroughly baked in a flat dish. It takes from five to seven minutes to bake one cake. This cake is eaten while hot with butter, and has a very nice flavour. It may be, and is, eaten even quite cold. What meat is to the ordinary Englishman, the cake is to the Indian, be he a vegetarian or a meat-eater, for in India a meat-eater does not, in the writer's opinion, regard his meat as an absolute necessity, but takes it rather as a side dish to help him, so to speak, in eating the cakes. Such in outline, and only in outline, is the ordinary food of a well-to-do Indian vegetarian. Now a question may be asked, "Has not the British Rule effected any change in the habits of the Indian people?" So far as the food and drink are concerned "yes", and "no" . No, because ordinary men and women have stuck to their original food and the number of meals. Yes, because those who have learnt a little bit of English have picked up English ideas here and there, but this change too--whether it is for the worse or for the better must be left to the reader to judge--is not very perceptible. The last-mentioned class have begun to believe in breakfast, which usually consists of a cup or two of tea. Now this brings us to the question of drink. The drinking of tea and coffee by the so-called educated Indians, chiefly due to the British Rule, may be passed over with the briefest notice. The most that tea and coffee can do is to cause a little extra expense, and general debility of health when indulged in to excess, but one of the most greatly-felt evils of the British Rule is the importation of alcohol--that enemy of mankind, that curse of civilization--in some form or another. The measure of the evil wrought by this borrowed habit will be properly gauged by the reader when he is told that the enemy has spread throughout the length and breadth of India, in spite of the religious prohibition; for even the touch of a bottle containing alcohol pollutes the Mohammedan, according to his religion, and the religion of the Hindu strictly prohibits the use of alcohol in any form whatever, and yet, alas! the Government, it seems, instead of stopping, are aiding and abetting the spread of alcohol. The poor there, as everywhere, are the greatest sufferers. It is they who spend what little they earn in buying alcohol instead of buying food and other necessities. It is that wretched poor man who has to starve his family, who has to break the sacred trust of looking after his children, if any, in order to drink himself into misery and premature death. Here be it said to the credit of Mr. Caine[3], the ex-Member for Barrow, that he, undaunted, is still carrying on his admirable crusade against the spread of the evil, but what can the energy of one man, however powerful, do against the inaction of an apathetic and dormant Government?

The Vegetarian, 21-2-1891

3. ^  William Sproston Caine (1842-1903); four times member of British Parliament; serve on the Indian Parliamentary sub-committee of the British Committee of the Congress; Supported self-government for India. Was kneely interested in South Indian's cause.

Indian Vegetarians IV[edit]

After having known who are vegetarians in India, and what they generally eat, the reader will be able to judge from the following facts how hollow and baseless are the arguments advanced by some people regarding the weak constitutions of the vegetarian Hindus. One thing often said about the Indian vegetarians is that they are physically very feeble, and that, therefore, vegetarianism is not compatible with bodily strength. Now, if it can be proved that generally in India the vegetarians are as strong as, if not stronger than, the Indian meat-eaters, and for that matter even Englishmen, and moreover, that where weakness exists it can be ascribed to many other reasons than that of non-flesh diet, the whole structure on which the above argument is based falls to the ground. It must at the outset be admitted that the Hindus as a rule are notoriously weak; but an unbiased person--a meat-eater--who knows India and her people even superficially will tell you that there are many other causes incessantly at work to account for the proverbial1 weakness. One of the most important reasons, if not the most important one, is the wretched custom of infant marriages and its attendant evils. Generally, children when they reach the great age of nine are burdened with the fetters of married life. In many cases they are married at a still younger age and in some cases they are betrothed while yet unborn. Thus one woman would promise to marry her child, if male, to another's if female, and vice versa. Of course in the two latter cases consummation does not take place before they are ten or eleven years old. Cases are recorded in which a wife of twelve had a child by a husband of sixteen or seventeen. Will not these marriages tell upon the strongest constitutions? Now fancy how weak the progeny of such marriages must be. Then look at the cares such a couple have to undergo. Suppose a boy of eleven is married to a girl of about the same age. Thus at a time when the boy should be, and is, ignorant of what it is to be a husband, he has a wife forced on him. He is, of course, attending his school. In addition to the drudgery at school he has his child-wife to look after. He has not actually to maintain her, for in India a son when married does not necessarily separate from his parents unless he be at sixes and sevens1 with them; but he has to do everything short of that. Then about six years after marriage he has a son, probably he has not yet finished his studies, and he has to think of earning money not only to maintain himself but his wife and child, for he cannot expect to pass his whole life with his father, and even granting that he may, he should certainly be expected to contribute something towards his wife's and his child's maintenance. Will not the mere knowledge of his duty prey upon his mind and thus undermine his health? Can anyone dare to say that this will not shatter the most robust constitution? But one may well argue that if that boy, in the above example, had eaten flesh-meat he would have kept stronger than he did. A reply to such an argument is to be found from those Kshatriya princes who in spite of their meat diet are very weak owing to debauchery. The n the shepherds in India afford a good example of how strong an Indian vegetarian can be where other opposite agencies are not at work. An Indian shepherd is a finely built man of Herculean constitution. He, with his thick, strong cudgel, would be a match for any ordinary European with his sword. Cases are recorded of shepherds having killed or driven away tigers and lions with their cudgels. "But, "said a friend one day, "this is an example of men living in the rude and natural state. In the present highly artificial state of society you require something more than mere cabbage and peas. Your shepherd lacks intelligence, he reads no book, etc. etc".The one and only answer to this was, and is, that the vegetarian shepherd would be equal to, if not more than a match for, a meat-eating shepherd. Thus there is a comparison between vegetarian of one class and a meat-eater of the same class. It is a comparison between strength and strength, and not between strength and strength plus intelligence, for my attempt for the moment is simply to disprove that Indian vegetarians are physically weak on account of their vegetarianism. Eat what food you will, it is impossible, it seems, to make physical and mental strength go together except, perhaps, in rare cases. The law of compensation will require that what is gained in mental power must be lost in bodily power. A Samson cannot be a Gladstone. And granting the argument that a substitute is required for vegetables in the present state of society, is it conclusively proved that flesh or meat is that substitute? Then take the case of the Kshatriyas, the so-called warlike race in India. They are, of course, meat-eaters and how few of them there are who have wielded a sword! Far be it from me to say that they as a race are very weak. So long as Pruthuraj [5] and Bhim [6] and all of their type--not to go to the older times--are remembered, he will be a fool who would have it believed that they are a weak race. But now it is a sad fact that they have degenerated. The truly warlike people, among others, are the people of the North-Western provinces, known as Bhayas [7]. They subsist on wheat, pulse, and greens. They are the guardians of peace, they are largely employed in the native armies. From the above facts it is easy to see that vegetarianism is not only not injurious, but on the contrary is conducive to bodily strength and that attributing the Hindu weakness to vegetarianism is simply based on a fallacy.

The Vegetarian, 28-2-1891

4. ^  Gandhiji perhaps means `at variance'.

5. ^  Prithviraj Chauhan, 11th-century king claiming descent from the Sun; famed for his physical prowess.

6. ^  Second of the Pandava Princes, in the Mahabharata, reputed for his great stature and strength.

7. ^  The reference is to the Bhayyas (literally, brothers), a name originally given to the peasantry of Uttar Pradesh.

Indian Vegetarians V[edit]

We saw in the last article that the bodily weakness of the Hindu vegetarians was attributable to other causes than their diet, and also that the shepherds who were vegetarians were as strong as meat-eaters. This shepherd being a very good specimen of a vegetarian, we may with profit examine his way of living; but before proceeding further, the reader may be told that what follows does not apply to all the Indian shepherds. It applies to the shepherds of a certain part of India. Just as the habits of the people in Scotland would be different from those of the people in England, so also would the habits of the people living in one part of India be different from those of the people living in another part. The Indian shepherd then gets up generally at five o'clock in the morning. The first thing he does, if he is a pious shepherd, is to offer some prayers to his God. Then he does his toilet which consists of washing his mouth and face. I may be allowed here to digress for a while to acquaint the reader with the brush an Indian uses for his teeth. The brush is nothing more than a branch of a thorny tree called babul ; one branch is cut up into pieces about a foot long. Of course, all the thorns are removed. The Indian crushes one end of the stick between his teeth till it is soft enough to brush his teeth. Thus he makes for himself every day a new and home-made brush. When he has well brushed his teeth and made them pearl white he splits the stick into two, and after bending one part into a curve scrapes his tongue . This process of brushing probably accounts for the strong and beautiful teeth of the average Indian. It is perhaps superfluous to add that he uses no tooth powder. Old persons when their teeth are not strong enough to crush the stick use a small hammer. The whole process does not take more than twenty or twenty-five minutes. To return to the shepherd, he then takes his breakfast consisting of a thick cake made of millet--an Anglo-Indian name for bajari, a kind of corn much used in India instead of, or in addition to, wheat-- clarified butter and molasses. At about eight or nine o'clock in the morning he goes to pasture the cattle placed under his superintendence. The place of pasture is generally two or three miles from his town. It is hilly tract of land studded with a green carpet of luxuriant foliage. Thus he has the unique advantage of enjoying the freshestm air with natural scenery thrown in. While the cattle are roaming about, he whiles away his time in singing or talking to his companion who may be his wife, brother or some other relation. At about twelve o' clock he takes his lunch, which he always carries with him. It consists of the ever-present cakes, clarified butter, one vegetable, or some pulse, or instead, or in addition, some pickle and fresh milk directly taken from the cow. Then at about two or three o'clock he not infrequently takes a nap for about half an hour under some shady tree. This short sleep gives him relief from the heat of the scorching sun. At six he returns home, at seven he has supper, for which he takes some hot cakes, pulse or vegetables, winds up with rice and milk, or rice and whey. After doing some household business, which often means a pleasant chat with the family members, he goes to bed at ten o'clock. He sleeps either in the open air, or in a hut which is sometimes overcrowded. He resorts to the hut in winter or in the rainy season. It may be worthy of remark that these huts, even though miserable in appearance and often without any windows, are not air tight. Being constructed in a rude state, their doors are made, not as a protection against draughts of wind, but against burglars. It cannot, however, be denied that there is much room for improvement in the huts.

Such, then, is the living of a well-to-do shepherd. His, in many respects, is an ideal mode of life. He is perforce regular in his habits, is out of doors during the greater part of his time, while out he breathes the purest air, has his due amount of exercise, has good and nourishing food and last but not least, is free from many cares which are frequently productive of weak constitutions.

The Vegetarian, 7-3-1891

Indian Vegetarians VI[edit]

The only flaw that can be found in his mode of living is the paucity of baths. In a hot climate baths are very useful. While a Brahmin would have his bath twice a day, and a Vaisya once a day, a shepherd would have only one bath a week. I shall here again digress to explain the manner in which the Indian takes his baths. Generally, he has his baths in the river flowing near his town, but if he is too idle to go to the river, or is afraid of being drowned, or if there is no river near his town, he has his baths at home. There is no bath into which he can plunge. He takes water from a large vessel, placed near him, with a goblet and pours it over his body, because he believes that the moment you plunge into stagnant water you render it impure and, therefore, unfit for further use. For the same reason he would not even wash his hands in a basin, but have someone to pour it over his hands or do it himself by holding the goblet between his arms.

But to return, the paucity of the baths does not, it seems, materially affect his health; while it is obvious that if the Brahmin were to go without his baths even for a day, he would feel very uncomfortable, and if he were to continue not taking them a little longer, he would very soon become ill.

This is, I suppose, an instance of many things which, otherwise inexplicable, can be accounted for by habit. Thus while a scavenger, in pursuing his employment keeps good health, any ordinary person trying to do the same will be face to face with death. Death would soon be knocking at the door of a delicately nurtured lord trying to imitate an East End labourer. I cannot help here giving a fable or anecdote which is exactly to the point. A king fell in love with a female tooth brush seller, who was a very Venus in beauty. As might naturally be expected she was ordered to be placed in the king's palace. She was, in fact, placed in the lap of luxury. She had the best food, the best clothes, in short, everything of the best. And lo! in proportion to the luxury, her health began to fall. Scores of physicians were in attendance, but all the drugs most regularly administered proved of no avail. Meanwhile a shrewd physician found out the real cause of all the illness. He said that she was possessed by evil spirits. Therefore, in order to satisfy them, he ordered some pieces of old cakes to be set, together with fruit in each of her many rooms. They were to disappear in as many days as there were rooms, and with them, he said, the illness would disappear. And it was so. Of course the cakes were consumed by the poor queen. Now this shows the mastery that habit gets over men. So I think the paucity of baths does not greatly harm the shepherd. The result of this mode of living was partially noticed in the last article, viz., the vegetarian shepherd is physically strong. He is also long-lived. I know a shepherdess who was more than one hundred yeas old in 1888. When I last saw her, her eyesight was very good. Her memory was fresh. She could recollect things that she had seen in her childhood. She could walk with a stick to support her. I hope she is still living. Besides, the shepherd's figure is symmetrical. It is very rare to see any deformity in him. Without being fierce like a tiger, he is yet strong and brave and as docile as a lamb. Without being awe-inspiring, his stature is commanding. Altogether, the Indian shepherd is a very fine specimen of a vegetarian, and will compare very favourably with any meat-eater so far as bodily strength goes.

The Vegetarian, 14-3-1891

Some Indian Festivals I[edit]

At this Easter time I should have liked to write something on the holidays which correspond to the Easter in point of time; but these holidays with their painful associations not being the greatest Hindu festival may very properly give way to the Diwali holidays which are far superior in importance and grandeur to the former.

Diwali, which may be termed the Hindu Christmas, occurs at the end of the Hindu year, i.e., during the month of November. It is both a social and religious holiday. It spreads over nearly a month. The first day of the month of Ashwin (the twelfth month of the Hindu year) heralds the approach of the grand festival when the children let off their first fire-works. The first nine days are called Nava Ratri (nine nights). These days are chiefly marked by garbis. Some twenty or thirty, and even more people form themselves into a large circle, in the centre is placed a huge lamp-post tastefully constructed and illuminated all round, in the centre also sits a man with his tabors reciting some popular verses. The people forming the circle repeat the verses, keeping time to them with claps of hands. While repeating the verses, they move round the lamp-post, at the same time stooping down in a half-bending posture. It is very often a great treat to hear these garbis. It may be remarked that girls--much less women--never take part in them. Of course they may have their own garbis where men would be excluded. In some families the custom of half-fasting prevails. It is sufficient if only one member of the family fasts. The fasting man has only one meal a day, and that, too, in the evening. Moreover, he is not allowed any corn or pulse, but is restricted to fruit, milk and root vegetables such as potatoes, etc. The tenth day of the month is called Dashara, when friends meet and feast one another. It is also customary to make presents of sweets to one's friends and especially patrons or superiors. Except on the Dashara holiday all the amusements are carried on at night, while the ordinary daily pursuits are attended to in the daytime. After Dashara everything is comparatively quiet for about a fortnight, except that the ladies are making preparations for the approaching grand day, by cooking and baking sweets, cakes, etc., for, in India, women of the highest class would not mind cooking. In fact, it is an accomplishment which every lady is supposed to possess. Thus, spending the evenings in feasting and singing, we reach the thirteenth day of the dark half of the month Ashwin. (In India every month is divided into two parts, the dark half and the bright half, the full-moon day and the new-moon day being starting points; thus, the day following the full-moon day is the first day of the dark half of a month, and so on). The thirteenth day and the three following days are wholly devoted to amusements and enjoyment.

The thirteenth day is called Dhanteras, i.e., the thirteenth day set apart for the worship of "Lakshmi", the goddess of wealth. Rich people co llect different kinds of jewels, precious stones, coins, etc., and put them carefully into a box. These they never use for any other purpose than that of worship. Each year an addition is made to this collection. The worship, i.e., the external worship--for who, save a select few, is there who does not at heart covet, or in other words, worship money? -- consists in washing the money with water and milk, and then decorating it with flowers and kumkum, i.e., red ochre. The fourteenth day is called Kali-Chaudash; but this day people get up before the break of day, and even the laziest person is required to take a good bath; the mother even compels her little children to take a bath, though it is the winter season. On the night of KaliChaudash, cemeteries are supposed to be visited by a procession of ghosts. Persons affecting to believe in ghosts would go to these places to see their ghost friends. Timid ones would not stir out of their houses lest they should see a ghost.

The Vegetarian, 28-3-1891

Some Indian Festivals II[edit]

But lo! now is the morning of the fifteenth day, Divali proper. The greatest fireworks are let off on the Divali day. No one is willing to part with his money on this day. He will neither borrow nor lend. All the purchases are supposed to have been finished the previous day. You are standing near the corner of a public road. Mark the shepherd trotting onward in his milk-white suit, worn for the first time, with his long beard turned up beside his face and fastened under his turban, singing some broken verses. A herd of cows, with their horns painted red and green and mounted with silver, follows him. Soon after you see a crowd of little maids, with small earthen vessels resting on cushions placed on their heads. You wonder what those vessels contain. Your doubt is soon solved by that careless maid spilling some milk from her vessel. Then observe that big man with white whiskers and a big white turban, with a long reed pen thrust into his turban. He has a long scarf wound round his waist with a silver inkstand adjusted in the scarf. He, you must know, is a great banker. Thus you see different sorts of persons leisurely going along, full of joy and mirth.

The night comes. The streets are resplendent with dazzling illumination; dazzling indeed to a person who has never seen Regent Street or Oxford Street, but by no means to be compared with the scale on which illuminations are carried out at the Crystal Palace, except in large towns like Bombay. Men, women and children wear their best costumes, almost all of various colours, and so form a wonderfully bizarre effect, which harmonizes into kaleidoscopic beauty. This is also the night for worshipping Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Merchants start their new ledgers, by making the first entry. The officiating priest, the ubiquitous Brahmin, mutters some prayers and invokes the goddess. At the end of the worship, the children, who are only too impatient, set the fireworks ablaze; and as this worship generally takes place at a fixed time, the streets resound with the popping and fizzing and cracking of fireworks. Pious people then go to the temples, but here too there is nothing to be seen but mirth and glee, dazzling light and splendour. The following day, i.e., the new year's day, is the day of paying and receiving visits. Kitchen fires are put out on this day, so that people eat the cold food which has been previously prepared. But the glutton by no means starves, for there is such profusion that though he eats and eats again there is yet plenty and to spare. Well-to-do classes buy and cook every sort of vegetables, corn and pulse, and taste them all on the new year's day. The second day of the new year is comparatively a quiet day. Kitchen fires are now re-lighted. Light food is generally taken after the heavy meals of the previous days. There is no display of fireworks except by some mischievous children. Illumination, too, is on a smaller scale. With the second day the Divali holidays are practically over. Let us see how these holidays affect society, and how many desirable things people do unwittingly. Generally, all the family members try to meet together for the holidays at their chief place of residence. The husband always tries to get home to his wife again, even though his business may have taken him away the whole of the previous year. The father travels a great distance to meet his children. The son, if abroad, comes back from his school and so a general reunion always takes place. Then all who can afford it have new sets of clothes. Among the richer classes ornaments, too, are ordered especially for the occasion. Even old family quarrels are patched up.

At any rate a serious attempt is made to do so. Houses are repaired and whitewashed. Old furniture, which was lying packed up in a wooden case, is taken out, cleaned, and used for decorating the rooms for the time being. Old debts, if any, are paid up wherever possible. Everyone is supposed to buy some new thing, which almost always takes the form of a metallic vessel, or some such thing, for the new year's day. Alms are freely given. Persons not very careful about offering prayers or visiting temples are now doing both. On holidays no one is to quarrel with or swear at any other--a pernicious habit very much in vogue, particularly among the lower classes. In a word, everything is quiet and joyful. Life, instead of being burdensome, is perfectly enjoyable. It will be easily seen that good and far-reaching consequences cannot fail to flow from such holidays, which some cry down as a relic of superstition and tomfoolery, though in reality they are a boon to mankind, and tend to relieve a great deal the dull monotony of life among the toiling millions. Though the Divali holidays are common to the whole of India, the mode of observing them varies in point of details in different parts. Moreover, this is but an imperfect description of the greatest festival of the Hindus. And it must not be supposed that there is no abusing of the holidays. Like every other thing, this festival, too, may have, and probably has, its black side, but that had better be left alone. Certainly the good that it does far outweighs the evil.

The Vegetarian, 4-4-1891

Some Indian Festivals III[edit]

Next in importance to the Divali holidays are the Holi holidays, which were alluded to in The Vegetarian of the 28th March. Holi holidays, as will be remembered, correspond to Easter in point of time. Holi takes place on the full-moon day of the fifth month, Falgun, of the Hindu year. This is just the springtime. Trees are budding forth. Warm clothes are put off. Light clothes are the fashion. That the spring has come is even more manifest when we have a peep at one of the temples. The moment you enter a temple (and you must be a Hindu in order to gain admittance thereinto), you smell nothing but sweet flowers. Pious persons are sitting on the steps, making garlands for Thakorji (God). Among the flowers you see beautiful roses, chameli, moghra, etc. When the doors are flung open for darshan (literally, seeing), you observe the fountains in full play. You enjoy soft and fragrant breezes. Thakorji has worn light costumes of delicate shades. Piles of flowers before him, and garlands round his neck, almost hide him from your view. He is swung to and fro. The swing, too, is covered with green leaves sprinkled with fragrant waters. Outside the temple the sight is not edifying. You here meet with nothig but obscene language during the fortnight preceding the Holi. In small villages, it is difficult for ladies to appear without being bespattered with mud. They are the subject of obscene remarks. The same treatment is meted out to men without distinction. People form themselves into small parties. Then one party competes with another in using obscene language and singing obscene songs. All persons-- men and children, but not women--take part in these revolting contests. Indeed, it is not considered bad taste to use obscene words during this season. In places where people are steeped in ignorance they even pelt one another. They paint obscene words on your clothes, and if you wear a white garment and go out, you are sure to return home with plenty of mud about you. This reaches its climax on the Holi day. Whether you are in the house or out of it, obscene words are jarring on your ears. If you happen to visit a friend, you are sure to be bathed in foul water, or in fragrant water, as the case may be. In the evening, a big pile of wood or dried cow-dung is made and set on fire. These piles are often as high as twenty feet or more. And the pieces of wood used are so thick that the fire is not extinguished for seven or eight days. On the day following, people heat water on these fires and bathe with it. So far I have spoken of the way in which the Holi holidays are abused. It is a relief to be able to say that with the progress of education and civilization such scenes are slowly, though surely, dying out . But the richer and refined classes use these holidays in a very decent way. Coloured water and fragrant waters take the place of mud. Throwing pails of water is replaced here by a little sprinkling only. Orange coloured water is most used during these days. It is made by boiling dried flowers, called kesuda, which have the colour of an orange. Rose water, too, is used where people can afford it. Friends and relations meet and feast one another, and thus enjoy the spring in merriment. In many respects, the Divali holidays present a beautiful contrast to the, for the most part, unholy Holi holidays. Divali holidays begin soon after the monsoon season which is also the time of fasting. So the feasting during the Divali holidays is all the more enjoyable. While the Holi holiday follow the winter which is the time for taking concentrated foods of all sorts, such foods are left off during the Holi holidays. Obscene language of Holi follows the most sacred songs of the Divali. Then again people begin to wear winter clothes in the Divali, while they put these off in the Holi. The Divali proper takes place on the fifteenth day of the dark half of the month Ashwin and consequently there is much illumination; while on account of the Holi taking place on the full-moon day, illumination would be out of place.

The Vegetarian, 25-4-1891

The Foods of India[edit]

Before I proceed to the subject of my address I should like to tell you what are my qualifications for undertaking the task. When Mill wrote the History of India, he, in his most interesting preface, pointed out how he was qualified to write the book, though he had never been to India, and was ignorant of the Indian languages. So I think that in following his example, I shall be doing just what I ought to do. Of course, the very idea of referring to one's qualifications for any task argues some sort of unfitness on the part of the speaker or writer, and I confess that I am not the person to speak upon the "Foods of India". I have undertaken the task not because I am thoroughly competent to speak on the subject but because I thought I would thereby be doing a service to the cause that both you and I have at heart. My remarks are chiefly derived from my experience of the Bombay Presidency. Now, as you know, India is a vast peninsula populated by two hundred and eighty-five million souls. It is as large as Europe less Russia. In such a country, the customs and manners in different parts must be necessarily different. So, if in future you hear anything different from what I am going to say, I request you to bear in mind the above fact. As a general rule, my remarks will apply to the whole of India.

I shall divide the subject into three parts. In the first place I shall say something, by way of preliminary, about the people who live upon the foods; secondly, I shall describe the foods; and thirdly, their uses, etc.

It is commonly believed that all the inhabitants of India are vegetarians, but this is not true; and for that matter even all the Hindus are not vegetarians. But it is quite true to say that the great majority of the inhabitants of India are vegetarians [8]. Some of them are so because of their religion, while others are compelled to live on vegetable foods because they cannot afford to pay for meat. This will be quite clear to you when I tell you that there are millions in India who live upon one pice - i.e., one-third of a penny-a day, and even in a poverty-stricken country like India you cannot get eatable meat for that sum. These poor people have only one meal per day, and that consists of stale bread and salt, a heavily taxed article. But Indian vegetarians and meat-eaters are quite different from English vegetarians and meateaters. Indian meat-eaters, unlike English meat-eaters, do not believe that they will die without meat. So far as my knowledge goes, they (the Indian meat-eaters) do not consider meat a necessity of life but a mere luxury. If they can get their roti, as bread is generally called there, they get on very well without their meat. But look at our English meat-eater; he thinks that he must have his meat. Bread simply helps him to eat meat, while the Indian meat-eater thinks that meat will help him to eat his bread.

I was talking the other day to an English lady on the ethics of diet, and she exclaimed, while I was telling her how even she could easily become a vegetarian, "Say what you will, I must have my meat, I am so fond of it, and am positively sure I cannot live without it." "But, madam," I said, "suppose that you were compelled to live on a strictly vegetable diet, how would you manage then?" "Oh," she said, "don't talk of that. I know I could not be compelled to do so, and if I were I should feel very uncomfortable." Of course, no one can blame the lady for so saying. Society is in such a position for the present that it is impossible for any meat-eater to leave off eating meat without much difficulty.

In the same manner, an Indian vegetarian is quite different from an English one. The former simply abstains from anything that involves the destroying of a life, or a would-be life, and he goes no further. Therefore he does not take eggs, because he thinks that in taking an egg he would kill a would-be life. (I am sorry to say I have been taking eggs for about a month and half.) But he does not hesitate to use milk and butter. He even uses these animal products, as they are called here, on fruit days, which occur every fortnight. On these days he is forbidden wheat, rice, etc., but he can use as much butter and milk as he likes; while, as we know, some of the vegetarians here discard butter and milk, some do away with cooking, and some even try to live on fruits and nuts.

I will now pass to the description of our different foods. I must say that I shall not dwell upon the flesh foods at all, as these, even where they are used, do not form the staple article of food. India is preeminently an agricultural country, and a very large one. So its products are numerous and varied. Though the foundation of the British rule in India dates from the year 1746 A.D., and though India was known to the English much earlier than 1746, it is a pity that so little should be known of the foods of India in England. We have not to go very far to seek the cause. Almost all Englishmen who go to India keep up their own way of living. They not only insist on having the things they had in England, but will also have them cooked in the same way. It is not for me here to go into the why and wherefore of all these incidents. One would have thought that they would look into the habits of the people, if only out of curiosity, but they have done nothing of the kind, and hence we see the result of their stolid indifference in the loss to many Anglo-Indians of the finest opportunities of studying the food question. To return to the foods, there are many kinds of corn produced in India which are absolutely unknown here.

Wheat, however, is, of course, of the greatest importance there as here. Then there are bajara (which is called millet by the AngloIndians), joar, rice, etc. These are what I should call bread foods, because they are chiefly used for bread-making. Wheat, of course, in greatly used, but it being comparatively dear, bajara and joar take its place among the poor classes. This is very much so in the southern and the northern provinces. Speaking of the southern provinces, in his Indian History, Sir W. W. Hunter [9] says: "The food of the common people consists chiefly of small grains, such as joar, bajara, ragi." Of the north, he says: "The two last (i.e., joar and bajara) form the food of the masses, rice being only grown on irrigated lands and consumed by the rich." It is not at all unusual to find persons who have not tasted joar. Joar being the diet of the poor, it is held in reverence, as it were. Instead of good-bye as the parting salute, the poor in India say 'joar', which, when extended and translated, would, I think, mean: "May you never be without 'joar'." [10] The rice, too, is used for breadmaking, especially in Bengal. The Bengalees use rice more than wheat. In other parts, rice, as an article for bread-making, is rarely, if ever, used. Chana, or gram as it is called by the Anglo-Indians, is sometimes used for the same purpose, either in combination with or without wheat. It closely resembles peas in taste and shape. This brings me to the various kinds of pulses for soup-making, or dal. Gram, peas, lentils, haricot beans, tuar, mug, muth, urad are the chief pulses used for dal. Of these, I think, tuar heads the list in popularity. Both these kinds of foods are chiefly used when dried. Now I come to the green vegetables. It would be useless to give you names of all the vegetables. They are so numerous that I am sure there are many of them that I do not know. The soil of India is so rich that it can produce any vegetable you like. So we may safely say that with a proper knowledge of agriculture, the Indian soil may be made to produce any vegetable to be found on earth.

There now remains fruit and nuts. I am sorry to say that the proper value of fruits is not known in India. Though it is used in abundance, it is used rather as a luxury than anything else. It is used more for the sake of its palatable taste than of health. Therefore, we do not get such valuable fruits as oranges, apples, etc., in plenty; hence they are available only to the rich. But we get plenty of seasonal fruits and dried fruits. Summer in India, as everywhere, is the best season for the former. Of these, the mango is the most important. It is the most delicious fruit I have yet tasted. Some have placed the pineapple at the top of the list; but a great majority of those who have tasted the mango vote in its favour. It remains in season for three months, when it is very cheap, and consequently both the rich and the poor can enjoy it. I have heard that some even live on mangoes--of course, only while they are in season. But, unfortunately, the mango is a fruit that will not keep long in a good condition. It resembles the peach in taste, and is a stone-fruit. It is often as big as a small melon. That brings us to the melons, which are also plentiful in summer. They are far superior to what we get here. However, I must not inflict any more names of fruits on you; suffice it to say that India produces innumerable varieties of seasonal fruits, which do not keep long. All these fruits are available to the poor; the pity is that they never make a meal of these fruits. Generally, we believe that fruit causes fever, diarrhoea, etc. In summer, when we always dread cholera, authorities prohibit -- rightly, too, in many cases--the sale of melons and other such fruits. As for dried fruits, we get almost all the varieties that are to be had here. Of nuts we get some varieties which you do not get here; on the other hand, some that are to be had here are not seen in India. Nuts are never used as food in India; and so, properly speaking, they should not be included in the "Foods of India". Now, before I come to the last division of my subject, I should request you to bear in mind the following divisions that I have made: first, corn for bread-making, e.g., wheat, millet, etc.; second, pulse, for dal or soup-making; third, green vegetables; fourth, fruits; and, fifth and last, nuts.

Of course, I am not going to give you recipes for cooking these different kinds of foods. That is beyond my power. I shall tell you the general way in which they are cooked for their proper uses. Diet cure or hygiene is a comparatively recent discovery in England. In India we have been practising this from time out of mind. Native physicians no doubt, use drugs, too, but they depend more upon change of diet than upon the efficacy of the drugs they prescribe. They would ask you to take salt in certain cases; in many, they would ask you to abstain from acid foods, and so on, every food having its medical value. As for the corn for bread-making, it is the most important article of diet. For convenience, I have called the preparation made of flour bread, but cake would be a better name for it. I shall not relate the whole process of making it, but I may just say that we do not throw away the bran. These cakes are always fresh made, and generally eaten hot with clarified butter. They are to the Indians what meat is to the English. The quantity of food a person eats is measured according to the number of cakes he eats. Pulse and vegetables are left out of account. You may make a meal without pulse, without vegetables, but never without cakes. Different preparations, too are made of the various kinds of corns, but they are merely cakes in disguise.

Pulse for soup-making, e.g., peas, lentils, etc., is prepared by simply boiling it in water. But an addition of innumerable condiments makes it a most delicious dish. The art of cooking has full play in these foods. I have known peas spiced with salt, pepper, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, and such like. The proper use of pulse is to help you to eat the cakes. Medically, it is not supposed good to take too much of the pulses. A remark on rice here would not be out of place. As I have already said, rice is used for bread-making, especially in Bengal. Some of the doctors trace the diabetes from which the Bengalees very often suffer to this source. No one in India would call rice a nourishing food. It is the food of the rich, i.e., of people who do not want to work. Labouring men very rarely use rice. Physicians put their feverish patients on rice. I have suffered from fev er (no doubt by breaking hygienic rules, as Dr. Allinson would say), and was put upon a diet of rice and mug-water. Recovery was marvellous.

Next come green vegetables. These are prepared in much the same way as pulses. Oil and butter play an important part in the preparation of vegetables. Often gram flour is mixed with them. Simply boiled vegetables are never eaten. I never saw a boiled potato in India. Not infrequently they make a combination of many vegetables. It is needless to say that India would far outbid France in cooking vegetables nicely. Their proper use is much the same as that of pulse. In importance they stand next to it. They are more or less a luxury, and are generally supposed to be a source of disease. Poor people have hardly one vegetable once or twice a week. They would have cakes and dal. Some of the vegetables have an excellent medicinal value. There is one vegetable called tandalja. It very closely resembles spinach in taste. Physicians prescribe it to persons who have indulged in too much cayenne pepper and spoiled their eyesight thereby.

Then come fruits. They are used chiefly on "fruit days", but are rarely, if ever, used at the end of ordinary meals. People generally take them now and then. Mango-juice is very greatly used in the mango-season. It is eaten with cakes or rice. We never cook or stew ripe fruits. We preserve unripe fruits, chiefly mangoes, while acid. Medicinally, fresh fruits, being generally acid, are supposed to have a tendency to give fever. Dried fruits are much used by children, and dried dates deserve some notice. We suppose them to be strength-giving, and therefore in winter, when we take concentrated foods, we prepare them with milk and various other things too numerous to be mentioned, and eat an ounce every day.

Lastly, nuts take the place of English sweets. Children eat a great quantity of sugared nuts. They are also largely used on "fruit days". We fry them in butter, and even stew them in milk. Almonds are supposed to be very good for the brain. I will just point out one of the various ways in which we use the cocoanut. It is first ground and then mixed with clarified butter and sugar. It tastes very nice. I hope some of you will try at home those coconut sweet balls as they are called. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a sketch--a most imperfect sketch--of foods of India. I hope you will be induced to learn more about them, and I am sure you will profit by doing so. In conclusion, I further hope the time will come when the great difference now existing between the food habits of meat-eating in England and grain-eating in India will disappear, and with it some other differences which, in some quarters, mar the unity of sympathy that ought to exist between the two countries. In the future, I hope we shall tend towards unity of custom, and also unity of hearts.

The Vegetarian Messenger, 1-6-1891

8. ^  The Vegetarian, 6-5-1891, reported : "Saturday May 2nd, Bloomsbury Hall, Hart Street, Bloomsbury... Mrs. Harrison was followed by Mr. M. K. Gandhi... After congratulating the previous speaker and apologizing for his paper, which was entitled 'The Foods on India', he began to read it. He was rather nervous in the beginning." The text given here is of the paper read at the Portsmouth meeting of the Vegetarian Society.

9. ^  (1840-1900), served in India for 25 years; wrote a number of books including Indian Empire. Compiled The Imperial Gazetteer of India in 14 volumes. Member of the Viceroy's Legislative Council (1881-87). On retirement from India became member of the British Committee of the Congress, and from 1890 contributed to The Times on Indian affairs.

10. ^  Gandhiji appears to have confused between 'jowar' (the foodgrain) and 'juhar', a word of salutation in some Indian languages.

Speech to the Band of Mercy, London[edit]

Upper Norwood, [Before June 6, 1891]

By previous arrangement... Mrs. McDouall... was to deliver a lecture to a meeting of the members of the Band of Mercy [11], by the courtesy of Miss Seecombe, but she being ill, Mr. Gandhi (a Hindu from India) was requested and kindly consented to take the meeting. Mr. Gandhi spoke for about a quarter of an hour on vegetarianism from a humanitarian standpoint, and insisted that the members of the Band of Mercy, in order to be logical, ought to be vegetarian. He wound up with a quotation from Shakespeare.

The Vegetarian, 6-6-1891

11. ^  For the prevention of cruelty to animals

Speech at Farewell Dinner[edit]

[12] June 11, 1891

Although is was a sort of a farewell dinner, there was no sign of sorrow, because all felt that though Mr. Gandhi was going back to India, yet he was going to a still greater work for vegetarianism, and that upon the completion of his law career and his final success, congratulations to him should take the place of personal wailings... At the close of the function, Mr. Gandhi, in a very graceful though somewhat nervous speech, welcomed all present, spoke of the pleasure it gave him to see the habit of abstinence from flesh progressing in England, related the manner in which his connection with the London Vegetarian Society arose, and in so doing took occasion to speak in a touching way of what he owed to Mr. Oldfield [13]... He also pointed to the hope that a future congress of the Federal Union would be held in India.

The Vegetarian, 11-6-1891

12. ^  Held at Holborn.

13. ^  Dr. Josiah Oldfield, editor of The Vegetarian.

Interview to "The Vegetarian" I[edit]


Mr. Gandhi was first asked what was the reason which first induced him to think of coming over to England and adopting the legal profession.

In a word, ambition. I matriculated at the Bombay University in the year 1887. Then I joined the Bhavnagar College, for unless you graduate at the Bombay University you get no status in society. If you want any employment before that, you cannot secure unless, of course, you have a very good influence to back you up, a respectable post, giving a handsome salary. But I found that I would have to spend three years at the least before I could graduate. Moreover, I suffered from constant headaches and nose-bleeding, and this was supposed to be due to the hot climate. And, after all, I could not, even after graduating, expect any very great income. While I was incessantly brooding over these things, an old friend of my father saw and advised me to go to England and take the robe; he, as it were, fanned the fire that was burning within me. I thought to myself, "If I go to England not only shall I become a barrister (of whom I used to think a great deal), but I shall be able to see England, the land of philosophers and poets, the very centre of civilization." This gentleman had great influence with my elders, and so he succeeded in persuading them to send me to England.

This is a very brief statement of my reasons for coming to England, but they by no means represent my present views.

Of course, your friends were all delighted at your ambitious purpose?

Well, not all. There are friends and friends. Those who were my real friends, and of about my age, were very glad to hear that I was to go to England. Some were friends, or rather, well-wishers, old in years. These sincerely believed that I was going to ruin myself, and that I would be a disgrace to my family by going to England. Others, however, set up their opposition simply from malice. They had seen some of the barristers who derived fabulous incomes, and they were afraid that I might do the same. Some, again, there were, who thought that I was too young (I am now about twenty-two), or that I should not be able to bear the climate. To cut the matter short, no two persons supported or opposed my coming on the same grounds.

How did you set about carrying out your intention? Just tell me, if you please, what were your difficulties, and how you overcame them.

Even to try to tell you the story of my difficulties would fill up the whole of your valuable paper. It is a tale of misery and woe. The difficulties may well be likened to the heads of Ravana-the giant of the second[15] great Hindu epic Ramayana, whom Rama, the Hero, fought, and ultimately defeated--which were many, and which were no sooner chopped off than replaced. They may be divided chiefly under four heads, viz., money, consent of my elders, separation from relations, and caste restrictions.

First, then, as to money. Though my father was the prime minister of more than one native State, he never hoarded money. He spent all that he earned in charity and the education and marriages of his children, so we were practically left without much cash. He left some property, and that was all. When asked why he did not collect money and set it aside for his children, he used to say that his children represented his wealth, and if he hoarded much money he would spoil them. So, then, money was no small difficulty in my way. I tried for some State scholarship but failed. At one place, I was asked to prove my worth by graduating and then expect it. Experience teaches me that the gentleman who said so was right. Not daunted, I requested my eldest brother to devote all the money that was left to my education in England.

Here I cannot help digressing to explain the family system that prevails in India. There, unlike as in England, the children always, if male, and until marriage, if female, live with their parents. What they earn goes to the father, and so also what they lose is a loss to the father. Of course, even the male children do separate under exceptional circumstances, e.g., in the case of a great quarrel. But these are the exceptions. In the legal languages of Mayne: "Individual property is the rule in the West. Corporate property is the rule in the East." So then Everything was under the control of my brother, and we were all living together.

To return to the question of money. What little my father could leave for me was in the hands of my brother. It could only be set free subject to his consent. Moreover, that was not enough, so I proposed that the whole capital should be devoted to my education I ask you if any brother would do so here. There are very few such brothers in India. He was told that I might prove an unworthy brother after imbibing the Western ideas, and that the only chance of regaining the money would be in my returning alive to India, which was very doubtful. But he turned a deaf ear to all these reasonable and wellmeant warnings. There was one, and only one condition attached to the consent to my proposal, viz., that I should get the permission of my mother and my uncle. May many persons have such brothers as mine! I then set about the allotted task, which I can assure you was uphill enough. Fortunately, I was the pet of my mother. She had much faith in me, and so I succeeded in getting over her superstition, but how was I to make her nod consent to a three years' separation? However, by showing the exaggerated advantages of coming to England, I got her to accede, with much reluctance, to my request. Now for the uncle. He was on the point of going to Benares and such other holy places. After three days' incessant persuasion and arguments I could get the following answer from him:

"I am going on a pilgrimage. What you say may be right, but how could I willingly say `yes' to your unholy proposal? The only thing I can say is that, if your mother does not mind your going, I have no right to interfere."

This was easily interpreted into `yes'. Nor were these the only two whom I had to please. In India everyone, no matter how remotely connected, thinks that he has a right to poke his nose into another's affairs. But when I had exacted (for it was nothing else) acquiescence from the two, the pecuniary difficulties almost disappeared.

The difficulties under the second head are partially discussed above. You will, perhaps, be astonished to hear that I am married. (The marriage took place at the age of twelve.) Small blame then to my wife's parents if they thought that they had a right to interfere if only for the sake of their daughter. Who was to look after her? How was she to manage to spend the three years? Of course she was to be looked after by my brother. Poor brother! According to my ideas at that time, I should have taken little notice of their legitimate fears and growlings, had it not been that their displeasure would have been reflected on my mother and brother. It was no easy task to sit night after night with my father- in-law and to hear and successfully answer his objections. But then I was taught the old proverb, "Patience and perseverance overcome mountains", too well to give way.

When I had the money and the requisite permission, I said to myself, "How am I to persuade myself to separate from all that is dear and near to me?" In India we fight shy of separation. Even when I had to go for a few days my mother would weep. How, then, was I to witness, without being affected, the heart-rending scene? It is impossible for me to describe the tortures that my mind had to suffer. As the day of leave-taking drew near I nearly broke down. But I was wise enough not to say this, even to my closest friends. I knew that my health was failing. Sleeping, waking, drinking, eating, walking, running, reading, I was dreaming and thinking of England and what I would do on that momentous day. At last the day came. On the one hand, my mother was hiding her eyes, full of tears, in her hands, but the sobbing was clearly heard. On the other, I was placed among a circle of some fifty friends. "If I wept they would think me too weak; perhaps they would not allow me to go to England," soliloquized I; therefore I did not weep, even though my heart was breaking. Last, but not least, came the leave-taking with my wife. It would be contrary to custom for me to see or talk to her in the presence of friends. So I had to see her in a separate room. She, of course, had begun sobbing long before. I went to her and stood like a dumb statue for a moment. I kissed her, and she said, "Don't go". What followed I need not describe. This done, my anxieties were not over. It was but the beginning of the end. The leave-taking was only half done, for I parted with the mother and the wife in Rajkot--where I was educated -- but my brother and friends came to see me off as far as Bombay. The scene that took place there was no less affecting.

The collisions with my caste fellows in Bombay defy description, for Bombay is the place where they chiefly live. In Rajkot I did not meet with any such opposition worthy of the name. It was my misfortune to live in the heart of the city of Bombay, where they most abound, so I was hemmed in on all sides. I could not go out without being pointed and stared at by someone or other. At one time, while I was walking near the Town Hall, I was surrounded and hooted by them, and my poor brother had to look at the scene in silence. The culminating point was reached when a huge meeting of the caste fellows was summoned by the chief representatives. Every member of the caste was called upon to attend the meeting, under pain of forfeiting a fine of five annas. I may here mention that, before this step was determined upon, I was pestered with many deputations from them without avail. At this great meeting, I was seated in the centre of the audience. The Patels, as the representatives are called, remonstrated with me very strongly and reminded me of their connection with my father. It may be mentioned that all this was quite a unique experience to me. They literally dragged me out of seclusion, for I was not accustomed to such things. Moreover, my position became more precarious on account of an extreme shyness. Seeing that remonstrance fell flat on me, the head Patel addressed me (in effect) in the following words: "We were your father's friends, and therefore we feel for you; as heads of the caste you know our power. We are positively informed that you will have to eat flesh and drink wine in England; moreover, you have to cross the waters; all this you must know is against our caste rules. Therefore we command you to reconsider your decision, or else the heaviest punishment will be meted out to you. What have you to say to this?"

I replied in the following words: "I thank you for your warnings. I am sorry that I cannot alter my decision. What I have heard about England is quite different from what you say; one need not take meat and wine there. As for crossing the waters, if our brethren can go as far as Aden, why could not I go to England? I am deeply convinced that malice is at the root of all these objections."

"Very well, then," replied the worthy Patel in anger, "You are not the son of your father." Then, turning to the audience, he went on: "This boy has lost his sense, and we command everyone not to have anything to do with him. He who will support him in any way or go to see him off will be treated as an outcaste, and if the boy ever returns, let him know that he shall never be taken into the caste."

These words fell like a bombshell upon all. Even the chosen few who had supported me through thick and thin left me alone. I had a great mind to answer the childish taunt, but was prevented from so doing by my brother. Thus even though I got out of the ordeal safely, my position became worse than ever. Even my brother began to vacillate, though only for a moment. He was reminded of the threat that the pecuniary support from him would cost him not only the money, but his membership of the caste. So although he did not say anything to me in person, he asked some of his friends to persuade me either to reconsider my decision or to defer its execution till the fury had subsided. There could be but one answer from me, and ever since that he never flinched, and, in fact, he has not been excommunicated; but the end had not come yet. The intrigues of the caste fellows were always at work. They almost seemed to have scored this time, for they could put off my going for a fortnight. They carried it out thuswise. We went to see a captain of a steamship company, who was requested to say that it would be unwise for me to leave during that time--August--because of the rough weather in the sea. My brother would consent to anything but this. Unfortunately, this was the first voyage that I had undertaken, so no one knew whether I was a good sailor or not, so I was helpless, Much against my will I had to put off the departure. I thought the whole structure would fall to the ground. My brother, having left a note to a friend, requesting him to give me the passage money when the time came, took leave. The parting scene was similar to the one described above. Now I was left alone in Bombay without money to buy the passage. Every hour that I had to wait seemed a year. In the meanwhile I heard that another Indian gentleman[16] was about to leave for England; this news was godsend to me. I thought I would be allowed to go now. I made use of the note, and was refused the money. I had to make preparations within twenty-four hours; I was in a dreadful flutter. Without money I felt as if I was a bird without wings. A friend whom I shall always thank came to the rescue and advanced the passage money. I bought the ticket, telegraphed to my brother, and sailed for England on the 4th September, 1888. Such were my chief difficulties, which spread over nearly five months. It was a time of terrible anxiety and torture. Now hopeful, and now desponded, I dragged along always trying my best, and then depending upon God to show me the cherished goal.

The Vegetarian, 13-6-1891

14. ^  To enable Englishmen to appreciate the difficulties confronting Hindus intending to proceed to England for studies and to point out to such Hindus how the difficulties might be overcome, a representative of The Vegetarian put Gandhiji a number of questions.

15. ^  The other great epic is the Mahabharata.

16. ^  Mazmudar; vide "London Diary", 12-11-1888.

Interview to "The Vegetarian" II[edit]

On your arrival in England, of course, you were face to face with the flesheating problem; how did you solve it?

I was overwhelmed with gratuitous advice. Well-meaning yet ignorant friends thrust their opinions into unwilling ears. The majority of them said I could not do without meat in the cold climate. I would catch consumption. Mr. Z went to England and caught it on account of his foolhardiness. Others said I might do without flesh but without wine I could not move. I would be numbed with cold. One went so far as to advise me to take eight bottles of whisky, for I should want them after leaving Aden. Another wanted me to smoke, for his friend was obliged to smoke in England. Even medical men, those who had been to England, told the same tale. But as I wanted to come at any price, I replied that I would try my best to avoid all these things, but if they were found to be absolutely necessary I did not know what I should do. I may here mention that my aversion to meat was not so strong then as it is now. I was even betrayed into taking meat about six or seven times at the period when I allowed my friends to think for me. But in the steamer my ideas began to change. I thought I should not take meat on any account. My mother before consenting to my departure exacted a promise from me not to take meat. So I was bound not to take it, if only for the sake of the promise. The fellowpassengers in the steamer began to advise us (the friend who was with me and myself) to try it. They said I would require it after leaving Aden.

When this turned out untrue, I was to require it after crossing the Red Sea. And on this proving false, a fellow-passenger said, "The weather has not been severe, but in the Bay of Biscay you will have to choose between death, and meat and wine." That crisis too passed away safely. In London, too, I had to hear such remonstrances. For months I did not come across any vegetarian. I passed many anxious days arguing with a friend about the sufficiency of the vegetable diet; but at that time having but little knowledge of arguments other than humanitarian in favour of vegetarianism, I got the worst of it as the friend scouted the idea of humanity in such discussions. At last I sealed his tongue by telling him I would sooner die than break the promise to my mother. "Humph," said he, "childishness, rank superstition; but since, even after coming here, you are superstitious enough to believe in such nonsense, I cannot help you any more, I only wish you had not come to England."

He never afterwards pressed the point seriously, except perhaps once, though ever since that he took me for little more than a fool. In the meanwhile I remembered once to have passed by a vegetarian restaurant (it was the "Porridge Bowl"). I asked a gentleman to direct me there, but instead of reaching there I saw the "Central" restaurant, and went there and had some porridge for the first time. I did not at first enjoy it, but I liked the pie which I had for the second course. It was there that I first bought some vegetarian literature among which was a copy of A Plea for Vegetarianism by H. S. Salt, after reading which I adopted vegetarianism from principle.

Till then I considered flesh to be a superior diet from a scientific point of view. Moreover, it was there that I came to know the existence of the Vegetarian Society of Manchester. But I did not take any active interest in it. I did, now and then, read The Vegetarian Messenger and that was all. My knowledge of The Vegetarian dates from a year and a half. It was at the International Vegetarian Congress that I may be said to have known the L.V.S [17]. That the Congress was sitting I knew by the kind courtesy of Mr. Josiah Oldfield, who heard of me from a friend, and was good enough to ask me to attend it. In conclusion, I am bound to say that, during my nearly three years' stay in England, I have left many things undone, and have done many things which perhaps I might better have left undone, yet I carry one great consolation with me that I shall go back without having taken meat or wine, and that I know from personal experience that there are so many vegetarians in England.

The Vegetarian, 20-6-1891

17. ^  London Vegetarian Society.

Application for Enrolment as Advocate[edit]

November 16, 1891
To the Prothonotary and Registrar of the High Court of Judicature


I am desirous of being admitted as an Advocate of the High Court. I was called to the Bar in England on the 10th June last. I have kept twelve terms in the Inner Temple and I intend to practise in the Bombay Presidency. I produce the certificate of my being called to the Bar. As to the certificate of my character and abilities, I have not been able to obtain any certificate from a judge in England, for I was not aware of the rules in force in the Bombay High Court. I, however, produce a certificate from Mr. W. D. Edwards, a practising Barrister in the Supreme Court of Judicature in England. He is the author of the Compendium of the Law of Property in Land, one of the books prescribed for the Bar Final Examination.

I beg to remain, Sir;

Your most obedient servant

M. K. Gandhi

Mahatma, Vol. I., also from a photostat.

This text is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before 1923. It is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less, including India, its source country, since 1 January 2009, sixty years after Gandhi's death, pursuant to s. 22, Copyright Act, 1957 of India. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.