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50th anniversary of Gandhi’s death
Mahatma Gandhi’s early days in England
by Nitin Mehta

from EVU News, Issue 1 /1998

January 30, 1998 was the 50th anniversary of Gandhi’s death. To honour this great vegetarian, whose credo was love to all creatures, the way of truth and non violence, these articles will recall something about his life and his way of thinking. (SDL)

Like that of many great men and women in history, Gandhi’s childhood was pretty ordinary. He was no child prodigy. It was circumstances that conspired to evolve him into a seeker of truth and a campaigner for justice and rights. It was decided by Gandhi’s family to send him to London to study Law. Apparently this was a much easier option and the prospects of finding a good job were much better. However, foreign travel was frowned upon in those days and Gandhi’s mother would not grant him permission to go. She relented only after taking Gandhi to a Jain monk who administered to him three vows. They were that he would never eat meat, indulge in any sexual relationships (Gandhi was already married and bad a child) and he would not consume alcohol.

On 4th September 1888 Gandhi set sail for Southampton. On the steamer Gandhi found it very difficult to mix with other passengers. He was befriended by an elderly Englishman who urged him to eat meat. Gandhi politely refused and survived mainly on food that he had brought from home. Gandhi had been asked to collect certificates from people confirming that he was a vegetarian and he duly asked the elderly gentleman to write him one which the latter gladly did.

Gandhi had several introductory letters for London among whom was a Dr. Mehta and Dadabhai Naoroji. Dadabhai Naoroji went on to become the first Indian MP, representing Battersea for the communist party. After docking at Southampton, Gandhi arrived in London and stayed at the Victoria hotel. Throughout the journey from Bombay Gandhi had been accompanied by a Mr. Majumdar and they were met by Dr. Mehta in Victoria. Dr. Metha arranged for Gandhi to stay with a friend in Richmond, around a month later Dr. Mehta found him accommodation with an Anglo Indian family in West Kensington. Gandhi’s vegetarianism continued to cause a problem. He writes in his autobiography that though he was of small build he had a voracious appetite. He lived mainly on bread. The Anglo Indian lady had two daughters and they would often press on him a few more slices of bread little knowing that but for his shyness Gandhi could finish the whole loaf.

One day, walking on the streets of London, he came across a vegetarian restaurant in Farringdon Street. He writes in his autobiography that he was overjoyed at the sight of the restaurant as a small child would be on receiving a new toy! Before entering the restaurant he saw a book entitled ‘Benefits of Vegetarianism’ by Henry Salt. He bought the book and proceeded to have his first hearty meal in London. After reading Henry Salt’s book Gandhi was converted to the vegetarian cause for ever. He later became the secretary to the Bayswater branch of the vegetarian society and it became his first experience in addressing and conducting meetings. Gandhi’s vegetarian ideal brought him in touch with many like minded people. He was introduced to the theosophical society and there he met Madame Blavastky and Mrs. Anne Besant – both of whom were leading lights of the time. Years later when Gandhi attended the round table conference in 1931 to negotiate India’s independence, he addressed a London Vegetarian Society gathering.

"The moral progress of a nation and its greatness should be judged by the way it treats its animals."
Gandhi had a testing time regarding his second vow of abstaining from sexual relations. Once on a trip to Brighton he met an elderly English lady, and they became good friends. She invited Gandhi every Sunday for lunch at her home in London. Sensing that Gandhi was lonely she introduced one of her friends to him hoping that there would be romance between the two. Fearing that the situation would lead to no good he wrote a letter to the elderly lady and explained that he had previously failed to mention that he was already married and that he did not wish things to go any further. Gandhi was sure that he would never be invited to the Sunday lunches any more, but the elderly lady and her friend continued to invite him and they remained good friends.

On 10th June 1891 Gandhi qualified as a barrister and registered himself in the high court by paying two and a half shillings. On the 12th he set sail for Bombay.

Gandhi had a multifaceted personality with interests in so many fields. He was intensely interested in the right kind of diet and continuously experimented on himself. He was equally interested in alternative medicine like naturopathy. [He was a promoter of schools for everybody but especially for the poor population. His main interest aimed at the schools in the country, for he was convinced that the education of the people in the country could contribute in the best way to the welfare of the individual as well as of the whole nation.(SDL)] If he was around today he would probably, be a member of the Green Party and an active animal right’s campaigner.

Nitin Mehta, Young Indian Vegetarians,
226 London Road, West Croydon, Surrey CR0 2TF
Tel.+44 (0)9181 681 8884, Fax +44 (0) 181 681 7143,

1869 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is born on October 2 in Porbandar.
1882 Marriage to Kasturba. Both are 13 years old.
1888 Gandhi goes to England in order to study law.
1891 return to India
1903 In April Gandhi goes to South-Africa to work there as a lawyer.
1904 Gandhi founds his first Ashram: an economic, social and spiritual living together.
1908 Beginning of the first Satyagraha-Campaign (resistance without violence). Within the following 5 years Gandhi is arrested four times.
1913 South Africa abolishes some of the laws which oppress the Indian Community.
1915 Gandhi returns to India.
1919 Gandhi proclaims a Hartal (general strike) for 30th March and 6th April. The massacre of Amritsar happens on 10th April.
1922 Gandhi is sentenced to 6 years in prison (released in February 1924).
1930 March: Salt Walk to Dandi. Gandhi is arrested in May.
1931 After his release in January Gandhi goes to London for a round-table conference.
1932 After his return to India Gandhi is arrested (released in May 1933). In September he begins a ‘fasting until death’ for the untouchables.
1942 ‘Quit-India’-resolution pronounced in the congress. Gandhi and other leaders are arrested.
1944 Gandhi’s wife Kasturba dies in prison on 22nd February.
1946 April: The Moslem leader Jinnah’s request for a Moslem state, Pakistan.
1946 August: Moslems cause a blood-bath in Calcutta. Gandhi goes to the rebellious regions.
1947 August: Proclamation of independence and division of the country into India and Pakistan. Terrible massacres between Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs
1947 September: Gandhi starts a ‘fasting until death’ against Hindu-Moslem crimes of violence.
1948 January 30: Gandhi is murdered by a Hindu-fanatic.
From: Gandhi Information Centre, Lübecker Strasse 44, PO Box 210109, 1000 Berlin 21, Germany (Translation, SDL)