Jawaharlal Nehru was born
on 14th November 1889, the first child of Motilal and Swarup Rani Nehru. By 1900, the
family had moved to Allahabad and Motilal's flourishing practice saw them residing at a
Palatial home, complete with swimming pool and tennis courts.
Between 1902-1904, Jawaharlal was tutored by Ferdinand T. Brookes and in 1905, he entered
Harrow, one of England's leading schools. Jawaharlal went on to get a degree in natural
science from Trinity College, Cambridge and a law degree from the Inner Temple.
Whilst in England, Nehru frequently asked for Indian newspapers, particularly "The
Times" and much of his correspondence was based on the Indian National Congress. He
was happy at his father's entry into the Congress, though he often expressed more severe
views than the moderate Motilal. An only child of 11 years, Jawaharlal was a voracious
reader and his areas of interest included literature, history, science, philosophy and
Already a close friend of Annie Besant, Jawaharlal's holiday to Dublin in 1907 acquainted
him with the Lrish Republican Movement. Thus by the time Jawaharlal returned to India in
1912, this young man with a very English upbringing, was already full of nationalist
Jawaharlal, Motilal Nehru and Gandhi shared a unique relationship and their combined
importance to the Congress led to them being called the 'Holy Trinity" by some
journalists. Indeed the inclusion of the Nehrus into the National Movement had much to do
with the relationship between father and son and Jawaharlal's loyalty to Gandhi.
By the time Jawaharlal was in England, he had become the intellectual partner of his
father Motilal. Motilal Nehru, born a posthumus child, had from the age of 26 years,
supported his wife and child and the widow and seven children of his brother. A tough,
self confident, witty lawyer, Motilal paved his way to the top of the legal profession
with tremendous hard work and honour. His home, "Anand Bhavan," at Allahabad was
the focal point of attention and Motilal refused to conform to convention over eating
separately like other Brahmins or purifying himself after foreign visits etc. His children
(Jawaharlal, Swarup Kumari and Krishna) received the best education possible. Practical
and gritty, Motilal was a leading member of the Moderates in the Congress but by 1920, he
followed his impetuous son to become a staunch supporter of Gandhi. During the 1920 Non
Co-operation movement, Motilal grabbed the headlines when he got rid of his horses, cars,
carriages, servants, crystal and Seville Row suits and adopted sudh Khadi and the Gandhi
cap. Both father and son gave up flourishing legal practices to follow the national
movement and in the words of B. R. Nanda,
"what seemed a tryst with destiny in 1947 was, 28 years earlier, a leap in the
The relationship between Gandhi and Jawaharlal was still harder to define, as inspite of
many differences they remained loyal to each other. Jawaharlal first met Gandhiji at the
1916 Lucknow Session of the Congress and by 1919 had joined the Satyagraha Sabha.
Jawaharlal recognized Gandhi's amazing ability to rouse the masses and Gandhi treated
Nehru like a son.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre (1919) had a profound influence on Jawaharlal and his
mother's ties with people in Lahore, brought Nehru face to face with official butchery.
During the Non Co-operation Movement (1920), the Nehrus became staunch Nationalists.
In 1926, Jawaharlal and his family (wife Kamala and daughter Indira) spent a year in
Europe, during which time Nehru became associated with Socialism. At the Congress of
Oppressed Nationalities in Brussels (1927), Nehru was elected to a 9 member executive
committee along with Romain Rolland, Mme Sun Yat Sen and Albert Einstein of the Russian
Returning to India, Jawaharlal threw himself into the anti-Senior Commission Satyagraha
and was severely beaten in a lathi charge. At this juncture a letter to Jawaharlal by
Gandhi dated Dec 3rd, 1928 said,
" May God spare you for many a long year to come and make you his chosen instrument
for freeing India from the yoke" -- a truly prophetic vision".
In 1929 Jawaharlal Nehru was elected President of the All India Congress Committee and was
given the reception fit for a king at the Lahore session of 1929. As the Civil
Disobedience movement began, Jawaharlal and Motilal spent long periods in jail (beginning
in 1921, Jawaharlal was arrested several times - spending approximately 10 years under
arrest between 1920 - 1947), but the women of the Nehru family threw themselves into the
nationalists movement. Tragedy struck Jawaharlal when his father died in 1921 and his
wife, Kamala, died in 1936, both after prolonged illnesses.
Jawaharlal remained at the forefront of the National movement and became the Chief
Negotiator of the Congress for the Transfer of power. A close friend of Lord Mountbatten,
Nehru became the P.M. of the Interim government and on 15th August 1947, became the first
Prime Minister of Independent India.
Along with Vallabhai Patel as Interior minister, Jawaharlal Nehru ensured the accession of
the Princely states to India and extended a hand of friendship to other Afro - Asian
Countries. The architect of India's foreign policy, Nehru defined it as anti-imperialist,
anti-arpatheid and anti-colonial. Nehru also believed that the newly independent states in
Asia and Africa had the right not to join either the Soviet or Capitalist Power Blocs.
Thus he along with Tito (Yugoslavia) and Nasser (Egypt) founded the Non-Aligned Movement.
Nehru did not consider the "Non Aligned Policy" to be neutral but he believed it
allowed Nations to accept aid and maintain good relations with Nations from both Power
The only blot on Nehru's foreign policy was the breakdown of the "Panchasheel"
agreement signed with China -- In 1962, the Chinese Aggression on India was a huge blow to
Nehru. But Nehru's numerous trips abroad, India's membership in the commonwealth and
commitment to anti-apartheidism and anti-colonialism were well received.
In December 1929, Nehru had declared that "our economic programme must be based on a
human outlook, and must not sacrifice men to money". In keeping with this, Nehru's
economic policy was socialist in leaning, giving India a mixed economy and five year
planning. Unlike Gandhi who believed that village development was more important, Nehru
concentrated on industrialization, refeuing to dams and power units as India's new
Nehru died in 1964, plunging India into mourning. By no means a perfect leader, Nehru was
an introspective, sometimes impetuous man. Passionately fond of children, his birthday is
celebrated as children's Day in India.
Much has been written in hindsight criticizing Nehru's economic policy, questioning his
foreign policy and speculating on his friendship with Edwura Mountbatten. But few who knew
him were immune to Jawaharlal's deeply passionate love for India and his dreams for her
future. In the words of Rabindranath Tagore, Nehru was
"the Rituraj representing the season of youth and triumphant joy of an invincible
spirit of fight and uncompromising loyalty to the cause of freedom."
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