Early Childhood

Born at Mughalsarai in Uttar Pradesh on October 2, 1904, Lal Bahadur Shastri had spent his early childhood at his maternal uncle, Raghunath Prasad's house. His father, Sharada Prasad, died when Shastri was hardly one-and-a-half years old, leaving his mother, Ramdulari Devi, to take care of their three children. After the death of her husband, Ramdulari Devi shifted to her father's house in Mirzapur. She played a vital role in shaping Shastri's life by imbibing the right values in him.

An interesting incident took place when Lal Bahadur was only three months old. The mother went to bathe in the holy Ganga with her child. In the milling crowd at the bathing ghat she lost her child. The child had slipped from his mother's arms into a cowherd's basket. The cowherd had no children, So he took the child as a gift from God and celebrated the event with great joy. The mother was lost in grief. A complaint was lodged with the police. They traced the child. The foster parents wept bitterly to give back the child. Lal Bahadur, who was destined to govern the country, narrowly missed the 'good fortune' of becoming a cowherd.

After completing his primary education at Mirzapur, Shastri went to Benaras for further studies. He joined the Harish Chandra Vidyalaya, where he was deeply influenced by his mathematics teacher, Nishkameswar Prasad Misra, who inspired his students by telling them stories of great leaders like Guru Gobind Singh, Rana Pratap and Chhatrapati Shivaji.

Courage and self-respect were two virtues, which took deep root in him from his childhood. While in Kashi, he went with his friends to see a fair on the other bank of the Ganga. On the way back he had no money for the boat fare. His self-respect did not allow him to ask his friends for money. He slipped from their company without their knowledge. His friends forgot him in their talk and boarded the boat. When the boat had moved away, Lal Bahadur jumped into the river; as his friends watched breathlessly he swam to the other bank safely.

There is a very famous incident regarding Lal Bahadur Shastri's childhood. One day, while returning from school, Lal Bahadur and his friends went to an orchard that was on the way to home. Lal Bahadur Shastri was standing below while his friends climbed the trees to pluck mangoes. Meanwhile, the gardener came and caught hold of Lal Bahadur Shastri. He scolded Lal Bahadur Shastri and started beating him. Lal Bahadur Shastri pleaded to the gardener to leave him saying that he was an orphan. Taking pity on Lal Bahadur, the gardener said, "Because you are an orphan, it is all the more important that you must learn better behavior." These words left a deep imprint on Lal Bahadur Shastri and he swore to behave better in the future.