Mohandes Gandhi Enters High School in Rajkot

Gandhi was a shy and fearful child.

Short and spindly, he shied away from athletics, and his lack of physical prowess was matched by his difficulties in school. Though in later years he would read the Bible, Tolstoy, and the Bhagavad-Gita with great enthusiasm, the young Gandhi labored over the multiplication tables and never rose above academic mediocrity. His religious imagination, which would inspire observers around the world in years to come, was also decidedly limited in his childhood years. His household was a remarkable center of religious diversity: his mother was a devout Hindu, and his father's friends, a diverse group that included Muslims, Parsis, and Jains, often debated religious and philosophical matters in the house. (Given Gandhi's later philosophical convictions, it is noteworthy that Jainism was particularly strong in his region, since that movement preaches the preciousness of all life, and the necessity of avoiding the killing of any living creature, however small.) But while many of the ideas that percolated around the young Gandhi found their way into his religious convictions later in life, as a young man he had no religious convictions at all–the subject bored him, in his own words, he found the "glitter and pomp" of Hindu temples distasteful, and if anything, leaned "somewhat toward atheism."

The Indian classics, especially the stories of Shravana and Maharaja Harishchandra from the Indian epics, had had a great impact on Gandhi in his childhood. The story of Harishchandra, a well known tale of an ancient Indian king and a truthful hero, "haunted" Gandhi as a boy. Gandhi in his autobiography admits that it left an indelible impression on his mind. He writes "It haunted me and I must have acted Harischandra to myself times without number." Gandhi's early self -identification with Truth and Love as the supreme value is traced back to his identification with these epic characters