Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338



Food habits and Mahatma Gandhi


Everyman has its own food habits. It has some similarity in one country. Mahatma Gandhi lived in India, England and South Africa. He met and arranges different country and different men. He was very anxious his own food habit. He was aware his associates also. He described it in his speeches and letters. There are some examples of it.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “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.”1 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Every person, then, who wants to go to jail, must have, in some measure, the qualities which, as we have seen, are essential in a satyagrahi. But, in addition, he should have the following strong points: (1) Freedom from addiction to harmful things. (2) A well-disciplined body. (3) Disregard for comfortable seat or bed. (4) Extreme simplicity in food habits. (5) Total freedom from false sense of prestige or status. (6) Fortitude.”2

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “This Conference has entered its seventeenth year. The speeches of the Presidents in previous years were sent to me I have gone through them. What is the object behind arranging these speeches? If it is that you may learn something from them, ask yourselves what you have learnt. If it is just to hear a beautiful flow of English words and enhance the prestige of the Conference, I feel sorry for you. I take it that these speeches are arranged with the idea that you may learn something from them and put it into practice. How many of you followed Smt. Besant’s advice and adopted the Indian mode of dress, simplified your food habits and gave up unclean talk or acted on Prof. Jadunath Sarkar’s advice and spent your vacations in teaching the poor, free of charge? I can put many questions. I do not ask for a reply. You may answer these questions to your own conscience. The worth of your learning will be judged by your actions. Stuffing your brains with the contents of hundreds of books may bring its reward but action is of much greater value by far. One’s stock of learning is of no more value than the action it leads to. The rest is an unnecessary burden. I would, therefore, always request you and urge you to practice what you learn and what appears to you to be right. That is the only way to progress.”3

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Inmates of the Ashram or other persons eating at odd places should not take offence if you serve them in a separate row. And even if they take offence I do not think you are wrong in serving them apart. We should treat the Antyajas irrespective of their food habits just as we treat other communities, without inquiring what they eat or drink.”4 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If wheat or gram is soaked in water for 24 hours and then the water is strained and it is then kept in a piece of wet cloth overnight, it sprouts. Salt is not considered necessary in this diet. I do not take it at present. I keep varying the proportion and mixture of wheat and gram. The above proportion is only by way of guidance. I have been taking wheat and gram together for the last three days. There should be no almonds when there is gram because both contain muscle forming elements. I began with gram but the same purpose is served when it is replaced by moong1 and other pulses. It is possible that wheat can be replaced even by jowar and bajra. This field is wide and interesting and worthy of development. It is more useful in this poor country. There is a lot of truth in the maxim that our actions are influenced by our food. We have misused the above dictum by exaggerating our food habits to the point of looking upon them as our dharma and further have been fussing about pollution by mere touch. I have believed for forty years that, leaving aside exaggeration, the question of diet is a serious one meriting thought. I thank God because He has given me the good sense and the strength to try my last experiment today, and by means of this article, I share with the reader the pleasure I derive from my experiment.”5

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The experiment still continues. There have been moments when I have weakly doubted the wisdom of continuing it. This was when extreme weakness had overtaken me during the Andhra tour. But my faith in the correctness of the theory behind unfired food and my partiality for it are so great that I would not easily give up the experiment. For it has for me a value not merely sanitary but also economic and moral or spiritual. It is of great importance to national workers who have to work in different parts of the country often in trying circumstances. This food surmounts all the difficulty arising from the different food habits of the different provinces. But of this more if I can write of the experiment with fairly absolute confidence. At the time of writing, all I can say is that it seems to have done me no harm. Dr. Ansari, who knows my body well, examined it carefully whilst I was in Delhi on the 5th instant and was of opinion that he had never found me to be in better health than now. My blood pressure (systolic) which after the breakdown at Kolhapur1 had never been found to be below 155 was now registered at 118, pulse pressure at 46. Though 118 he thought to be subnormal, it was not bad sign as I had just risen from a slight attack of malaria and I was then living on juicy fruits only.”6

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Moreover, nothing is more reprehensible than criticizing other people’s food-habits. Nobody can exercise enough self-control in one’s own habits, but no person has the right to pass judgment on the measure of such self-control exercised by others. He has no means for passing such judgment, either. I don’t set great store by my ability to refrain from chillies and spices. If, however, Harilal could give up drink, I would admire his self-control. For some, giving up spices might be as difficult as giving up liquor would be for Harilal. Revashankerbhai1 found it a hard task to give up smoking. It is mostly such matters that call for the exercise of non-violence. Explain all this to everybody when you find it convenient.”7 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Non-vegetarian food seems indispensable for him. He has not enough faith in non-violence to be able to live on fruit and milk. But he need not be denied help because of his food habits. If, however, he stops spinning or slackens in it, I don’t think we should ignore that. He may give up spinning entirely if he has not faith in it. I do not wish to say that he should be helped only if he continues to spin. What I want is that he must be truthful. All that is necessary is that whatever work is done, should be done sincerely. Elwin, being a good and simple-hearted man, may deceive himself. It is therefore necessary that friends should watch him.”8

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Why do you fall ill? If your food habits and ventilation are taken care of nothing should happen to you. Do you drink boiled water?”9 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It means that these ambassadors, through their conduct and manner of dressing and their food habits, should reveal their own cultural heritage to the other country so that it can benefit from it. Such mutually advantageous exchanges would spread friendliness which in turn would promote world peace, and this would enable people to live in harmony and peace and make progress. In my opinion this is the basic purpose of appointing ambassadors in every country. No doubt there are distinct international advantages accruing from this in the commercial and economic spheres, but the most significant is the former advantage. Hence we must take great care to see that our representatives exhibit no undesirable trait. Then alone would we shine forth and rise from our present backward state. There is a saying in English that if wealth is lost nothing is lost, if health is lost much is lost but if honour is lost everything is lost.”10 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Sarat Babu came to me the other day. He does not want Bengal to be partitioned. He says that the whole Province has one culture, and the same food habits. Why they should it be divided in the name of religion? Sarat Babu has his view, I have mine. The people however have the right to act as they desire. My individual opinion cannot thwart the opinion of many.”11




  1. The Vegetarian Messenger, 1-6-1891
  2.   VOL. 9 : 23 JULY, 1908 - 4 AUGUST, 1909 352
  3.   VOL. 16 : 1 SEPTEMBER, 1917 - 23 APRIL, 1918 66
  4. LETTER TO KHANDERIA, April 6, 1926
  5. Navajivan, 16-6-1929
  6.   Young India, 18-7-1929
  8.   LETTER TO JAMNALAL BAJAJ, May 21, 1934
  9. LETTER TO SHARDA G. CHOKHAWALA, October 22, 1945
  10.   Biharni Komi Agman, pp. 131
  11. VOL. 95: 30 APRIL, 1947 - 6 JULY, 1947 237

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Comment by unnikat krishnakumar on November 30, 2012 at 16:24

Dr, Yogendra Yadavji i read your article food habits and mahatma gandhi wherein gandhiji has given a reason for illness' Ones food habits and ventilation if it is taken care of  nothing will happen to him' those lines though they sound very simple are really what the present world should give immediate attention if they are really serious to eradicate disease . Thankyou for those beautiful collection.

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